06/28/2007 11:00PM

Pacific overtures ringing true


The Japanese word for "thank you," arigato, has been ringing in the ears of Hollywood Park officials the last few years. Japanese-trained fillies have capitalized on the opportunities provided by the track's racing secretary, Martin Panza, by dominating two of the tracks signature events: the American Oaks and the CashCall Mile.

Japanese 3-year-old filly champion Cesario emerged triumphant in the 2005 Oaks, while Dance in the Mood landed last year's Mile en route to her championship season as Japan's best older filly or mare. Racing in Japan at the top level is now as good as anywhere in the world, and we will get a further taste of the nation's racing prowess when four of Japan's best females take to the Hollywood turf next weekend.

Three Japanese challengers will line up for the CashCall Mile on Friday, and any one of them could win it on her best. Koiuta, trained by the relatively obscure Masahashi Okuhira, has the best recent form of the three, having beaten both Kiss to Heaven and Dia de la Novia in the Victoria Mile at Tokyo on May 13. A son of perhaps the best Sunday Silence sire currently active in Japan, Fuji Kiseki, Koiuta has finally recovered the form she lost when she was eased in last year's Japanese Oaks, which at 1 1/2 miles was surely too long for her to begin with. Whether she can duplicate her Victoria Mile heroics in California remains to be seen, although she holds a clear recent form edge on her countrymates.

By another Sunday Silence sire, Admire Vega, Kiss to Heaven capped a three-race victory streak when she won last year's Japanese 2000 Guineas, beating Koiuta three-quarters of a length into third. While she rarely runs a bad race, there is a feeling that she may want longer than a mile at this stage, although she did finish nearly three lengths in front of Dia de la Novia when she was fourth in the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen last time on June 3.

Dia de la Novia, herself by Sunday Silence from an Argentine family that includes a Vanity Handicap winner, Potridee, has won only a single Grade 3 mile in the last two years, her best win coming in the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 2 Flora Stakes in April, 2005. Trained by Katsuhiko Sumii, the man who engineered the three-length Japanese Derby victory of the filly Vodka on May 27, Dia de la Novia will be ridden by Yasunari Iwata. Japan's leading rider this year, Iwata is on track to dethrone perennial champion Yutaka Take, the man who has won 17 of the last 18 Japanese riding titles, missing out only in 2001, when he spent most of the year in France.

Unless there is more to come from Koiuta, it is doubtful that any member of the Japanese trio is as good as Dance in the Mood. With the likes of Wait a While and Price Tag opposing them, a Japanese victory in the CashCall Mile hinges on Koiuta's continued progress.

The Japanese trio was released from quarantine on Wednesday along with American Oaks hopeful Robe Decollete. By Cozzene out of a Seeking the Gold mare, Robe Decollete is, like Cesario two years ago, coming off a victory in the Japanese Oaks. While she is dropping in distance from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/4 miles, that should not be cause for concern. She won a 1o1/8-mile maiden in her racecourse debut last July, and 10 furlongs just might be her best distance.

With all the success the Japanese have had at Hollywood, it comes as no surprise that the Oaks has drawn another challenger from the Pacific Rim in Anamato. Trained by David Hayes, Anamato won the Australasian Oaks at the American Oaks distance at Morphetteville in her latest start. While that race should not be confused with the classic 1 1/2-mile Australian Oaks, which is run at Randwick in April, Anamato must be accorded a winning chance. The four extra pounds she carries as a Southern Hemisphere

3-year-old will make no difference, as she is half a year older than her Northern Hemisphere rivals.

Supposition, trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld, the man who saddled Dimitrova to win the 2004 American Oaks, was a prominent 2-year-old who will be making her seasonal debut in the Oaks.

The greatest danger to American hopes in the Oaks may loom in the French-bred Just Little. The winner of the 1 1/8-mile and 55-yard Group 3 Prix Vanteaux on April 29, she was given a sharpener last time in the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham, a cut back to a mile designed to prepare her for a faster American pace. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, she acquitted herself well with a third-place finish and should take to Hollywood's 1 1/4 miles like a duck to water.

Her owner, Edmund Gann, has been aching to get a horse into a big American race this year. He couldn't make it to the Belmont Stakes with Cristobal, but here he is with Just Little, who may well inspire cries of "Merci!" at Hollywood Park this Saturday.