04/05/2007 11:00PM

Top filly Vodka faces tough task


Japanese juvenile filly champion Vodka faces a stern test in Sunday's Grade 1 Oka Sho, the $1.4 million turf mile at Hanshin Racecourse near Osaka that is better known around the world as the Japanese 1000 Guineas.

Vodka, a Katsuhiko Sumii-trained daughter of Japanese Derby winner Tanino Gimlet, clinched her 2-year-old title by winning the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies on Dec. 3 and has since racked up two more victories, most recently in the Grade 3 Tulip Sho. As both the Juvenile Fillies and the Tulip Sho were run over the Oka Sho course and distance, Vodka should feel right at home on Sunday, when she will be ridden as usual by Hirofumi Shii.

Challenging her will be Aston Marchan, an Admire Cozzene filly who was second by a neck in the Juvenile Fillies. She won the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Fillies Revue by 2 1/2 lengths going seven furlongs at Hanshin on March 11. Perennial Japanese champion rider Yutaka Take has the call.

They both have Shonan Talent to catch. An Agnes Tachyon filly, Shonan Talent led throughout to win the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Flower Cup at Nakayama on March 17 and has drawn the rail from where she can take advantage of her early speed. Excuse, winner of the one-mile Grade 3 Queen Cup at Tokyo on Feb. 17, is a daughter of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Boston Harbor and should make her presence felt.