Osaka Hai becomes first qualifier for Irish Champion Stakes
The possibility of a first Japanese horse contesting the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes has been increased with the announcement on Monday of a 'win and you’re in' initiative, beginning with the Group 1 Osaka Hai at Hanshin on April 2.
This will be the first time a horse from outside Ireland will have a guaranteed and complimentary entry to the Group 1 contest at Leopardstown, to be run on September 9 this year.
First run in 1957, the 1m2f Osaka Hai was upgraded from Group 2 to Group 1 status for 2017, and is open to four-year-old and older colts and fillies.
In 2013 it was won by Orfevre, who went on to land the Prix Foy before finishing runner-up to Treve in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “We are delighted to partner with the Japan Racing Association to have the Group 1 Osaka Hai as a 'win and you’re in' race for the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, the first such race outside Ireland.
“It is an important goal of Leopardstown to have a Japanese runner in the Irish Champion Stakes. Pat Keogh and his team are very keen to promote the highlight of Longines Irish Champions Weekend to the widest international audience possible, and Japan is very important in that.”