North Bridge (JPN) Seeks First G1 Triumph via HK

April 22, 2024

North Bridge is a six-time winner. (Japan Racing Association)

By Mariko Seki

A six-year-old, North Bridge (JPN) has been selected to run the HK$28 million G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) with two fellow Japanese compatriots, Prognosis and Hishi Iguazu, on FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin on Sunday, 28 April. 

North Bridge is a son of three-time winner in Hong Kong, Maurice. He won a newcomer race over 2000m in 2020 at Chukyo to commence his career before grabbing his first Group race win in the 2022 G3 Epsom Cup (1800m) – first-up after a four-month break.

North Bridge’s second Group race win came seven months after the Epsom Cup in the 2023 G2 American Jockey Club Cup (2200m) at Nakayama, however, he showed little in his following three runs of last season.

In 2024, North Bridge kicked off his campaign in Doha, Qatar, where he raced for the first time on the global stage in the G3 H.H. The Amir Trophy (2400m) and finished fourth behind Godolphin’s Rebel’s Romance at Al Rayyan in February. 

That was trainer Takeshi Okumura’s first runner outside of Japan.

“We started to make a plan to go to the QEII Cup after the race in Qatar,” Okumura said. “We discussed it with the owner and decided to target the race. The reason is because he will handle the ground at Sha Tin and his international rating (113) made it possible to be selected.”

47-year-old Okumura started training on the JRA circuit in 2014. Hong Kong is a familiar place for him, making his first overseas travel with a horse in 2008. He was an assistant for trainer Sakae Kunieda, who handled Triple Tiara winners Apapane (2010) and Almond Eye (2018). Okumura travelled Matsurida Gogh for the QEII Cup and Meiner Segal for the Champions Mile with Kunieda. Matsurida Gogh, a son of Sunday Silence, upset the 2007 G1 Arima Kinen (2500m) and won the G2 Nikkei Sho (2500m) before he ran in Hong Kong.

Okumura recalled: “We, of course, did our best effort to prepare for the race. But due to a big typhoon hitting Hong Kong on the day of our trip, our flight was delayed, and horses had to wait long hours before departing.” 

“Everything including the unfortunate start was a great experience for me. I was impressed that Hong Kong horse racing was at an advanced level and the local people were widely enthusiastic of horse racing. I really wanted to bring my horse to Hong Kong one day.”

North Bridge had a final piece of work before his trip to Hong Kong at Miho on 17 April.  His regular jockey Yasunari Iwata came to Miho from Ritto, near Osaka, to work him for 1000m, covering the final 200m in 10.7 seconds over the woodchip track.

Iwata said: “I focused on keeping his rhythm and balance in the gallop. He was in good form. The 2000 (metres) must be his best trip, so hopefully he can run his race.”

Okumura watched the gallop and said: “The time for the last 200 (metres) was as expected. The horse is improving a lot and I feel his progress. The 2000 (metres) should be more suitable for him than 2400 (metres) last time (in Qatar). 

“The track condition at Sha Tin, which is similar to Sapporo, is a likely fit for him. Above all, I hope he will be safe and healthy. It’s exciting to see how North Bridge runs in Hong Kong.”

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