Okiro rallies to take $235,000 Animal Kingdom Stakes at Turfway Park

Three-year-old colt by Yoshida breaks through for first Stakes victory

Okiro took advantage of a swift pace as he swept past his rivals in the stretch to claim victory in the six-furlong, $235,000 Animal Kingdom Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday, 23 March.

It was the first Stakes victory for the three-year-old son of Yoshida, who was previously Stakes-placed in the Hollywood Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park as a juvenile.

Making his first appearance at Turfway Park, and his first start on Tapeta after two prior turf runs, Okiro broke awkwardly then was settled in mid-pack as Joe Shiesty and Smokey Smokey battled for the lead and set a swift pace through the opening half-mile. That pair continued to lead the way around the far turn, as jockey Julien Leparoux angled Okiro to the outside for a clean run at the leaders.

Set down for the drive in the stretch, Okiro put in a sustained rally down the center of the course, sweeping past the longtime frontrunners to take the lead. He then drew off late to win by two-and-a-quarter lengths over Smokey Smokey, with Shards closing belatedly for third.

Bred in Kentucky by Burleson Farm and McKenzie Bloodstock, Okiro is out of the Malibu Moon mare, She Hung the Moon. Second dam is Bear Now (Tiznow), a multiple Graded Stakes winner and Champion Older Mare in Canada.

Yoshida, a son of Heart’s Cry, became the first Japanese-bred colt to win a G1 Stakes on the dirt in the U.S. During his racing career, he proved equally adept on turf, winning the G1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. Retired to stud in 2020, he has 22 winners in his first crop, which also includes Graded Stakes-performer Yatta.

Yoshida is standing the 2024 season at Darley Japan for a fee of 1.5 million yen.