A super Saturday for Japanese horse racing in Dubai
Japanese horses showed their talent as the collective commitment to excellence shared by their owners, trainers and jockeys produced impressive results on Saturday March 26 in Dubai.
On a star-studded day for horse racing, eight of the nine races at Meydan Racecourse featured a top-class international field of Thoroughbreds. The only exception: the Dubai Kahayla Classic for purebred Arabians.
Japanese-bred horses have won four races and shared the title in another.
The Dubai 2000m World Cup wrapped up the day’s festivities at Meydan Racecourse, with American trainer Bob Baffert’s Country Grammer, ridden by Italian Frankie Dettori, taking a 1¾ victory over Hot Rod Charlie in 2 minutes, 4.97 seconds. Country Grammer returned to competition after a nine-month layoff following the Saudi Cup in February, where he was runner-up.
The Japanese Chuwa Wizard, guided by Yuga Kawada, finished third. A year ago, trainer’s stallion Ryuji Okubo was the runner-up in the US$12 million (1.46 billion yen) race.
Dettori’s last Dubai World Cup win was in 2006 at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, the former home of the event.
“It’s been a long time but it’s worth it,” Dettori said. “It’s my fourth Dubai World Cup victory, but I’ve never won in Meydan.”
Kawada said, “It was a good place. He (Chuwa Wizard) was second last year and this year he was third so it was a very strong race and a very good race. He matched last year’s performance today and we are very happy.
In 2011, Mirco Demuro rode Victoire Pisa, sired by Neo Universe (son of two-time US triple crown winner Sunday Silence), to win the Dubai World Cup. The dark bay colt trained by Katsuhiko Sumii became the first Japanese horse to win the prestigious race.
A total of 22 Japanese horses took part in the octet of races on Saturday, starting with Bathrat Leon in the 1,600-metre G2 Godolphin Mile in the late afternoon.
Coach Yoshito Yahagi’s entry was ready for the challenge. Ryusei Sakai rode Bathrat Leon to a 1¼ length dirt win in 1:36.03 over Desert Wisdom. Storm Damage finished third.
The 24-year-old winning jockey was delighted with the outcome of the race.
“The plan was to go forward and go fast,” Sakai said. “Everything went well and the horse continued. I think he preferred clay here more than in Japan. Mr. Yahagi is one of the best coaches in the world. It is an excellent result.
Yahagi conceded that the start of the race was central to their recipe for victory.
“He’s a good leader and we know the corners well,” Yahagi said of Bathrat Leon. “So he got off to a good start and he pushed and he was able to hold it to the line. We understood our tactics well.
Lemaire, stay stupid and win the Dubai Gold Cup
After the Godolphin Mile, which started at 8:20 p.m. JST, the Dubai Gold Cup started about 30 minutes later. Again, the results were superb for the racing representatives from Japan.
French jockey Christophe Lemaire, a prolific winner on the Japan Racing Association circuit for many years, and 4-year-old Stay Foolish teamed up for triumph in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup, a 3,200-metre turf race .
Stay Foolish, also trained by Yahagi, clocked 3:19.64, beating Irish gelding Manobo by half a length.
Trainer Naosuke Sugai’s Veloce Oro, with Mirco Demuro holding the reins, placed seventh.
“He didn’t break up as quickly as in Saudi Arabia [Arabia] so I was behind a good horse but happy to be on the inside,” Lemaire told reporters later. “He doesn’t have a big turn around and I thought the potatoes were done, but in the end he got past them. I think he could race in any Group One [race]everywhere.”
In the Al Quoz Sprint, Cristian Demuro placed ninth aboard Lauda Sion, coach Takashi Saito’s entry into the G1 1,200 meter race. Another Yahagi horse, Entscheiden, finished 12th. Irishman Ronan Whelan and Case of You were the winning tandem.
In the UAE Derby, Crown Pride trainer Koichi Shintani edged Summer Is Tomorrow to the finish by 2¾ lengths, winning the 1,900m event in 1:59.76.
With this victory, the mount of Australian jockey Damian Lane, the 3-year-old son of Reach the Crown, qualified to participate in the Kentucky Derby.
“I was very confident turning to the [600-meters remaining mark),” Lane commented in a post-race interview with reporters. “He just leveled out as I turned in about 300 [meters to go]. I started to worry but when [Summer Is Tomorrow] tired, he didn’t.
Among the 16 participants, the Japanese Reiwa Homare (Lemaire), Sekifu (Cristian Demuro) and Combustion (William Buick) respectively finished sixth, eighth and 11th.
Tadhg O’Shea guided the 8-year-old Swiss to a 1¾ length victory over Red Le Zele (Yuga Kawada) trained by Michihiro Ogasa in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, reaching the wire in 1:11.13. In doing so, Switzerland became the oldest winner in the history of the race.
Coach Takayuki Yasuda’s Chain of Love (Sakai) placed fourth in the 1,200 meter dirt race.
Assessing Red Le Zele’s performance, Kawada expressed his satisfaction, calling it a “good result”.
“He likes to run behind the pack in a 1,200 meter race,” Kawada commented, according to bloodhorse.com. “It’s just his style and he did the same here, and I had a really good feeling he did well but there was too much ground to make up for at the end. But it was a good race and I’m happy with the way it went.
Lord North and Panthalassa finish in Dead Heat on Dubai Turf
Dettori and Yutaka Yoshida and their respective rides ― Lord North and Panthalassa ― delivered a memorable duel in the Dubai Turf. When the $5 million (￥609.5 JPY) 1,800-meter race was completed, it was declared a tie. The winning time: 1:45.77.
Vin De Garde of trainer Hideaki Fujiwara (Frenchman Mickael Barzalona) placed third, a nose behind the winners.
Said Yoshida: “It was a really good run from my horse and he did everything I asked of him and only managed to hold on at the end. It was a very good race from him. I am happy.”
Yahagi, who also coaches Panthalassa, spoke about the importance of the day’s results while adding context to the rise of Japanese horse racing globally.
“We were very lucky today, so we didn’t expect to lose!” Yahagi told reporters. “I have never experienced such expectation in a photo-finish.
“As the standard of Japanese racehorses has increased over the years, I was very proud to showcase him on the world stage.”
Riding German horse Schnell Meister, trained by Takahisa Tezuka, Lemaire placed eighth in the field of 14 horses.
A quintet of Japanese horses at Dubai Sheema Classic
In the Dubai Sheema Classic, a third of the 15 horses were born in Japan: Authority (trainer Tetsuya Kimura), Glory Vase (Tomohito Ozeki), Shahryar (Fujiwara), Stella Veloce (Naosuke Sugai) and Uberleben (Tezuka).
Cristian Demuro and Shahryar clocked 2:26.88 over 2,410 meters to claim the top prize of US$6 million (731.4 million yen), beating Yibir by a neck length.
Authority (Lemaire) finished third, half a length from second. Uberleben (Lane) was fifth, Glory Vase (Christophe Soumillion) was eighth and Stella Veloce (Mirco Demuro) was ninth.
Author: Ed Odeven
Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sunday, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter ＠ed_odevenand find it on the JAPAN Forward sports website, SportsLook.