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Horse Racing

Cervinia Triumphs in the Yushun Himba, the 2nd Jewel of the Fillies' Triple Crown

In the 85th running of the Yushun Himba, Cervinia found another gear in the last 100 meters to dig in and overtake Stellenbosch for a half-length victory.

Second favorite Cervinia bounced back from her 13th-place finish in the Oka Sho to win the 85th Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) on Sunday, May 19 at Tokyo Racecourse.

Cervinia, guided by jockey Christophe Lemaire, displayed an impressive closing drive, tagging Oka Sho victor Stellenbosch (Keita Tosaki) right before the wire to win the 2,400-meter Yushun Himba. 

Foaled out of 2016 Yushun Himba runner-up Cecchino, Cervinia debuted in June 2023 (Tokyo, 1,600 meters) as a 2-year-old and broke her maiden in her next start in August (Niigata, 1,800 meters) before registering her first graded title in the Artemis Stakes (G3, 1,600 meters) two months later. 

Withdrawn from the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies in December due to a minor problem in her hind leg, she commenced the current season in the Oka Sho, the first race of the Japanese Fillies' Triple Crown, on April 7. 

The latest Japan Racing Association Grade 1 victory for both trainer Tetsuya Kimura and Lemaire was in the 2023 Hopeful Stakes with Regaleira on December 28, 2023. Kimura has nine JRA G1 titles under his name while Lemaire has 51. 

As for Lemaire, this is his fourth Yushun Himba triumph following wins with Soul Stirring (2017), Almond Eye (2018) and Stars on Earth (2022). He has the most wins in the race among active jockeys.

Yushun Himba
Christophe Lemaire earns his 51st career Japan Racing Association Grade 1 victory in the Yushun Himba, which he won for the fourth time on this day aboard Cervinia. (©SANKEI)

Cervinia's Path to Victory in the 85th Running of the Yushun Himba

Breaking from stall 12, Cervinia was unhurried out of the gate and settled in mid-field right beside the race favorite while Windstille (Hiroshi Kitamura) took a sole journey way up front setting a rapid pace. 

Hitting the final turn, the field fanned out in a wide row, overtaking the tired pacesetter in the early stretch while Cervinia was seen taking a clear outer route. 

Once the field climbed up the hill, the Harbinger filly briefly rallied with rivals near the 200-meter marker. But Cervinia found another gear in the last 100 meters to dig in and overtake Stellenbosch for a half-length victory in 2 minutes, 24.0 seconds. (Watch the full race on the JRA's YouTube channel.) 

Yushun Himba
Christophe Lemaire reacts after riding Cervinia to victory in the Yushun Himba. (©SANKEI)

"I'm back," said Lemaire in a post-race interview. "It's a wonderful feeling. The filly didn't do well in the Oka Sho, but I know how high her potential is and was very confident today.

"I tried not to let her make an early bid — let her find her stride after turning into the straight — and she just stretched beautifully from there."

Yushun Himba
The 85th running of the Yushun Himba. (©SANKEI)

How the 85th Yushun Himba Unfolded

Sent off well backed as first choice, Stellenbosch was unhurried out of the gate and traveled in around ninth. The Oka Sho winner found herself briefly in traffic in the early stretch. But once finding a clear path, she displayed her good turn of foot to take command 300 meters out. 

And although it was found later on that she had lost a shoe, the Epiphaneia filly held on well but was caught by the fast-closing Cervinia in the final strides for second place. 

Third pick Light Back (Ryusei Sakai's ride) was settled in 15th before turning wide in the last two corners behind the winner. Once finding a narrow opening around 350 meters out, the Oka Sho third-place runner launched the third-fastest late drive. The Kizuna-sired filly was unable to catch the top two finishers, but won a three-horse rally to secure third place by a neck.

Fifth favorite Queen's Walk (Yuga Kawada), also sired by Kizuna, placed fourth in the 18-horse event. Lance of Queen (Kazuo Yokoyama) finished fifth by the length of a nose behind Queen's Walk.

Fourth favorite Sweep Feet (Yutaka Take) placed sixth, 1½ lengths behind Lance of Queen.

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A Look Ahead 

The Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) is the next G1 race on the JRA's 2024 calendar on May 26 at Tokyo Racecourse.

Read the full report with details on each of the Yushun Himba entrants on JRA News.

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Author: JRA News

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