The powerful 4-year-old colt's performance on Sunday, June 25 was a 2,200-meter demonstration of why the Kitasan Black-sired horse is so highly regarded on the global stage.
Equinox, guided by Christophe Lemaire, ran near the back of the pack in the early going after bursting out of stall five. And he was in no rush to attempt to take control right away.
Instead, patience paid off for the horse and the jockey. And then they seized the moment in the All-Star, aka Grand Prix, race, one of two on the Japan Racing Association calendar in which fans select the entrants.
Heading into the final turn, race favorite Equinox made a bold move to the outside, giving him plenty of space to operate at full stride as he galloped toward the front-runners and moved into contention.
Equinox took the lead with 200 meters remaining at Hanshin Racecourse in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. And he held off his closest challenger by a neck in the 17-horse race. (Watch the full race on the JRA's YouTube channel.)
Through Seven Seas (three-time Takarazuka Kinen winner Kenichi Ikezoe's ride) ran the fastest last three furlongs (34.6 seconds) to finish in second place.
Equinox completed the JRA Grade 1 race in 2 minutes, 11.2 seconds, including 34.8 seconds in the final three furlongs, a year after Titleholder won it in a race-record time of 2:09.7. It's the 45th JRA G1 win of Lemaire's career and the fifth for Tetsuya Kimura, Equinox's trainer.
Additional Race Results
Second favorite Justin Palace (Katsuma Sameshima) placed third, a length behind Through Seven Seas.
Four-time Takarazuka winner Yutaka Take guided Geraldina, the third favorite, to a fourth-place finish.
Ridden by Ryuji Wada, who has two career wins in this race (most recently aboard Mikki Rocket in 2018), Deep Bond placed fifth.
Unicorn Lion (Ryusei Sakai) led for the majority of the race, but fatigue set in and the 7-year-old dark bay colt lost the lead late and slipped to 15th overall.
Lemaire Comments on Equinox's Winning Performance
After securing the win before an announced crowd of 44,297, Lemaire shared his thoughts on what transpired on the turf track.
"Though we were unable get a good position toward the front due to the fast pace at the beginning, the horse was relaxed in the rear and I wasn't worried at all," said Lemaire, who was listed as the top-ranked jockey in the world by Thoroughbred Racing Commentary in December 2020.
"As the inner track condition was not so good, we made a bid from the outside early and turned wide to the straight where he stretched really well. Hanshin's inner course is tricky and Takarazuka Kinen is a difficult race to win even for champion horses, so I'm very happy that I was able to win the race with the number-one horse in the World's Best Racehorse Rankings.
"I realized again how strong he is, [and] I hope to win more big races with him in the autumn."
Equinox owns a four-race winning streak. He has six victories in eight career starts, with Lemaire on the saddle for each of those races.
For Lemaire, Sunday's come-from-behind victory was his second in the Takarazuka Kinen. The French jockey piloted Chrono Genesis to a win in 2021. (In 2020, Chrono Genesis won the G1 event for the first time, with Yuichi Kitamura handling the reins.)
A Look Ahead
The next G1 race on the JRA calendar is the Sprinters Stakes on October 1 at Nakayama Racecourse in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture.
There have been 12 G1 races this year in Japan.
- Takarazuka Kinen (Preview): Equinox Headlines Star-Studded Equine Showcase
- Equinox Shines in Arima Kinen as Christophe Lemaire Wins the Race for the Third Time
Author: Ed Odeven