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Horse Racing

Equinox Overwhelms in a Riveting Finish in the 43rd Japan Cup

Ridden by Christophe Lemaire, the world's top-rated horse catches Titleholder 400 meters from the wire in the Japan Cup and cruises to a four-length victory.

Equinox was a class above in the 43rd Japan Cup on Sunday, November 26, easily beating a stellar field, which included eight Grade 1 champions from Japan and abroad. 

Billed as a showdown between the brown colt and the 2023 Triple Tiara victor Liberty Island, guided by Yuga Kawada, the highest rated horse in the world prevailed while extending his G1 winning streak to six before an announced crowd of 85,866 at Tokyo Racecourse. (Watch the race on YouTube.)

In doing so, Equinox became the third horse in Japan Racing Association history to accomplish the feat following T. M. Opera O (2000-01) and Lord Kanaloa (2012-13). 

Following the footsteps of his sire Kitasan Black, who won the Japan Cup in 2016, Equinox marked a milestone with this victory, becoming the first Japanese horse to exceed ¥2 billion JPY in earnings (¥2.21 billion JPY, nearly $14.8 million USD).

On Sunday, the colt gave trainer Tetsuya Kimura his seventh JRA G1 title — his latest being with the colt in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) on October 29.

At the same time, jockey Christophe Lemaire scored his 49th overall JRA G1 win. Lemaire is now tied with Yutaka Take in landing four Japan Cup titles (Vodka in 2009, Almond Eye in 2018 and 2020), more than any other jockey so far. 

Japan Cup
Equinox builds a comfortable lead to secure the win. (ⒸSANKEI)

Panthalassa Runs Out of Steam as Equinox Makes Move

The full field of 18 started in front of the packed stands and, as expected, Panthalassa (Yutaka Yoshida) rushed to the front, setting a rapid pace that timed 57.6 seconds in the first 1,000 meters, widening an unmeasurable lead in the backstretch. 

Three-time G1 winner Titleholder (Kazuo Yokoyama) followed in second, with Equinox a length behind in third. 

Japan Cup
Another look at Equinox's commanding advantage late in the race. (ⒸSANKEI)

By the last corner, Panthalassa had gradually squandered his huge lead but was still about 100 meters ahead of the others in the early stretch. Then the hot favorite unleashed his signature stretch drive. 

Equinox easily caught Titleholder 400 meters out and then inherited the lead from the used-up pacesetter just before the 200-meter marker to cruise to an incredible four-length victory.

Japan Cup
Winning jockey Christophe Lemaire and Equinox share the spotlight after the race. (ⒸSANKEI)

Post-Victory Remarks from Kimura and Lemaire

"Equinox was able to come into the race in good condition," Kimura said. "He was aggressive from the start and was relaxed during the race despite the fast pace of the frontrunner. With Equinox extending his G1 winning streak for over a year, the pressure was so great before the Japan Cup that I felt relieved when he won the race." 

The trainer added, "He is a very well-balanced horse — shape of his hooves, bone structure and firm muscle — everything is perfectly balanced. It's a miraculous combination. So we try to maintain this balance when we train him." 

Reflecting on his winning performance with Equinox, Lemaire revealed "I felt happy and relieved."

He then said, "Many emotions came to my mind because it was an unbelievable race. Horse racing fans and lovers were able to see something very special. He is a top horse and can adapt to any kind of race or surface. When we came back in front of the huge happy crowd who witnessed the race, I became very emotional." 

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Additional Race Details

Three-year-old Triple Crown filly Liberty Island took a ground-saving trip behind the eventual winner. 

Although unable to match the speed of the winner, the second pick did not disappoint. She displayed her good turn of foot and pinned Titleholder 250 meters out and then Panthalassa 150 meters to the wire for second place.

Fifth choice and 2022 Best Three-Year-Old filly Stars on Earth (William Buick's ride) was settled behind Equinox and right next to Liberty Island most of the way. After entering the stretch side by side, the two fillies rallied briefly. But while unable to keep up with the eventual runner-up, Stars on Earth closed tenaciously for third while holding off a late charge by Do Deuce (Keita Tosaki). 

Vela Azul, the 2022 Japan Cup champion piloted by British jockey Hollie Doyle, finished seventh.

Read the full article about the Japan Cup, including details about each of the 18 entrants' performances, on JRA News.

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Author: JRA News

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