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Horse Racing

Equinox Repeats as the Tenno Sho (Autumn) Champion

The Kitasan Black-sired Equinox showcased his world-class talent, building a big lead late in the 2,000-meter race and cruising to a 2½-length victory.

Nine races into his career, Equinox has a track record of sensational success: seven victories and a pair of runner-up finishes.

The Kitasan Black-sired 4-year-old brown colt extended his winning streak to five with a captivating performance in the 168th Tenno Sho (Autumn) on Sunday afternoon, October 29. Christophe Lemaire, the only jockey to ride Equinox in a race, handled the reins with aplomb as Equinox galloped with purpose and energy to burn en route to a race-record time of 1 minute, 55.2 seconds at Tokyo Racecourse. Equinox shattered the old record by 0.9 seconds.

Sitting in third place for a sizable portion of the 2,000-meter race, Equinox's world-class speed took over in the final three furlongs (about 600 meters). And he built an insurmountable lead that eventually closed to 2½ lengths. (Watch the race on YouTube.)

Equinox won the 2022 Tenno Sho (Autumn) in 1:57.5.

Equinox
Christophe Lemaire reacts after winning the race. (ⒸSANKEI)

As it turned out, Equinox, the Japan Racing Association's 2022 Horse of the Year, was competing against his own high standards. Equinox is the top-ranked thoroughbred in LONGINES World's Best Racehorse Rankings, which was updated on October 12.

Lemaire Continues to Thrive in the Tenno Sho (Autumn)

At the same time, Lemaire added another notch to his long list of accomplishments in Japan, placing first in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) for the fifth time in the last six years. He teamed up with Rey de Oro for the win in 2018. Then he won back-to-back races with Almond Eye in 2019 and 2020. He now has 47 JRA G1 wins in his illustrious career.

Equinox is now one of three horses to win this race in consecutive years. Symboli Kris S did it first, in 2002 and '03, with Yukio Okabe and Olivier Peslier.

Equinox
Christophe Lemaire has ridden Equinox in all nine of the horse's career starts. (ⒸSANKEI)

Equinox Gives the Packed Venue Plenty of Excitement

Indeed, the story of the day was Equinox's brilliant performance.

His make-it-look-easy effort, albeit somewhat methodical, was not lost on Lemaire.

"First of all, I am relieved to have been able to show the world, which I know was watching, how the race favorite would run, that he is indeed a deserving colt to be named the highest-rated colt," the French jockey said in his post-race interview. 

"He's not exactly what you call a horse with incredible speed, but he was able to keep up with today's rapid pace and get into another gear at the end. But I was actually surprised when I realized that we had won in record [time]."

Sixth favorite Justin Palace, guided by Takeshi Yokoyama, placed second. Prognosis (Yuga Kawada) was third, 1¼ lengths behind the runner-up. Heart's Cry progeny Danon Beluga (Joao Moriera) and Gaia Force (Atsuya Nishimura) were fourth and fifth, respectively, before an announced crowd of 77,870.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako attended the race.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako visit a special exhibit on October 29 commemorating the 100th anniversary of Japan’s Horse Racing Law at the JRA Racing Museum in Fuchu. (Representative Photo)

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako are seen on the giant Turf Vision video screen at Tokyo Racecourse. (Ⓒ Takeshi Nara)

"I had heard that the gate was noisy, so I tried various measures, but it was still noisy," Yokoyama told reporters after the race, according to netkeiba.com. "My plan was to run at the front, but I couldn't get a good start and had to start from the back of the pack. The pace flowed better than I expected and I ended up in a good position. 

"Equinox was strong, but the horse (Justin Palace) ran well."

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Replacement Rider for Do Deuce

Tenno Sho second favorite Do Deuce, was the last horse to finish ahead of Equinox in a race. Do Deuce placed first and Equinox was the runner-up in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) on June 29, 2022. On Sunday, Do Deuce finished seventh with replacement jockey Keita Tosaki.

Yutaka Take, Do Deuce's regular rider, was injured earlier in the day after the fifth race on the day's program, the 2-Year-Old Newcomer event. Black Rise, Take's horse, kicked him in the right leg in front of the weighing room at Tokyo Racecourse.

Before being scratched, Take had entered the day with a shot at earning a record-tying seventh Autumn Tenno Sho triumph. It's a record that has stood since 1966.

The 54-year-old Take reacted to the injury withdrawal by telling reporters, "It's regrettable. I am really sorry. At first I thought I would be OK. But the swelling and pain gradually increased." 

He added, according to netkeib.com, "I'm sorry for putting a damper on a race that had a good lineup, [and] I will do my best to get back to work as soon as possible."

Equinox
Equinox leads the 11-horse field in the 168th running of the Tenno Sho. (ⒸSANKEI)

More Details on Equinox's Triumph

Jack d'Or, who finished 11th, set the pace out of the gate, with Equinox racing at a comfortable pace in third place.

As Lemaire noted above, it was a brisk pace, and Jack d'Or, piloted by Yusuke Fujioka, completed 1,000 meters in 57.7 seconds. Gaia Force was in second place at the midway point.

The second half of the race highlighted Equinox's racing skills in a bigger, bolder way.

With 400 meters remaining, Gaia Force sat in the first place. Equinox zoomed past him and seized control with about 300 meters to the wire.

Equinox kicked it into high gear and romped to victory.

"He is a versatile horse that can run from any position, stay calm during the race and make use of his speed at the finish," Lemaire said. Moments earlier, he blew a kiss to the crowd, pumped his fist and gently stroked Equinox's mane.

The winning jockey added, "He can also run at longer distances such as when he won the Arima Kinen (in 2022 over 2,500 meters). So although there was much pressure coming into such a prestigious race as race favorite, I was confident knowing what he is capable of."

Winning trainer Tetsuya Kimura ⒸSANKEI)

Also Sunday, Tetsuya Kimura, Equinox's trainer, collected his sixth G1 victory on the JRA circuit.

A Look Ahead

The next G1 race on the JRA calendar is the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on November 12 at Kyoto Racecourse.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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