Vodka pulled from Dubai World Cup, retired to career as broodmare
2009 Japan Cup
Two-time Japan Racing Association Horse of the Year Vodka, who had been aimed for the March 27 Dubai World Cup, has been pulled from the race and is to be retired earlier than planned from racing, it was learned Sunday March 7 following a press conference by Vodka's trainer Katsuhiko Sumii at Nakayama Racecourse outside Tokyo.
The decision was made after discovering Vodka, 6, bleeding from the nose following her eighth-place run in the Third Round of the Al Maktoum Challenge on Thursday, March 4. "Her deceleration in the race was not typical for her and I had been worried right after the race that something was amiss," Sumii said. It was not the first time Vodka had bled. The same had happened following her winning run in the Japan Cup last November, after which she was suspended according to Japan Racing Association rules for one month. Unable to make an appearance in the year end finale Arima Kinen, Vodka was then aimed for a final run in Dubai.
Though the degree of bleeding was not enough for Vodka to be barred from the World Cup, her connections decided racing her was not worth the risk. "After discussing it with the owner," Sumii explained, "though it is unfortunate not to be able to race her, we decided that, in light of her outstanding performance to date, it was in the best of interests to not push her excessively, but to retire her to what will surely be an outstanding career as broodmare."
Vodka is owned by Yuzo Tanimizu. She was born on April 4, 2004 at Country Bokujo in Hokkaido's Shizunai. By Tanino Gimlet out of the Rousillon mare Tanino Sister, Vodka ends her racing career with a total 10 wins in 22 races in Japan, including wins of seven International and domestic grade I races - the 2006 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, the 2007 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), the 2008 Yasuda Kinen and Tenno Sho (Autumn), the 2009 Victoria Mile, Yasuda Kinen and Japan Cup. Vodka ties Triple Crown winners Symboli Rudolf and Deep Impact, as well as T.M.Opera O, for most grade I races won.
2009 Japan Cup
Vodka grabbed the racing spotlight with her record win of the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies as a 2-year-old, then went on to capture the eyes of the general media with her history-making run in the 2007 Derby. With her victory she became the third filly ever to win the race, the first to win in 64 years. Her successive wins of the Yasuda Kinen had only been duplicated once before, by Yamanin Zephyr in 1992 and '93. She was the first Japan-based female to capture the Japan Cup
Sumii expressed his thanks to the mare saying, "Vodka has been the rock of my stable. In what one could call almost reckless challenges, she has given us many good times and bad times. She has taught us that there is always something to be learned," the 45-year-old Sumii said with reflection. "She has shouldered hard training and given us many stellar performances for which I am deeply grateful."
During her career, in striving to find a consistent winning combination, Sumii took Vodka through a number of jockey changes. Her main riders included Hirofumi Shii, aboard for four of her wins, and Yutaka Take, partnered with her for three winning runs. The mare ended her career being ridden in her final two races by Frenchman Christophe Lemaire. Lemaire rode Vodka to her win of the 2009 Japan Cup. He was pegged to ride her in the Dubai World Cup.
Vodka will be sorely missed by an army of fans. Her victories and her losses were celebrated and mourned, her every step followed as those of few racehorses in Japan have been. Though her wins were largely decisive, so were her losses. Her career was shadowed in as much disappointment as it was lit by rejoicing. Expected to go to the gate the favorite in the 2007 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, she was scratched but hours before the race due to what appeared to be a hip problem. Her many losses in smaller races gave rise to doubt, but Vodka would return with an all-out run that went straight to the heart and there she stayed. Her suspension following the Japan Cup came as a huge letdown to those hoping to see her take on the Arima Kinen and cap her career with a victorious farewell run. Her last chance crushed to do so in the Dubai World Cup comes as a final discordant note to a magnificent career.
It was with her fans in mind that Sumii apologized, saying, "This is a most unfortunate end and we are sorry that Vodka was not able to go out with one last strong showing. She will not be coming back to Japan right away but will set off on her journey as broodmare. We hope that you will continue to cheer on her sons and daughters. I thank you for all the support you have shown us up to now."
Vodka is to travel to Ireland to be covered by 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sea the Stars, standing at the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud in County Kildare. She is expected to remain for several years in Ireland.
Vodka's earnings in Japan amounted to over 1.3 billion yen, putting her in third place behind top earner T.M.Opera O and runnerup Deep Impact. Vodka also earned an additional 28 million yen plus in four races overseas.
Vodka was recognized for her outstanding performance with awards in 2006 as Best 2-Year-Old Filly, in 2007 with a Special Award, in 2008 as Best Older Filly or Mare and the Horse of the Year award. She repeated that in 2009. Since the awards were established in 1987, only two other horses have won successive honors as Horse of the Year -- Symboli Kris S in 2002 and 2003 and Triple Crown Winner Deep Impact in 2005 and 2006.
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