Victoire Pisa, Transcend land Japan one-two victory in Dubai World Cup
Victoire Pisa (left), Transcend (right)
Rulership (1st from right)
Victoire Pisa and Transcend turned the cards on the favorites Saturday, March 26, as they pulled off an incredible one-two win of Saturday's $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse. Coming against the backdrop of tragedy back home in Japan, the win, the first ever for Japan, from 18 previous participants, was an emotionally moving one, for Japanese and non-Japanese alike.
Italian jockey Mirco Demuro was overcome with emotion and in tears following his victory. “It’s unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable to win the Dubai World Cup for Japan,” he said.
Transcend had the early lead, and was joined on the front by Victoire Pisa midway through the race as both held off late challenges from several runners. Trained by Katsuhiko Sumii, the 4-year-old Japan-bred Victoire Pisa, held on by a half-length margin to clinch the win ahead of the front-running Transcend.
A head back from Transcend in third was Monterosso, for Mahmood Al Zarooni and Mickael Barzalona, with Cape Blanco, Aidan O'Brien's first World Cup runner, finishing in fourth place.
Gio Ponti loomed up menacingly in the homestretch but had to settle for fifth, with Gitano Hernando and Musir next home. Favorite Twice Over was unable to get into a good position from his wide draw and failed to pick up in the run for the line.
Buena Vista, who had been pegged for far better things, settled in the rear and was never able to challenge. She crossed the line in eighth place under an apologetic Ryan Moore.
Trainer Katsuhiko Sumii had his thoughts solidly on Japan, reeling in the wake of the March 11 disaster. His team had initially hesitated to go through with their Dubai bid after the quake, but then decided to stick with their plans in the hopes that good results could help boost flagging spirits back home. “I think this is a victory that can help put some life back into people in Japan amid the darkness following the huge earthquake and tsunami,” said Sumii, whose only previous runner in the World Cup was a fourth-place Kane Hekili in 2006.
He added with characteristic modesty of the World Cup, “Japan had three horses this time and I was lucky to have my horse win. He took the lead early in the stretch and I so much wanted him to hold on. I was screaming. I am just really, really happy.”
Victoire Pisa owner Yoshimi Ichikawa also had words of encouragement and gratitude. “I think this is a bit of bright news for a dark Japan. I really appreciate the support we have had from all.”
Kenji Tsuchikawa, president & CEO of the Japan Racing Association, extended his congratulations and expressed his appreciation of the formidable results. “I want to give a big ‘Congratulations!’ to all the connections of Victoire Pisa,” the 66-year-old Tsuchikawa said in a statement. “Now, with Japan in such a horrific state, I think this is a good opportunity to appeal to the racing fans of the world by demonstrating Japan’s real strength. This great achievement will surely serve to give Japan, and especially the people affected by the Tohoku disaster, courage and hope.”
Shinji Fujita, who piloted Transcend to second place in the Cup, admitted his thoughts had initially been more selfish, but he came around when he realized the magnitude of what he was a part of. “Coming into the straight, (Transcend) changed leads and I thought we had it. When Victoire Pisa came up I was thinking how much I wanted the win. But, in the moment we crossed the line, I thought, what a great one-two win for Japan.”
Transcend trainer Takayuki Yasuda did admit his disappointment, “Second place is unfortunate, but the horse really gave it his all. There was a car out in front and he seemed to be a bit startled by that. But, when he straightened for home, I thought he just might pull it off.”
Moore, on Buena Vista, blamed the pace for the loss. “We weren’t able to run our race with the slow pace. In the stretch, everywhere I went I found walls and I wasn’t able to bring her out. It’s really a shame.”
Demuro’s bold and enterprising decision to suddenly go for the lead some 5 furlongs from the finish was surely key to the victory as daring riding paid off for the second year running. The pace set reluctantly by Transcend and Fujita was a creeping one, that seemed to faze no one but Demuro, who moved Victoire Pisa around the field, then forward with a surprising suddenness.
It was a move spurred perhaps by an uncharacteristic poor start for the colt. "He hit his head at the stalls so he was slow to begin," Demuro later reported. "But maybe it was lucky because with the slow pace on the backstretch I could find a good position close to the leader and he didn't use much energy to get there."
When Victoire Pisa stepped into the lead, it was a move that seemed to take the others by surprise, or one they simply did not take seriously. But, by the time Victoire Pisa entered the straight. Digging down deep he refused to give in to the challenges from behind, while Demuro said he found the stretch to be “really long.”
"It was a really tight finish," he said. "We were hoping to do well, but to win was amazing."
Victoire Pisa, by the Sunday Silence stallion Neo Universe, has won 8 of 13 starts and nearly $13 million earning $6 million from Saturday's race.
Victoire Pisa was third in the 2010 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) last May and eighth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris last October. Later in the fall, he was third in the Japan Cup before capturing the yearend Arima Kinen (G1) last December.
In his only start of 2011 before the Dubai World Cup, Victoire Pisa won the Nakayama Kinen (G2) over turf on Feb. 27.
Demuro, whose ready smile and gentle manner endears him to many in Japan, dedicated the winner to the people of Japan, just two weeks after the country was struck by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
One race earlier in the Dubai Sheema Classic, Rewilding ran on strongly to take the $5 million race in a course record 2 minutes 29.01 seconds. Japan’s Rulership, also of the Sumii stable, failed after a courageous bid to become the third Japanese horse to win the race. Rulership finished in sixth place.
Rewilding settled in mid pack early under Lanfranco Dettori as Laaheb, paired with Richard Hills, broke smartly from gate one for the early lead before giving way to Rulership and Christophe Soumillon.
At the head of the stretch Rulership and Laaheb went for home and it looked for a moment as if Rulership might reign supreme, until Dettori launched Rewilding in the straight to run down the leaders and win by 3¼ lengths gaining. Redwood was second a quarter of a length ahead of Calvados Blues, with Laaheb holding on for fourth ahead of Chinchon from France.
Soumillon said that Rulership had failed to relax. “From the start, he wouldn’t relax and wasn’t able to get his breath. Because it wasn’t a long race, I had wanted to get a forward position.”
Trainer Sumii said he had faith he had done what he could to prepare the horse for the race. “He was in good shape, but he has a very big stride and I think he was unable to get his breath because of the slow pace. I think if he had been unable to move out he would have done better but the surface also played a factor no doubt. Apparently, the distance wasn’t a problem so I’d have to just say that he didn’t take well to the trip,” Sumii said without direct criticism of his rider.
In the fourth race of the day, the UAE Derby (G2), Godolphin’s Khawlah nipped game runner-up Master of Hounds by a nose in the final strides for the win.
Japan’s Laser Bullet failed to present a challenge and finished in ninth place in the field of 14.
Ridden by Mickael Barzalona, Khawlah was taken back off the pace set by stablemate Xin Xu Lin, with Lanfranco Dettori up. The Cape Cross, Irish-bred filly made her bid with about 500 meters left in the 1,900-meter race.
Susan Magnier’s Master of Hounds opened a clear lead under Moore and appeared on the point of victory but Khawlaw reeled him in for a thrilling finish. She covered the distance in 1:58.83 on the synthetic surface.
“He was quick out of the gate,” said jockey Shinji Fujita of Laser Bullet, “but shortly after he had horses come on his side. The pace wasn’t fast so I thought I’d follow Dettori. But into the turn, when (Laser Bullet) changed leads, he came up empty.”
Trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara said, “It’s a shame but this will be a learning experience for the stable staff members. I’d like to express my appreciation to the owner for giving us this opportunity.”
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