Buena Vista triumphs in Japan Cup; Danedream 6th
Since some thought she hadn't done it right the first time, Buena Vista did it once again. And this time it was for keeps.
On Sunday, Nov. 27 at Tokyo Racecourse, second pick Buena Vista fought a close battle in the stretch with sixth choice Tosen Jordan, then pulled ahead 100 meters out to top the 16-strong field of the Japan Cup by a neck and lay rightful claim to her sixth G1 victory. Longshot Jaguar Mail crossed the wire in third, with Trailblazer and Win Variation following to make it a Japanese sweep of the top five spots in the international invitational's 31st running.
As Buena Vista pulled away in the final strides, the roar from the stands rose to a deafening level, as if the fans wished to push her over the finish line with the volume. And later, as jockey Yasunari Iwata, bent over in the saddle and overwhelmed with emotion, returned before the crowd, the feeling throughout the packed stands was as one. The words on everyone's lips the same. "It's so, so good she won!"
The tears shed by Iwata and the sob that was to burst from the lips of trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda both came from the same place. One of relief born of frustration. This was a champion that deserved to win, that had won many a time before and could surely win again. But after her first time out of the money in Japan in her last time out, some of the less faithful had begun to doubt. After victory in last year's Japan Cup was snatched from her in a demotion, Buena Vista had failed to win. She had come close, heartbreakingly close, but had not seen the winner's circle in her five starts from the ill-fated Japan Cup. Matsuda, who said he had nonetheless never lost faith in his mare, had declared them "jinxed." For the first time in Japan, Buena Vista went to the gate less than the favorite.
"I knew she was the best. I always believed in her," the 65-year-old Matsuda said. "She had not been 100 percent in the Tenno Sho and had trouble under way. Then with the fast pace. To have come forth in those conditions just gave me more confidence in her ability."
Asked in the post-race press conference how he felt to see his mare win at long last, Matsuda began slowly ". . . after last year and what Soumillon did . . ," then abruptly broke off in a choked sob, a sob of frustration found release. "It is so good she has won, so good," wife, Mineko, too had said earlier, her voice filled with relief. "Last year had been so frustrating, so horribly frustrating," she said.
Iwata too had found his release, on his fourth successive time paired with Buena Vista. "To have been given the rides on such an incredibly strong horse and not to have gotten results, it reflected badly on me. I wanted her to win so badly and show everyone just how strong she is." After breaking well from the No. 2 slot, Iwata held Buena Vista on the rail and settled into a comfortable position about five horses off the top as Mission Approved pulled the field at a slow pace.
Into the stretch, Iwata brought the 5-year-old mare out but she had to fight to come clear, then broke through the pack to run alongside Tosen Jordan, before pulling away for the win. "She had felt fantastic the whole way around," Iwata said. "I believed she was the strongest to the end and she had enough to pull out ahead." Buena Vista's final kick took her over the last 3 furlongs in a blistering 33.9 seconds and over the 2,400 meters of firm turf in 2 minutes 24.2 seconds.
Crossing the finish line to the roar of the crowd, in the "biggest race in Japan, the race with the most fanfare," was a feeling Iwata could only describe as "Saiko!" or literally, "the ultimate." Fantastic, on top of the world, over the moon. Simply put, it doesn't get any better. Iwata, 37, winner of the Melbourne Cup and now two-time winner of the Japan Cup, had always described the Tokyo stretch as endless. This time, though it had still seemed long, he said, "I knew she could do it and that gave me patience."
Of the four foreign-based runners, Arc winner and race favorite Danedream turned in the best results with a sixth-place finish. Once again, Shareta followed on her heels. Sarah Lynx finished 12th, with America's Mission Approved in 14th. Danedream jockey Andrasch Starke could not hide his disappointment. "We jumped a little bit slow and she got bumped soon after. The outside draw (No. 13) didn't help," he said. "We may have been able to finish closer if I'd had more of an inside draw." But, Starke acknowledged the winner. "She is really a good horse."
2011 Dubai World Cup champion Victoire Pisa, racing for the first time since the Dubai win eight months ago, had still gained enough of the fans' backing to go to the gate as race fourth pick. The 4-year-old finished in 13th place. Rider Mirco Demuro too expressed his disappointment. "He was not 100 percent. He ran a good race though but had a bit of a problem with traffic. I'm a little disappointed but it was a long layoff. He needed another race before this," Demuro said.
Buena Vista, carrying 55 kg, notched her ninth win in 20 starts in Japan, 22 total. The 250 million yen of the Japan Cup brought her earnings to nearly 1.5 billion yen. Buena Vista, daughter of Special Week out of Biwa Heide, was bred at Northern Farm on the north island of Hokkaido. She is owned by Sunday Racing.