2012 Japan Cup (G1) - Gentildonna trounces Orfevre in JC first
In a fierce duel to a Japan Cup photo finish, Gentildonna refused to back down slamming Orfevre to not only his second loss in a row but to his second loss in a row to a filly. In claiming her victory of the Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse Nov. 25, Gentildonna not only added her name to the list of 31 previous winners, but went down in history as the first 3-year-old filly to do so.
Race favorite Orfevre, Triple Crown champion and 2011 Horse of the Year, ran one of his most serious races yet, but was forced to taste defeat. France’s Solemia, who had beaten him in his previous race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, finished far down the field, and if it was any solace, beating him this time out was a Triple Crown champion herself and the daughter of yet another. The Deep Impact-sired Gentildonna, who went to the gate the race third pick,claimed the fillies’ big three this year and extended her winning streak to five with a gutsy victory in the Japan Cup.
Finishing in third place two and a half lengths behind Orfevre was second pick Rulership, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong this spring and coming off a third in the Tenno Sho (Autumn). In fourth place a mere head behind Rulership was sixth choice Dark Shadow, piloted by Tenno Sho winning jockey Mirco Demuro. The 3-year-old colt Fenomeno finished in fifth place.
Despite the presence of four runners from the U.K. in addition to the Arc champion, Japan-based horses swept the top seven places, with Red Cadeaux topping the foreign raiders with an eighth-place performance. Next of the five over the line was Melbourne Cup third-place runner Jakkalberry in 11th place, followed by Mount Athos in 12th, Solemia in 13th and Sri Putra in last place among the field of 17.
Though she carried 4 kg less than Orfevre in the Japan Cup, Gentildonna'svictory, according to trainer Sei Ishizaka, only confirmed his belief in her. “Yes, we had an edge with the 53 kg we carried, but in beating Orfevre she showed me what I knew she had all along.” Winning jockey Yasunari Iwata recorded a first of his own as he followed last year’s win of the Japan Cup aboard Buena Vista, with this year’s victory to become the first jockey to notch back-to-back Japan Cup wins. Iwata, who had ridden Gentildonna for two of her Triple Crown wins, also said he had been confident in the filly’s ability. “I thought I hadn’t really seen her best performance yet, but knew she could do it.”
Despite her wide draw, the race couldn't have gone better from the start for Gentildonna and her rider. Iwata took her from her No. 15 slot to the inside and was able to clinch a forward position from early on. “I looked at the condition on the inside and it was really good, so I wanted to get there,” Iwata, 38, said. Gentildonna seemed to feel the same as she broke smartly from the gate and sped to the front on the rail in second place behind Beat Black. Orfevre, meanwhile, took a seat five off the back on the rail, then moved out to execute the final turn about three wide. Gentildonna allowed Beat Black to widen his lead to some 10 lengths around the turn into the stretch and Tosen Jordan to move ahead of her as well.
By the hill in the straight, Gentildonna had five horses ahead of her, including Orfevre, but at the top with about 200 meters left she drove up the rail, lined up with Orfevre and the two stepped into the lead as they went neck and neck to the finish.
Gentildonna held her ground with bulldog determination, refusing to relinquish the prize to Orfevre. “It’s the best thing about her,” said Ishizaka. “If she goes neck and neck, she hates to lose and will fight ferociously.”
The stretch battle caused an inquiry that delayed the official announcement of the race outcome for a good 15 minutes after Gentildonna bumped Orfevre shortly before the finish. In the end, however, stewards judged it to have had no effect on the colt’s momentum and the photo finish that saw Gentildonna ahead by a nose held. “It was a fierce battle in the end and I wish it could have been a bit cleaner,” Iwata said. “I’m sorry we bumped Orfevre and yes, she did have a 4 kg weight advantage, but she really deserves congratulations for her magnificent effort."
With the Japan Cup victory, worth 250 million yen to owner Sunday Racing, questions immediately arose as to the possibility of an overseas bid for Gentildonna. The 62-year-old Ishizaka said, “The first thing will be getting her recovered. It was a tough race and surely put a lot of pressure on her,” he said. “I don’t have any specific plans yet, and though I would say the Arc is a possibility, as well as possibly running in Dubai or the U.S., I am thinking long-term and not necessarily of next year.”
Ishizaka did specify, however, that Gentildonna would definitely not be running in the year-end Arima Kinen. “She has had enough and I knew before the Japan Cup, regardless of how we did, that it would be her last race of the year.”
The Northern Racing-bred Gentildonna improved her already stellar record to seven wins in nine starts, with one second and a fourth. Finishing second in her late debut in November of her 2-year-old year, Gentildonna won her next races and jumped immediately to the graded-stakes level from her next run, the G3 Shinzan Kinen. She claimed that then ran fourth in the G3 Tulip Sho, before sweeping her next four races – the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), Rose Stakes and the Shuka Sho. If ever there was a filly that could ease the humiliation of defeat for Orfevre, a colt touted by his trainer, Yasutoshi Ikee, as very likely the No. 1 horse in the world, it was Gentildonna.