Vivlos captures Dubai Turf for Japan; Epicharis runnerup in UAE Derby
Vivlos captures Dubai Turf for Japan
Dubai Turf winning ceremony
Epicharis (right) runnerup in UAE Derby
Japan’s team of 10 at Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse brought home one win and a close second-place finish from two of the World Cup Day races on Saturday, March 25. In the day’s headliner, the Dubai World Cup, Awardee turned in the best result in the day’s headliner. One of four Japan-trained horses in the lineup of 14, Awardee finished in fifth place under Yutaka Take.
This year, fans in Japan were able to place wagers on three of the Dubai races – the World Cup, the Sheema Classic and the Dubai Turf. Turnover from the betting amounted to more than 2.58 billion yen.
In the 1,800-meter Dubai Turf, the 4-year-old filly Vivlos surprised with a late run that won her the day’s seventh race, which got under way at 7:30 p.m. local time over yielding ground. Jockey Joao Moreira rode the Yasuo Tomomichi-trained Vivlos quietly until the final stages. He rounded into the stretch on the rail but at the 400-meter mark brought the filly sharply out. Vivlos continued to gain ground, but with 200 meters left, France’s Heshem looked likely to win the $6-million Grade 1 event. Vivlos continued to pour it on and caught and passed both Heshem, with Gregory Benoist up, and Ribchester, under William Buick, to win by half a length in the final strides. Race favorite Zarak finished in fourth place under Christophe Soumillon.
"She was brilliant,” Moreira said of the Deep Impact-sired Vivlos. “From the time that I sat on top of her on Friday, she gave me the feel that she was going to be very competitive. She was probably one of the lightest horses in the race. If the ground was soft, which is probably what the people were thinking about, she wasn't sinking (into the turf) the most. I think that is why she was able to let down and was able to get there.
“The wind was very strong in the backstretch but I did my best to get her cover. When I went to move her up the inside on the rail in the stretch, she was annoyed by the rail, so I brought her outside. She really accelerated well in the end.”
The Brazilian-born Moreira continued, “Good horses make a jockey's life easier. She made the job very easy for me today. We were travelling nice and when I took her out and she had daylight, she was strong to the line.”
Vivlos, who went to the gate the fifth choice of the race, was the first horse trainer Yasuo Tomomichi had taken to Dubai. She had scooped her first G1 last October on capturing the 2,000-meter Shuka Sho as a 3-year-old. Her only race since had been the G2 Nakayama Kinen, in which she ran fifth.
"She travelled very well from Japan and she was very relaxed after arriving in Dubai,” the Ritto-based Tomomichi said. “At one point during the race, she fell back and that scared me a bit. But she quickened from there again. It kept raining but I think the ground was still on the fast side and suited to the Japanese horses.”
Vivlos was the second Japan-based horse in as many years to win the Dubai Turf and the fourth winner for the country overall. She was the fifth Japan-based female to capture a G1 abroad. Real Steel, victorious last year, had made the trip to Dubai again this year. But, bleeding from the nose, he was forced to withdraw only four days before the race.
Vivlos’s winning time was 1 minute 50.2 seconds. She was running under 55 kg, 2 kg less than runnerup Heshem. Vivlos was bred by Northern Racing and is owned by former baseball player Kazuhiro Sasaki. An overjoyed Sasaki commented after the win, “I am really happy and really excited. Last year, after she’d won the G1, we gave her a rest and made this race our goal. Watching her race, I was more nervous than I ever have been playing baseball. I am just so happy.”
Japan’s next-best result had come earlier in the star-studded day, one that boasted six G1s and three G2 races. The day’s fourth race, the G2 1,900-meter UAE Derby over dirt saw Epicharis just miss the win by a short head to finish second in a field of 16. From the gate, Christophe Lemaire moved Epicharis quickly into the lead 100 meters into the 1,900-meter race and from there the son of Gold Allure shone bright, holding his ground until just two strides before the wire, where he was passed by the Irish-bred Thunder Snow, giving jockey Christophe Soumillon his second-straight win on the day’s card.
The Helmet-sired Thunder Snow, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, was bred in Ireland by Darley. He covered the 1,900 meters in a time of 1:57.76 and is now four for eight.
The narrowly edged Epicharis, who had been undefeated before the UAE Derby finish line, was coming off a win of the Feb. 19 Hyacinth Stakes, an open-class mile event at Tokyo. The UAE Derby was, in his five career starts including the same, his first race longer than 1,800 meters. Epicharis is owned by Carrot Farm and bred by Masatsugu Kamada in Hokkaido’s Urakawa. Trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara said, “It was a really frustrating race. But even though he didn’t win, I am still satisfied and grateful to all those people who helped get us this far.” Christophe Lemaire, for whom the second-place finish was to be his best result from three rides on the day, said, “It was a very good race. He didn’t quite have enough at the very end and that is sad. But, it was his first time at the track, he was relaxed and really gave it his all. The winner was stronger.”
Also running in the UAE Derby for Japan was the Rulership-sired colt Adirato. His best in Japan so far had been a second behind Epicharis in the Hyacinth Stakes. It was a big step up to the G2 UAE Derby from there and Adirato only managed to finish 12th of the 16 runners running over a muddy track. Trainer Naosuke Sugai said. “I think the race was a bit long for him. And I think that understanding that now at this point in his career is a good thing to have reaped from this experience. I also think that it being his first time on the Dubai dirt for the first time was a factor in his result.”
Rider Yutaka Take said, “He showed us some very nice speed and it shows how tough he is to have been able to run on this kind of going. The pace was good and I think it was a nice try for him.”
The day’s main event, the 2,000-meter Dubai World Cup over dirt, saw four horses from Japan participate. The number was one more than Japan’s biggest turnout in the race to date. Rain had continued all day and the track was still muddy by the official 8:45 p.m. post time. Nothing, however, was to stop Bob Baffert’s 4-year-old Arrogate, ridden by Mike Smith from winning. By Unbridled’s Song, Arrogate flubbed the break but made up for it with his tremendous long stride in an amazing late run for an unbelievable win. He covered the 2,000 meters of dirt in a time of 2 minutes 2.15 seconds.
Japan’s best result was a far-less-spectacular fifth-place finish from Awardee, a highly consistent son of Jungle Pocket. The 7-year-old has had seven wins, two seconds and a third from his past 10 starts, including a win of the Champions Cup last December at Chukyo. Awardee ran midfield and made his run from 600 meters out but showed no great acceleration. “He was in excellent shape,” assured rider Yutaka Take. “I tried to get a forward position but ended up further back than I would have liked. Still, I think he was able to run his own race and was able to give it what he has.”
Trainer Mikio Matsunaga agreed it was a good performance. “He really put up a good battle. He was in a position to have to take a lot of kickback and I thought he really tried hard. I plan to take him to the Teio Sho next.”
The World Cup fifth matched Hokko Tarumae’s performance in 2015 and was the best since the one-two finish by Victoire Pisa and Transcend in 2011.
Matsunaga also fielded the 4-year-old Lani, who was never near enough to challenge but did run solidly until the finish and finished in eighth place. “I thought the Dubai dirt would suit this horse,” the Ritto-based ex-jockey said. “The jockey thinks he would do better with more distance. I think if he has a bit more distance he could win at the graded-stakes level.”
Ryan Moore had the ride on the Tapit-sired Lani, who had won the UAE Derby last year. “The horse was in good shape and I don’t think the track was the problem,” Moore said.
Finishing in ninth place was Kenji Yamauchi’s Apollo Kentucky, who never advanced further than mid-field. Apollo Kentucky is an American-bred 5-year-old by Langfuhr and was coming off a win of the Tokyo Daishoten at Ohi Racecourse on Dec. 29. “It was a fast time and the competition was strong,” said Yamauchi. “I think this has been a good experience for him and if all goes well from here on, I’d like to run him in the Teio Sho.”
Christophe Lemaire agreed, “It was a fast pace and a very busy race. We got caught inside and couldn’t get out.”
The 4-year-old Gold Dream, by Gold Allure, finished in 14th place. He was slow out of the gate and never was a threat. Gold Dream had just won the G1 February Stakes in Tokyo on Feb. 19 before making the trip to Dubai. Trainer Osamu Hirata said of Gold Dream, “The results are unfortunate. I suppose I’ll have to think of the many reasons things went wrong. I’m going to take some time and think this through well.”
Rider Joao Moreira said, “The start wasn’t very good and I had to push him in the beginning. His running got better in the backstretch and he was feeling good, but he tired over the last 600 meters.”
In other races, Kafuji Take, third in this year’s February Stakes on Feb. 19, ran fifth in the World Cup Day’s first race, the G2 Godolphin Mile over 1,600 meters of dirt. Never near to challenge, Kafuji Take nonetheless ran solidly to the finish. The race was won by Second Summer, partnered by Patrick Dobbs. Yuichi Fukunaga had the ride in the Mile and commented, “It was a hard race to win traveling from behind. There was no stopping those up front and he did very well to make it to fifth. He was in good shape and OK on the surface. He really gave it his all.”
Trainer Sachio Yukubo said, “I think it was because it was his first time at Meydan and the surface affected his racing. He was able to run his kind of race so the results just can’t be helped.”
Japan had no runners in the fourth race, the Al Quoz Sprint, but had one runner in the next race up, the Dubai Golden Shaheen, a G1 over 1,200 meters of dirt that went to the American-bred colt Mind Your Biscuits. Japan’s Dios Corrida, trained by Yoshitada Takahashi and ridden by Shane Foley, finished in 11th place amid the 14-strong field.
“He didn’t break straight out of the gate,” said Takahashi. “He’s only 3 years old, so I expect him to improve and I think this was a good learning opportunity for him. He’s calmer now too so I think we can now give him more distance.”
Rider Shane Foley thought the start wasn’t that bad for the youngest member of a race that included horses as old as 11. “It was a good race and the start was OK. He settled in midfield and didn’t seem bothered by the different surface. I think he did very well up against older horses and I expect him to show a lot of improvement.”
Japan’s Sounds of Earth finished in sixth place amid the small field of seven in the Dubai Sheema Classic, the day’s eighth race and run over 2,410 meters of yielding turf. “The pace wasn’t bad,” said trainer Kenichi Fujioka, “but, whether it was the surface or what I don’t know, but he didn’t quicken as he normally does. He went into the race in good condition.”
Rider Christophe Lemaire said, “His start was really very good, but the ground was too soft for him and I don’t think he’s ever run on ground like this. He did his best but tired in the end.”
DUBAI WORLD CUP (G1, 2,000m Dirt, US$ 10 million, 20:45)
- KAFUJI TAKE: 5th
Please visit the following websites for more information.Dubai Racing Club: http://www.dubairacingclub.com/
Dubai World Cup: http://www.dubaiworldcup.com/
Emirates Racing Authority: http://www.emiratesracing.com/