2023 News

March 27, 2023


Rising Suns: Ushba Tesoro lifts Dubai World Cup, Equinox stuns in Sheema Classic as Japan take over Meydan
Ushba Tesoro
Ushba Tesoro


Derma Sotogake
Derma Sotogake

Ushba Tesoro was last for most of the USD12 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday, March 25.

But he also had the last laugh.

The 6-year-old became just the second horse from Japan to win the Dubai World Cup, going from all the way back to first in the 2,000-meter race. The fourth choice clocked 2 minutes, 3.25 seconds to finish nearly three lengths ahead of Algiers, the No. 3 betting favorite.

Ushba Tesoro, the Noboru Takagi-trained son of Orfevre, is the first Japanese winner of the Dubai World Cup since Victoire Pisa in 2011, when the race was held on an all-weather surface. Ushba Tesoro is the race’s first winner from Japan on a pure dirt course.

The Japanese contingent was all in for the ninth and flagship race of Dubai World Cup Day, making up eight of the 15 runners who were out for the first-place check of nearly USD7 million. In all, a record 26 horses from Japan across six races hit the track in the United Arab Emirates on this day.

Ushba Tesoro’s seven compatriots finished in the following order: T O Keynes, fourth; Crown Pride, fifth; Panthalassa, 10th; Geoglyph, 11th; Cafe Pharoah, 12th; Vela Azul, 13th; Jun Light Bolt, 15th.

That Ushba Tesoro competed abroad for the first time under a first-time partner in Yuga Kawada make the feat all the more impressive. Ushba Tesoro only transitioned from turf to dirt in April last year.

Both Takagi and Kawada – the Japan Racing Association’s leading jockey in 2022 and still holding on this season – said they had had faith in their closer who now has won six of seven on dirt.

“I expected it to flow right from the start so being honest, I was wondering how far back he’d be during the travel,” Takagi said. “But he took the bit good and was in good rhythm. He looked great to me throughout. When he crossed the line first, it was the greatest feeling ever.”

“He was smooth out of the gate but the Japanese horses aren’t that fast so with many of them likely at the back, the gameplan was to make sure he stayed in rhythm,” added the 37-year-old Kawada, who was uncharacteristically – and understandably – ecstatic on this night.

“Sure, there were question marks because it was this first race overseas. Nobody knew how he would handle things like the trip over and the racetrack. But he was fantastic in his workouts and I was absolutely sure about his condition. It was up to me to get him to focus on the race, keep him motivated.

“Eight Japanese horse were taking a shot but (Yutaka) Yoshida and I were the only Japanese jockeys here. On top of that, it was my first time on this horse. It was a massive opportunity – especially as the leading jockey in Japan – and I had all the incentive in the world to do well so I took a crack at it.

“Thanks to the effort Ushba Tesoro gave, I’ve managed to win the greatest race in the world and also prove that Japanese jockeys belong in world-class company. I am so proud of myself as well as the horse.”

Panthalassa emerged as the second overall pick behind defending champion and the Frankie Dettori-ridden Country Grammer, after lifting the USD20 million Saudi Cup last month. However, Panthalassa, who broke from the far outside, was held off the lead by Remorse and never found his rhythm while Ushba Tesoro patiently brought up the rear, waiting to make a sweeping move with 600 meters to go.

Panthalassa’s trainer Yoshito Yahagi was not the happiest camper following the race.

“It wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility and it happened,” Yahagi said. “It turned out to be a very difficult race for him. But it’s part and parcel with racing. And as a frontrunner, it comes with the turf.

“Yoshida tried to take the lead but the other horse didn’t back down. I knew then they were out to mark Panthalassa but what can you do. He’d won the Saudi Cup and it was to be expected. We’ll be at it again. We’ll be back.”

Jockey Yutaka Yoshida echoed Yahagi’s sentiments.

“It was a tough race. It would have been good if we were on the lead from the start but the horse on the inside didn’t give in.

“Things turned out to be challenging for Panthalassa. Never settled, couldn’t get a look in. He’d won the Saudi Cup and they made it difficult for him. It’s not easy for a horse who likes to set the pace.”

Ushba Tesoro’s victory was nothing short of impressive but on the shock meter, Equinox may have had the upper-hand with his triumph in the Dubai Sheema Classic.

The JRA’s reigning Horse of the Year went wire to wire in the 2,400-meter affair in a race record of 2 minutes, 25.65 seconds by a margin of three-and-a-half lengths over Ryan Moore’s Westover – and that was after Christophe Lemaire eased the reins down the stretch.

In his first start – and the first of his career overseas – since crushing the field in the Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) on Christmas Day, the 4-year-old first choice Equinox cruised, giving the defending champion from Japan Shahryar no chance to retain his title. Their compatriot, Win Marilyn, was right behind Shahryar in sixth.

“I can finally exhale, now that we managed to come through for our fans,” Equinox’s trainer Tetsuya Kimura said. “Equinox was a little restless with the change in scenery, but he worked to get better each and every day, and here we are today. We hope he’ll continue to be up and at it when he goes back to Japan.”

Equinox’s win left such an impression that he shot up to as the early favorite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by bookmaker William Hill. Lemaire captured the Sheema Classic for the first time since 2006 when he won the race aboard Heart’s Cry, who died earlier this month.

“I rode the best horse. I had no fear to make the pace,” Lemaire said. “I’m really happy for the horse’s connection and it’s been a long time since I last won the Sheema Classic.

“Last time was with Heart’s Cry and he passed away two weeks ago, so I’m very grateful to this horse. Today, it’s a nice tribute to him. Race after race, he’s going up on my rankings, and today was a great performance against these kind of horses at the top level. I’m really glad.”

Lemaire was on another winner in the UAE Derby, leading a Japanese one-two-three-four aboard 3-year-old Derma Sotogake.

Following the Hidetaka Otonashi-trained colt were Dura Erede in second place, Continuar third and Perriere fourth. The remaining entry from Japan, Goraiko, was next to last in the field of 13.

It was another wire-to-wire performance for Lemaire, which, according to the Frenchman, was originally not the plan. A great jump off the blocks from the inside draw enabled Derma Sotogake to fly through the 1,900 meters and cross the finish line more than five lengths in front of the runner-up.

“On the final straight he just kept accelerating and responded very well,” Lemaire said. “The win didn’t take much out of him and I’m looking forward to his next race.”

That next race for Derma Sotogake will be the Kentucky Derby, Otonashi confirmed following the race.

“The Kentucky Derby was always our target even before the race but we didn’t have enough paints,” he said referring to the May 6 contest at Churchill Downs. “I wanted to win today and then head to the Kentucky Derby, and that’s how things turned out. I couldn’t ask for a greater result.”

In the 1,800-meter Dubai Turf, Danon Beluga just missed out on a fourth win for Team Japan as he came within a length of Lord North but ended up with silver.

Last year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) champion Do Deuce was a scratch, giving the rest of the competition a chance, and Danon Beluga nearly made most of the opportunity. Eyeing his first Grade 1 title and starting for the first time since the Japan Cup, Noriyuki Hori’s 4-year-old colt traveled at the back, but struggled to find an opening on the home straight.

Danon Beluga came chugging along on the outside with 200 meters to go but it wastoo late as he came up short of the Dettori-quarterbacked Lord North, now the race’s three-time defending champion.

Serifos and Vin de Garde, third place last year, were fifth and 14th, respectively.

Yutaka Take’s Remake was the highest Japanese finisher in the Dubai Golden Shaheen at fifth with Red le Zele coming in sixth. Lemon Pop, the favorite to win, slumped to a disappointing 10th with Justin trailing in 12th.

Bathrat Leon proved to be a distant fourth to Isolate in the Godolphin Mile. The G2 race also saw Win Carnelian place sixth and Lauda Sion 11th in a field of 14.


DUBAI WORLD CUP (G1, 2,000m Dirt, US$12 million, 20:35)
- T O KEYNES: 4th
- GEOGLYPH: 11th
- VELA AZUL: 13th

DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (G1, 2,410m Turf, US$6 million, 20:00)
- EQUINOX: 1st

DUBAI TURF (G1, 1,800m Turf, US$5 million, 19:10)
- SERIFOS: 5th
- VIN DE GARDE: 14th

DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN (G1, 1,200m Dirt, US$2 million, 18:25)
- REMAKE: 5th
- RED LE ZELE: 6th
- LEMON POP: 10th
- JUSTIN: 12th

UAE DERBY (G2, 1,900m Dirt, US$1 million, 17:50)
- GORAIKO: 12th

GODOLPHIN MILE (G2, 1,600m Dirt, US$1 million, 16:05)
- LAUDA SION: 11th


Please visit the following websites for more information.
Dubai Racing Club: http://www.dubairacingclub.com/
Dubai World Cup: https://www.dubairacingclub.com/horsemen/dubai-world-cup
Emirates Racing Authority: http://www.emiratesracing.com/

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