Derma Sotogake, Shahryar top Japan team of eight to '23 Breeders' Cup
Eight horses from Japan participated in this year’s Breeders’ Cup, a two-day gala at Santa Anita Park held on Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Nov. 4 (local time). Though unable to bring home the top prize in any of the events, two runners figured in the money and, regardless of the results, fans back home threw themselves behind them in support, with Breeders’ Cup wagering available in Japan for the first time in 2 years.
Four Breeders’ Cup races were open to betting in Japan -- the Filly and Mare Turf, the Mile, the Turf and the Classic -- the fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth races of the day, respectively. Turnover surpassed 2.86 billion yen, with over 1 billion yen bet on the BC Classic alone.
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Japan’s best results came late in the day when Christophe Lemaire brought Derma Sotogake home a close second in the $6-million BC Classic. In the previous race the BC Turf, 2021 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner Shahryar made the money in third under Cristian Demuro.
The globe-trotting Derma Sotogake, a Hokkaido-bred 3-year-old colt, started this year with a third in the Grade 3 Saudi Derby in Riyadh, then nabbed the Grade 2 UAE Derby in Dubai. He was returning to the track for the first time since his sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
In the BC Classic, he rallied to finish within a length of winner White Abarrio, an American runner who clocked 2 minutes 2.87 seconds over a fast 2,000 meters. 2023 Dubai World Cup champion Ushba Tesoro finished in fifth place in the field of 12.
Lemaire, partnered with Derma Sotogake for the third time, said, “His start was good and I was able to get in about third or fourth position behind the popular runners.
“Things got a bit busy in the backstretch and the pace picked up, but he didn’t stop once he was in the stretch but just kept giving it all he had. The winner was tiring but this one couldn’t catch him. It was his first race in 6 months and I was happy that he was in good shape and able to perform, thanks to his team having done a fantastic job.”
Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi said, “I’d been worried about him returning from a spell, but he was in good condition. Santa Anita is similar to Dubai so I thought the track would suit him.
“If we’re able to, I’d like to take on the Saudi Cup and the Dubai World Cup. The Kentucky Derby results this year were unfortunate, but I think that, given his results here, he deserves a reassessment and continued support.”
The Orfevre-sired 6-year-old Ushba Tesoro, who had picked up a principal race win at Funabashi in his Breeders’ Cup prep following his return from Dubai. finished some 3 lengths behind the winner in the Classic.
“He’d felt good in the preliminaries, both physically and mentally, and he was able to run his own race,” said Yuga Kawada, who has ridden Ushba Tesoro’s last three starts, including the Dubai World Cup. “He gave it his all to the end and I’d like to express my thanks to him for such an all-out effort on the world stage.”
Trainer Noboru Takagi said, “The horse was in good condition and I think he was able to give it his best. It was a difficult surface for him and the results were unfortunate, but I’d like to express my appreciation for all who supported him.”
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In the BC Turf, the race prior to the Classic, the Deep Impact 5-year-old Shahryar brought Japan its second-best 2023 Breeders’ Cup result with a third-place finish. The 2,400-meter event was won by Irish runner Auguste Rodin, with America’s Up to The Mark in second. Shahryar’s rider Cristian Demuro said, “He started well and felt good under way and felt much like he had when he won at Dubai (2022 Grade 1 Sheema Classic).
“He’d had an operation on his throat for his roaring and it was good to see, with these results, that that he has physically recovered and is able to race to the best of his ability. I’m looking forward to his next race.”
“It was a perfect race and a perfect ride,” said trainer Hideaki Fujiwara. “The winner was also by Deep Impact and one of Europe’s top horses. I think it was a very strong race. I’d like to thank all those at Northern Farm who’d done their utmost to help with Shahryar’s throat operation and I’d also like to thank my staff who went all out to prepare him. I am so moved to have been able to finish in the top spots of the Breeders’ Cup, something horsemen the world over aspire to.
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Earlier in the day, Japan’s Win Marilyn (a 6-year-old by Screen Hero and winner of the 2022 Hong Kong Vase) took on the 25th running of the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf Sprint. She finished fourth amid an international sweep of the top spots, led by the U.K.’s Inspiral, a Frankel 4-year-old racing under Lanfranco Dettori. In second was Ireland’s Warm Heart, who finished 1 length ahead of the Canada-based Moira, only a nose ahead of Win Marilyn.
Trainer Takahisa Tezuka said, “She really gave it her all and it was a fantastic race. I had thought the tactics were to be from a little bit more forward position but she did get squeezed from both sides at the start.
“From there though she was able to move nicely balanced and in a good rhythm. In the final stage she matched the winner in footwork. The winner was strong but this one needed just a little bit more.
“From long before I became a trainer I had always wanted to race not only in the Breeders’ Cup, but just in the United States. So, to have participated in this is an incredible experience for me as well as for my stable.
“Win Marilyn has a lot of fans and I’m so glad she was able to give a good performance here today and I thank everyone for their support.”
Piloting Win Marilyn was Cristian Demuro, who said, “She left the gate smartly, but was sandwiched in amid the fight for position and wound up toward the rear.
“Her balance was very good and in the straight she got a good run up the inside behind Warm Heart.
“She showed some excellent acceleration and was on a par with the others in the final stage. She really gave it her everything all the way to the end,” Demuro said, adding that hat her effort in the final furlong had been especially praiseworthy.
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Next up was another distaff event, the Filly and Mare Sprint, a 1,400-meter dirt race featuring Japan’s Meikei Yell, a 5-year-old daughter of Mikki Isle and the only foreign raider in the nine-strong field of American dirt specialists.
Last year’s champion Goodnight Olive made it two in a row, clocking 1 minute 22.97 seconds over the 1,400 meters of dirt. She was partnered both years with Irad Ortiz Jr.
Battling for the early lead were Society and Eda, who held their ground until the top of the stretch, where they were caught by Goodnight Olive and had to settle for second and third, respectively.
Meikei Yell, a six-time graded stakes winner in Japan, was unable to land her first top-level prize. Taking on not only her first challenge in the United States, she was being tested on dirt for the first time. Despite a solid running, she was unable to rise to the competition and finished last in ninth place.
Trainer Hidenori Take said, “Just out of the gate, those on her outside moved in, and she wasn’t able to get up to speed quickly. Things went smoothly until they turned out of the backstretch and though I thought she was suited to the surface it did seem to be otherwise.
“She was calm and relaxed and in the warmup she had looked promising. Her result was unfortunate but I’m grateful for all the experiences she has given me. I don’t know how much long she will continue racing but I ask for your continued support in wishing her good racing.”
Rider Kenichi Ikezoe said, “She got pushed in but the horse next to her at the start, but after that she wasn’t difficult and I was able to get a position about midfield. Going into the turn she started to fall behind and just didn’t have enough in the finish.
“In the pre-race warmup she’d been calm and patient and went to the gate nicely. She was in good condition for the race and I rode to win, but unfortunately, we didn’t get that result.”
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Japan fielded two runners in the BC Mile (the sixth race of the day), the three-time G1 winner Songline and Win Carnelian. Songline, the favorite both in Japan and the U.S., fell short of expectations, but did make the board in fifth place only a little more than a length behind U.K. winner Master of The Seas, a 5-year-old gelding racing under William Buick. In second was the U.K.’s Mawj and Casa Creed, a U.S. runner, finished third.
A 5-year-old daughter of Kizuna, Songline had followed her Grade 1 Victoria Mile victory this spring with a back-to-back win of the Yasuda Kinen (G1, 1,600, Tokyo). Returning in the fall, she had finished second in her BC prep, the Mainichi Okan (G2, 1,800, Tokyo) in early October.
Though no newcomer to overseas travel, Songline was unable to score in her first U.S. test. Traveling midfield, she was forced wide heading in to the straight and was unable to gain ground. Rider Keita Tosaki said, “She started very well and I was able to more or less get the position I’d wanted. Her balance was good, with her running in a nice rhythm. But, turning into the straight, I’d have to say honestly that I didn’t have as much horse as I usually did.
“All along, she’s had races with only one turn in them, and this time she seemed a bit confused to encounter more. Her condition was in no way lacking and I am grateful to have been given this opportunity,” Tosaki said.
Trainer Toru Hayashi said, “Tosaki gave her a great ride and my staff had her very well-prepared,” he said. “I take responsibility for her results this time and express my apologies to all her connections and to all those her supported her.”
Grade 3 winner Win Carnelian, a Screen Hero 6-year-old horse, had gone to the front from the gate but, at race end, was followed by only two horses in the field of 13. He was piloted by Kosei Miura, who said, “He started very nicely and I’d thought he was doing very well. I’ve been with him for a long time, through good and bad and I’m so proud to be here with him on this stage. The results weren’t convincing but I want to thank all those in Japan who got up early in the morning to lend us their support.”
Trainer Yuichi Shikato said, “He was a difficult trip, one he hasn’t had in a while. I’d thought he’d be able to access his power better by taking the lead and I’m glad he was able to run his own race. I’m most grateful to all those, above all the owner, who supported me in coming here.
“I studied in the United States some 23 years ago and it was wonderful and nostalgic to be here again. Of course, given the competitive nature of the sport, the results were unfortunate. But, the horse finished the race without mishap and I’ll do my best in his next challenge.”
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The 4-year-old Jasper Krone finished last of 12 under Yuga Kawada in the 5-furlong BC Turf Sprint, won by American runner Nobals, with Gerardo Corrales up. “He started off well and was covering ground quite nicely,” said Kawada. “But, at the bend things started to get a bit difficult for him.” Trainer Hideaki Mori said Jasper Krone hadn’t been able to execute the turn well. “I’d like to give him another try after he gains more experience.”
*The official results: Equibase
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