Children’s fan mail, expectations and Equinox

A dominant win in the G1 Sheema Classic has built on the already substantial hype around Equinox as Japan’s Arc drought again pulls into sharp focus.

Equinox dazzled in the G1 Sheema Classic at Meydan. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

Michael Cox



Amid the ecstatic trackside celebrations from mini flag waving Japanese racing fans at Meydan on Saturday night following the Sheema Classic, trainer Tetsuya Kimura was a picture of relief. 

Tie loosened, shoulders half-slumped, he hugged his wife and son, tears streaming down their faces – but if you hadn’t just witnessed Equinox dominate a quality field from in front and win eased down by jockey Christophe Lemaire, then, based on body language, you might have mistaken the trainer for being crestfallen in defeat. 

The pressure of taking Japan’s horse of the year to the world for the first time clearly carries inordinate weight, especially for a relatively young handler on the rise like Kimura. 50, himself on just his third trip abroad. 

But what was causing most of the pressure? The horse’s short odds? 

What about fan mail from children? 

“You know many children have written to me hoping that the horse will win.” Kimura said. “I feel a sense of responsibility. Many fans want to see this horse do well.” 

Saturday’s win will provide Kimura some short term relief from the pressure but the nature of the performance only increases it long term, and you can only assume the fan mail will increase too. As far as the media was concerned the speculation about where Equinox will go next began immediately. Questions about a possible shot at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe won’t stop until a decision is made. 

“I get asked in every interview, and I do not know yet,” Kimura told Asian Racing Report as the commotion eased and he had completed ten minutes straight of media commitments. “We will speak to the owners, we have a few options. We will talk to the owners when we get back to Japan.”

One hint Kimura did provide was his preference was for good ground. It depends which way you look at it but Longchamp is either due for dry ground or destined to bog the Japanese as it has so often in recent times.


Trainer Tetsuya Kimura at Meydan. (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

Japan’s Arc obsession truly began when Deep Impact was defeated and later disqualified in 2006. Since then 26 Japanese-trained horses – including four last year – have tried and failed. Every heartbreak only adds to the mystique. 

When Lemaire spoke on the Asian Racing Report Podcast recently he made a case for an Arc bid and on Saturday the horse did the talking for him in a free-striding display that added another string to the horse’s bow. 

“He is a fantastic horse getting better and better,” Lemaire said after the race. “Today he was a little bit fresh and keen … I was on the best horse so I wasn’t afraid to make the pace.” 

“Race after race he is going up in my rankings, and today was a great performance against this type of horse at top level.” 

Near the top of the rankings for Lemaire’s greatest ever horses is the mighty Heart’s Cry, the only horse to ever defeat Deep Impact on a Japanese racecourse. 

Heart’s Cry died aged 22 a little more than two weeks before the Sheema Classic, making it a particularly poignant win for the French jockey. 

“It is a nice tribute to him,” he said. 




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