Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: Equinox does things Hanshin style

Adrian Webber shares insights from the Takarazuka Kinen, finds they’re keeping it in the family in Kyushu, and brings word of another potential ‘white wonder’.

Hanshin didn’t have the top hat and tails vibe of Royal Ascot – that old expression ‘there’s more beer spilled at Cheltenham than champagne drank at Ascot’ came to mind – but racegoers in the Kansai area in western Japan brought their own vibe to last Sunday’s G1 Takarazuka Kinen. 

Forget the fancy fashions, the Hanshin faithful did it the way that works for them, and for many, that simply meant donning shirts, football style, in the colours of their favourite horses. Needless to say, a number of them on display were the blue with red spots of the world’s top-rated horse Equinox, who didn’t disappoint in what was a real humdinger of a race. 

Christophe Lemaire was at his coolest ever on the brilliant four-year-old and explained after the race that because he couldn’t get the early position he wanted, he was more than happy to avoid some of the early skirmishes. That meant letting the son of Kitasan Black just slip back through the field, but with his powerful motor purring the whole time.

It seems a common occurrence at Hanshin recently that a fancied horse in a big race finds itself a little undesirably too far back, and that its supporters have to endure some agonising moments before the fates ensure the right outcome. Lemaire masterminded everything to perfection once again though, and knew that he would have all the other horses covered when he engaged overdrive down the home straight, even as the widest of runners.

Pity jockey Kenichi Ikezoe on Through Seven Seas who flashed home on the inside to take second and said:“I wanted to win on the daughter of Dream Journey, but we had to take the inside route, which cost us the race.” The five-year-old mare holds an entry for this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but more news on that is to come.

Putting Kyushu on the map

This year’s JG1 Nakayama Grand Jump in April was won by a horse named Irogotoshi, who became the first Kyushu-bred horse to win a JRA Group 1 race. The big island in the south-west of Japan can barely compete with its counterpart in the north, Hokkaido, but this was a great achievement and was recognized before the start of the Kyushu yearling sale in Kagoshima on June 20th when a presentation was made to all the connections of Irogotoshi.


Irogotoshi wins the Nakayama Grand Jump. (Photo by JRA)

The sale itself offered 30 horses for purchase, of which 18 found buyers, an increase of 12% on last year. The total sales amount was also up to just over ¥63 million, the best result ever for the sale. The highest price paid for a horse was just over ¥7 million for a colt out of Kashino Tida (by Came Home) bought by Koji Oka, the G3 Kita Kyushu Kinen-winning owner in 2021.

His winning filly that day was Yoka Yoka, ridden by Hideaki Miyuki who hails from Kagoshima. That horse was bred by Tsuchitoshi Honda, breeder of his latest purchase and also of Irogotoshi. It’s a close-knit family down there in Kyushu, so let’s hope more success comes their way.

Get it white

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re seeing Sodashi at Hakodate in a couple of weeks. Her half-brother Kalpa, a white colt by Maurice, is set to run at the track on July 9 in an 1800-metre turf race and Yutaka Take is expected to ride. 

Jockey Takuma Ogino has been working the two-year-old colt and has been quite impressed. 

“He runs straight and is well-balanced for a two-year-old,” reported the rider after working him on the woodchip course in Hakodate. The horse is trained by Naosuke Sugai and owned by Kaneko Makoto Holdings, so everything about Kalpa will have a similar profile to his wonderful half-sister.

What next?

With no more Group 1 races until October, the scenery changes this coming weekend  when two days of JRA racing will be at Fukushima for the G3 Radio Nikkei Sho, and Chukyo where the G3 CBC Sho will take centre stage, as well as Hakodate where the summer action continues. Those Group race features are on Sunday but be sure to look out for the Big Arthur colt Big Dream, who’s making his debut at Fukushima on Saturday.

In other news, recent G3 Unicorn Stakes winner Perriere is headed to Champion Hills Farm in Shiga Prefecture for a break, and King’s Reign, winner of the Machida Tokubetsu in June, is also taking a holiday with an autumn campaign being the plan, starting with a trial race before his long-term target the G1 Kikuka Sho.

NHK Mile Cup winner Champagne Color. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

An impressive winner on her debut, Bond Girl is another taking a break from her races until October, when she is likely to take on the G3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup or the G3 Artemis Stakes, and trainer Takahisa Tezuka hopes she’ll be ready for the first of those races on October 7.

And, last but not least, Champagne Color, winner of this year’s G1 NHK Mile Cup, had a busy spring when backing up quickly in the G1 Yasuda Kinen and will now enjoy a well-deserved break with the G2 Fuji Stakes on October 21 as his next goal.




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