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BRINGING ASIAN RACING TO THE WORLD
Sodashi held the crowd in awe from the moment she stepped into the Tokyo parade ring, but ultimately it was to be Songline’s day.
Songline appeared like a phantom to deny the Tokyo crowd a Sodashi party on Sunday, quickening late, almost unnoticed along the inside fence, to win the G1 Victoria Mile.
Sodashi, the ‘White Wonder’, the people’s princess, was denied her second consecutive victory in the fillies and mares feature by a flashing head, having led for most of the home straight and seen off race favourite Stars On Earth by three quarters of a length.
“At the last moment, I was thinking, did she really go past Sodashi?” said Songline’s trainer Toru Hayashi. “To be honest, there were many really good horses in this race, so for her to win it, again we can see how strong this mare is.”
For the winner, it was a return to the form that had won her the G1 Yasuda Kinen last June, and that race again would be the logical next target, although Hayashi was deploying the safe, easy line of many a trainer the world over.
“I will discuss with the owner side first,” he said. “After her last race defeat, in Saudi, I felt apologetic towards the fans who support her, and also the members of Sunday Racing, which owns her. But we were able to train her up and get such a good result, so I am happy with this.”
For much of the day, the buzz had been palpable. And it was mostly about Sodashi. When she entered the pre-race parade, squeals, cheers, and a general murmur of anticipation hummed around the previously hushed paddock.
The crowd cheered loudly when she entered the turf, and she got the loudest response when the announcer said her name as she circled behind the stalls.
When the race began, under heavy rainfall and darkened skies, Sodashi was like a flash of light, her gleaming white frame drawing 45,152 sets of eyes as Damian Lane took her forward from barrier 16 to race second behind the pace-setting Lotus Land.
There she remained until a visceral roar erupted, welling from the anticipation of victory: Lane had shaken Sodashi’s reins just after the 400m pole and she was advancing to the lead. The noise from the massive Tokyo grandstand lifted again when Stars On Earth emerged to challenge, and again when Sodashi seemed to have her measure; then came the final 30 metres, the shortening stride, the late spoiler.
#ソングライン 差し切ったっしょ#ヴィクトリアマイル pic.twitter.com/uJhusVfm9o
— Satoshi Nakamura (@hena_cho_ko) May 14, 2023
But a Tokyo crowd is always appreciative of its heroes and heroines and while Sodashi received a cheer from her memorabilia-toting acolytes as she left the track, Songline and her rider Keita Tosaki, winning his third Victoria Mile, were lauded loudly and sportingly.
“I hope Songline’s fans will still continue to support her,” Tosaki said. “Strongly-supported horses were in front of me during the race, so I was able to watch what they were doing, and my horse gave me a good response in the home stretch.
“Mr Hayashi said that he wanted her to run on the outside, but the way the race worked out made me take an inside position (in midfield); the track was softer on the inside but she was able to stretch and stride out and she gave me a great response.”
Lane, meanwhile, having his first race on Sodashi, executed what had looked like being a cool tactical ride; afterwards, he wore the disappointment of defeat on his face.
“She ran a great race, so it’s obviously devastating to get beat on her but she left everything out there on the track,” the Australian said.
“Although the race was slow-paced, she had a good rhythm and we travelled well, and the response she gave me was good as well. She was able to hold off Stars on Earth, but we were beaten by the inside horse.”
Winning rider Keita Tosaki. (Photo by @kabosu7222)
Damian Lane rides desperately as Songline begins her challenge. (Photo by @kabosu7222)
Stars On Earth, stepping back to a mile for the first time since her Oka Sho win in April last year, lacked the speed when needed over the mile trip.
“I thought she had a very good chance even if dropping back in distance, she has a lot of quality,” said her rider Christophe Lemaire. “She ran very good, we chased Sodashi all the way and with her stamina I thought we could catch her. But she didn’t have the speed to challenge Sodashi, and Songline is a specialist miler, so we finished third and that was a good performance behind those kinds of horses.
“She’s definitely a mile-and-a-half horse, and mile-and-a-quarter, rather than a mile. I don’t know where she would go next because she could run the Takarazuka Kinen over 2200 metres, but she would meet some strong horses, like Equinox. In the autumn, she will be very competitive if she runs in races like the Tenno Sho, Japan Cup and Arima Kinen.”
Sodashi’s next start has yet to be confirmed but wherever she goes, the fans will follow, captivated by the near-pure white idol horse.
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