Superstar Equinox sparkles with Japan Cup glory

Equinox, the world’s highest-rated horse, delivered a dominant performance to win Sunday’s Japan Cup.

The four-year-old has not been beaten since finishing second in the Japanese Derby in May 2022, winning two Grade One contests at home at the end of last year before easily seeing off Westover when claiming the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March.

Tetsuya Kimura’s charge won two more Grade Ones since that effort and was a long odds-on favourite for the Tokyo highlight, which featured a clutch of previous top-level victors, including leading three-year-old filly Liberty Island.

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Saudi Cup winner Panthalassa took up his usual position at the head of affairs, setting a testing gallop that saw him build up a huge advantage at the top of the straight.

Christophe Lemaire had been happy to sit in the pack aboard Equinox, rounding the final bend in third before giving his mount the signal to set out in pursuit as Panthalassa’s stride began to shorten.

The response was immediate and Equinox sprinted to the lead over a furlong out and Lemaire just had to use hands and heels to steer him to a four-length verdict over Liberty Island.

The William Buick-ridden Stars On Earth was third, with last year’s race winner Vela Azul coming home seventh under Hollie Doyle, one place ahead of Tom Marquand’s mount Studley.

Equinox received a hero’s welcome from the massive crowd packed into the Tokyo stands and Lemaire admitted to a measure of relief after the son of Kitasan Black further cemented his stellar reputation.

He said: “I felt happy and relieved. Many emotions came to my mind because it was an unbelievable race. Horseracing fans and lovers were able to see something very special.

“He is a top horse and can adapt to any kind of race or surface. When we came back in front of the huge, happy crowd who witnessed the race, I became very emotional.

“As a professional jockey for many years, I work hard to ride to perfection, so today was very special. Equinox is easy to ride – he knows his job very well and he doesn’t use too much energy – so riding a horse like him is a pleasure and I felt very privileged to be in the saddle of such a fantastic horse.”

Kimura had felt the pressure of the colt’s superstar status ahead of his Japan Cup date.

He said: “Equinox was able to come into the race in good condition. He was aggressive from the start and was relaxed during the race despite the fast pace of the frontrunner.

“With Equinox extending his Grade One winning streak for over a year, the pressure was so great before the Japan Cup that I felt relieved when he won the race.

“He is a very well-balanced horse – shape of his hooves, bone structure and firm muscle – everything is perfectly balanced. It’s a miraculous combination. So, we try to maintain this balance when we train him.”

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