By Sam Turner -
Equinox emphatically endorsed his billing as the world’s highest-rated racehorse with another astonishing top-level victory in the 43rd running of the Grade 1 Japan Cup.
Expertly trained by Tetsuya Kimura, the history making four-year-old earned his title as the globe’s premier horse with a comprehensive defeat of his rivals in a vintage renewal of the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March.
One hundred and forty thousand expectant Tokyo race fans were present hoping to witness another marquee performance from Equinox, and they weren’t disappointed as their equine hero strode majestically clear of a strong field in the straight to score by four lengths under a hand ride from an emotional Christophe Lemaire.
The French rider, securing his fourth win in the race, was visibly tearful following the sparkling victory, wiping away tears as the formidable combination acknowledged the cheers of a fervent crowd.
In truth, the victory was routine and undramatic from the moment Equinox jumped cleanly from stall two.
The pacesetting Panthalassa swiftly established a large lead under Yutaka Yashida and, with the field broken apart by healthy early sectionals, Lemaire and his willing ally were always well positioned moving comfortably in third behind the front-runner and Titleholder.
As the petrol light flickered on Panthalassa turning for home, Titleholder briefly inherited the lead before the looming presence of Equinox swept by on the bridle and quickly established a healthy lead.
Triple Tiara winner Liberty Island, thought by many to have a major chance of upsetting the odds-on favourite receiving weight, briefly mounted a challenge under Yuga Kuwada but couldn’t match the turn of foot or sheer brilliance showcased by Equinox who merely needed to be nudged out to record a sixth successive Group 1 win and an eighth in total.
Stars On Earth, poorly draw in stall 17, ran well to take third under William Buick, a further length adrift, while the Keita Tosaki-ridden Do Deuce was fourth.
The victory ensured Equinox became Japan’s most successful horse of all-time in prize money terms, taking him past 2020 Japan Cup winner Almond Eye.
The only title which escaped Equinox in Tokyo was that of track record holder which Almond Eye clung on to by 1.2seconds.