There are plenty of fantastic storylines for the Nov. 26 Japan Cup (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse.
There is the occasion of three female jockeys riding in the $3 million race for the first time ever. Or maybe it’s the return of last year’s winner, Vela Azul, who is trying to prove that last year’s triumph was no fluke. But perhaps the one that has caused the most eyes to turn their way to Japan is Equinox .
Rated as the world’s best racehorse—Equinox has sat atop the Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings with a stranglehold on the position since April with a rating of 129—Equinox has the opportunity to further entrench himself in that position.
However, speculation has been rampant that win or lose Sunday, the colt will be retired to stud duty by his owner Silk Racing. But that has not yet been decided. Even if it had been, the business-like focus of the connections has kept all eyes on the task in front of Equinox.
The dark bay/brown Kitasan Black colt’s legacy is not yet cemented despite a sterling resume that features five grade 1 victories including the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) earlier this year and his most recent conquest, the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1T) Oct. 29 in Tokyo.
Winning the Japan Cup would be necessary for Equinox to have his name mentioned in the same breath as the other all-time great Japanese racehorses.
“I have the full respect for the old Japanese racehorses who have great achievements in Japanese racing history,” said Equinox’s trainer Tetsuya Kimura via an interpreter. “Looking back in recent times of Japanese racing history, there are not many colts and horses who have won grade 1 races continuously, so in that sense…it is really tremendous.”
There is a sense of anticipation around the country for Sunday’s race, in which jockey Christophe Lemaire will be in the irons. A potential coronation for Equinox (7-2-0 from nine starts) has really ratcheted up the pressure.
Kimura hears from fans, including school children who send letters and drawings of Equinox. They anxiously await the result of the 42nd Japan Cup because they see the colt as more than just a representative of the country’s racing scene but of Japan itself.
“Honestly, I’m not good at coping with the pressure,” Kimura said. “To be honest, when Equinox is at my stable, when a race is getting closer, I feel like I forget how to (train)—I’m so nervous.”
Despite the big shadow Equinox casts over the field, he has not been as dominant as Flightline was in the United States, regularly putting large distances between him and his rivals.
Among those challengers is last year’s winner Vela Azul, who will have Hollie Doyle in the irons; Liberty Island who has five wins from six starts including four straight grade 1 triumphs; and Panthalassa , who is returning after last running 10th in the March 25 Dubai World Cup (G1).
There is plenty of curiosity should Equinox win Sunday and his owners decide to keep running him into next year. Just the notion of a potential Breeders’ Cup match-up with this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T) victor Auguste Rodin .
Kimura’s words sound like those of a man who wants to keep racing. He also didn’t dismiss the notion of crossing the Pacific Ocean so that his charge could flaunt his exceptional abilities on a grander stage.
For now, the dream of another year of Equinox racing remains alive.
Source : Blood Horse