Equinox, the world’s top-rated racehorse, coasted to victory in this year’s $8,282,443 Japan Cup (G1) on Nov. 26. easily beating a stellar field that included eight Grade 1 winners from Japan and abroad at Tokyo Racecourse.
Billed as a showdown between the 4-year-old Kitasan Black colt and this year’s Triple Tiara victor Liberty Island, Equinox prevailed while extending his Grade 1-winning streak to six while becoming the third horse in Japan Racing Association history to do so following T. M. Opera O (2000- 2001) and Lord Kanaola (2012-2013).
Following the footsteps of his sire, who won the 2016 Japan Cup, Equinox has marked a milestone with his Japan Cup triumph in becoming the first horse ever to exceed 2-billion yen in earnings (JPY 2,215,446,100).
The full field of 18 started in front of the packed stands and, as expected, Panthalassa rushed to the front, setting a rapid pace that timed :57.6 in the first 1,000 meters (about five furlongs), widening an unmeasurable lead in the backstretch while three-time Group 1 winner Titleholder followed in second and Equinox, under Christophe Lemaire, a length back in third.
By the final turn, Panthalassa began to slow from his early exploits but was still about 12 lengths ahead of the others in early stretch when Equinox unleashed his signature stretch drive. Equinox easily caught Titleholder a half mile out and then seized the lead from the used-up pacesetter just before the 200-meter marker and cruised to a scintillating four-length victory.
Time for the 12-furlong (about 1 1/2-mile) race was 2:21.8 on turf rated as good to firm.
Liberty Island was second, a length in front of third-place finisher Stars on Earth in the 18-horse field.
“Equinox was able to come into the race in good condition,” trainer Tetsuya Kimura said of the winner, who is campaigned by Silk Racing Co. Ltd. “He was aggressive from the start and was relaxed during the race despite the fast pace of the front-runner. With Equinox extending his Grade 1-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.”
Lemaire said he, too, was relieved as well as happy with the victory.
“Many emotions came to my mind because it was an unbelievable race,” Lemaire said. “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.”
EQUINOX is inbred 4 x 4 to HALO, sire of Japan’s top sire Sunday Silence and grandsire of Kitasan Black.