Sunday, November 29, 2009


5y.o. mare holds off a 4y.o. colt determinedly by a nose to win the Japan Cup

VODKA, doing her best to out-perform ZENYATTA’s BC Classic win in her final career start, defeated OKEN BRUCE LEE by a nose to capture the $5.5 million G.1 Japan Cup on the turf at Tokyo Racecourse. It was her third career start in the 29th renewal of Japan’s signature race, improving on a 3rd place finish last year. RED DESIRE, a 3y.o. filly was a game and closing 3rd while Breeders’ Cup Turf winner CONDUIT checked in an eventful 4th.

Japan’s reigning Horse of the Year ran 4th beaten just 1 ¼ lengths in the Japan Cup as a 3y.o. in 2007, but earlier that year VODKA became the first filly in 64 years to win the Tokyo Yushun (G.1), the Japanese Derby. Last year at age 4, she finished 3rd as the 5-2 second choice. VODKA concludes her career on the track with a record of 10 wins in 25 starts, with another 8 minor placings.

Prior to the Japan Cup win, VODKA was already the winningest G.1 mare and highest prize money winner of her gender in Japan racing history. Including her $2.9 million winner’s share, VODKA retires with career earnings just over $13.1 million. She won a total of seven G.1’s and defeated the boys at the highest level four different times, including back-to-back runnings of the Yasuda Kinen at 1 mile. Her win in the Japan Cup at 1 ½ miles is even more remarkable considering 6 of her 10 career wins came at 1 mile. VODKA’s final time of 2:22.4 was just .3 seconds off of the race record set by ALKAASED in 2005. Jockey Christophe Lemaire rode her for the first and only time, replacing Japanese cult hero Yutaka Take who’d ridden VODKA in 8 of her previous 9 races. Take finished 9th aboard outsider REACH THE CROWN.

OKEN BRUCE LEE served notice that he will be on the short list of winning chances for the 1 9/16 mile Arima Kinen (G.1), which will be renewed on December 27 at Nakayama Racecourse. He closed furiously in the final 1/8 of the 1 ½ mile journey to just miss gaining his first G.1 score. Prior to the race his connections were very confident and their opinion of OKEN BRUCE LEE was justified by his near-upset of Japan’s favorite racehorse at this time. He is a 4y.o. colt by 2001 Japanese Derby and Japan Cup winner JUNGLE POCKET, out of stakes placed Canadian mare SILVER POCKET (by SILVER DEPUTY). More stamina is infused by his grandsire TONY BIN, the 1988 Arc winner and 1987 Arc runner-up.

RED DESIRE stepped up into open G.1 company successfully with her show effort, just 1 ½ lengths behind the 1-2 finishers. On the strength of this showing, denying BUENA VISTA the Japanese Filly Triple Crown last out in the Shuka Sho (G.1) and BUENA VISTA running a disappointing 3rd to older females who ran 1-2 at 77-1 and 91-1, respectively, in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (G.1), RED DESIRE made a strong case to be named Japanese Champion 3y.o. filly of 2009. Regardless of her year-end hardware, she’s already bettered VODKA’s Japan Cup finish as a 3y.o. which bodes well for an outstanding 4y.o. campaign in 2010. Perhaps there will be a race where she and BUENA VISTA can test America’s RACHEL ALEXANDRA and the rest of the world’s best race horses.

CONDUIT was bottled up the entire journey but just couldn’t find the passing gear in the final 1/8 once clear, being outrun in the stretch by the clear rallying RED DESIRE for 3rd. This was the two-time BC Turf champion’s final race and he will be standing stud in Japan. Do you suppose a date with VODKA is in the making? They’ll both probably be paired with experienced mates initially, but wouldn’t a coupling of CONDUIT’s stamina breeding primarily from England and Ireland mix well with VODKA’s primarily Japanese/American lines? The great NEARCO is found in the 6th generation of VODKA’s damsire line (ROUSILLON) and the 7th generation of CONDUIT’s sire line (DALAKHANI).

Left in VODKA’s wake were American invaders JUST AS WELL (Julian Leparoux/ Jonathan Sheppard - 7th), INTERPETATION (David Cohen/Robert Barbara -14th, dead heat), and MARSH SIDE (Javier Castellano/Neil Drysdale - 17th). Also among the defeated was last year’s winner SCREEN HERO (13th).

The next JRA race will be the Japan Cup Dirt (G.1) on December 6 (December 5 for those in the Pacific Standard Time Zone). For more information, go to the Japan Cup Dirt web page.


Steve Munday said...

A thrilling race! I had Oken Bruce Lee singled on top and then box'd Vodka and Red Dragon underneath trifectas and exactas. As you can imagine, I was doing some bellyaching late last night. Watching it live, I thought Oken might've gotten up, but the photo clearly showed otherwise.

frank mitchell said...

great post of an exciting race. the footage past the race was very interesting too. insightful.

Anonymous said...

1 1/2 miles in 2:22 and change would have to be some sort of world record... Is the race actually that or a bit shorter?

railrunner said...

Vodka went out in style, what an exciting race! It's nice to see some "older" horses picking up big wins. Conduit wasn't quite up to par with his last performance, but still ran well considering all things. Thanks for posting.
Did you hear Summer Bird is injured and out of the Japan Cup? His connections aren't sure if he will run next year now, or be retired.

Amateurcapper said...


I had the win and exacta, small beans; I left RED DESIRE out of the minor placings in favor of CONDUIT and last year's winner SCREEN HERO.

I love those Japanese telecasts...they revere the horses and the big races like we should in the states.

Get on those AZ racing dudes and get this national telecast crackin'!!!

Amateurcapper said...


No doubt, VODKA is the nuts and went out like a Champion should. I guess that means the RACHEL is a lock for the BC Classic next year!

RE: Summer Bird
Yes, I did read that...from the TVG telecasts and what I've read, the dirt courses in Japan are like Calder's: really sandy but with elevation changes. Our dirt horses just can't handle it. When FLEETSTREET DANCER won, it was on a sloppy track which seems to pack the surface down where our main track performers can handle it.

As always, thanks for coming by.

Amateurcapper said...


The races in Japan are actually measured in meters. The Japan Cup is 2400 meters which is equivalent to 1.49 miles, which makes it about .01 miles shorter than 1 1/2 miles.

Amateurcapper said...

Frank Mitchell,

Thanks for stopping by and the kind words.

I've really become a sucker for the Japanese racing thanks to the TVG telecasts which are shown on the west coast on selected Saturday nights. While some of the TVG crew is interesting, I'd much rather listen to track announcer Murray Johnson and his sidekick (any one know who it is?) who follow those horses in Japan regularly.

The races over there are revered...part of the culture. I sure wish there could be RACHEL-like Preakness or ZENYATTA-like BC Classic moments for the sport more than twice a year...where we linger on the gallop out, drink in the emotion on the return to the winner's circle, then allow ourselves bathe in the afterglow!

railrunner said...

We should take a good look at Japanese racing and compare what they are doing different to what's going on in America. The crowds are phenonemal over there and the enthusiasm for the growth of the sport is great! One obvious thing that stood out to me is that you can hear the roar of the crowd thruought this race and it makes it so much more exciting. In America they mute the cheering almost as soon as the horses leave the gate. The Exceptions this year were the Derby, Preakness, Classic and Haskell and those were four of the most explosive races to watch. I watch them over and over again.

onhertoes said...

This post is so imformative! Thank you for bringing Japanese racing to my attention. I have bookmarked the Japanese racing website and I will record the Japan Dirt Cup on TVG tonight and watch it tomorrow (it's a little past my bedtime).

Amateurcapper said...


Thanks for stopping by and the kind words.

Japanese racing is very thrilling and they appreciate the experience. Have fun watching the race!