Equinox Looks To Defy Recent History in Takarazuka Kinen

Equinox | Horsephotos

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The final Group 1 of the first half of the year in Japan is set for Hanshin Racecourse Sunday afternoon, where Equinox (Jpn) (Kitasan Black {Jpn}), the world's top-rated racehorse on the heels of an imperious front-running victory in the G1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic back in March, squares off against seven fellow elite-level scorers in the Takarazuka Kinen, an event which earns the winner a spot in the field for the GI Breeders' Cup Turf Nov. 4.

The flashy 4-year-old is the 1.30 (3-10) mortal early doors, but the 2200-metre test has not exactly been kind to favoured runners over the last decade, with only Gold Ship (Jpn) in 2014–before finishing last but one at skinny odds after playing up in the stalls in search of three straight the following year–and Chrono Genesis (Jpn) in 2021 saluting. That said, the race is clearly Equinox's to lose. Second in the G1 Satsuki Sho and G1 Tokyo Yushun last term, he ran down the enterprisingly ridden Panthalassa (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) and stamped his authority on the G1 Arima Kinen to wrap up Horse of the Year honours. Leaving nothing to chance at Meydan, Equinox was put on the lead by Christophe Lemaire and when asked to stretch ever so slightly in the straight, opened up at will for a breathtaking 3 1/2-length victory over G1 Irish Derby hero Westover (GB) (Frankel {GB}).

“[Christophe Lemaire] has been working him and the horse looks good going into the race,” said trainer Tetsuya Kimura. “He was in good condition for last year's Arima Kinen, and he's about the same as that now. It did take him some time to recover from his trip to Dubai. As he develops though, he's showing a lot more power, and that should help him prove himself here.”

 

 

Justin Palace (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) was also Classic-placed last season, having finished a very good third behind Ask Victor More (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) in the G1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) over 3000 metres. Only seventh in the Arima Kinen, he is perfect in his two runs in 2023, including a 2 1/2-length defeat of the reliable Deep Bond (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) going two miles Apr. 30. Justin Palace cuts back a full five furlongs in trip Sunday, but his connections are nevertheless bullish on his chances.

“His responses and times have been good in training, and he looks better than I had imagined,” said trainer Haruki Sugiyama. “It seems like he's developed more even since his last race and he's well-balanced now, so I hope he can show even more this time.”

Geraldina (Jpn) (Maurice {Jpn}), whose Horse of the Year dam Gentildonna (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) was third at 7-5 in 2013, is already a Group 1 winner over Sunday's 2200-metre trip, having bested her peers in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup last November before running home nicely to be third in the Arima Kinen. She'll need to improve on sixth-place efforts in the G1 Osaka Hai and G1 FWD QE II Cup in Hong Kong. The female set is also represented by Carrot Farm's Through Seven Seas (Jpn) (Dream Journey {Jpn}), last-start winner of the G3 Nakayama Himba S. who holds entries for the G1 Irish Champion S. and G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Vela Azul (Jpn) (Eishin Flash {Jpn}) was the recipient of a brilliant and audacious ride from Ryan Moore to touch off Shahryar (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) in last year's G1 Japan Cup, but he never threatened when 10th in the Arima Kinen. The registered black entire returns to the turf following a distant 13th to compatriot Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) in the G1 Dubai World Cup Mar. 25.

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