Making a huge statement for Japanese racing, Cesario demolished an international field of 3-year-old fillies in winning the $750,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) on the Hollywood Park grass Sunday.
A granddaughter of Sunday Silence, the strapping dark bay filly Cesario parlayed a victory in the Japanese Oaks (Jpn-I) into an invitation to the American Oaks and became the first Japanese-bred horse to win a grade I stakes race in the United States.
Ridden by Yuichi Fukunaga for trainer Katsuhiko Sumii and owner Carrot Farm, Cesario set a stakes record in the four-year-old event, completing the 1 1/4-mile test in 1:59 while winning by four lengths.
Carrot Farm is made up of 230 partners who paid $350 (American) apiece for their shares in Cesario.
Breaking from the extreme outside in the 13-horse field, Cesario got a great spot in third as Thatswhatimean and Isla Cozzene vied for the early lead. Cesario tracked the live pace all the way into the far turn, were she edged up on the outside of Thatswhatimean, who inherited the lead from Isla Cozzene briefly. By the time they hit the head of the stretch, Cesario was firmly in control and she widened through the lane while under urging in a most impressive effort.
The early fractions were :23 1/5, :46 1/5 and 1:11 3/5.
Cesario appeared overheated in the post parade and broke off from the rest of the field while sprinting around the clubhouse turn. But Fukunaga said he wasn't concerned.
"She's always like that in the post parade," he said.
"I just let her run her own race," Fukunaga said. "Depending on how the race went, I was thinking about what would be the best position and just settled in. I tried not to get boxed in along the rail. She ran her best race here; I think it was better than her race in the Japanese Oaks.
"She is the very first Japanese horse to win an American grade I race, and hopefully she won't be the last. I hope she sets the trend, and others follow her."
"This is the first step for us, so this will encourage all Japanese breeders," he said
Previously undefeated Melhor Ainda, the 6-5 favorite, endured a nightmare trip, stuck wide in traffic for John Velazquez before finally emerging in the stretch to gain second.
Velazquez said the race was over early for Melhor Ainda.
"She went to break and she kind of grabbed herself and kind of stumbled," he said. "She didn't actually stumble, but she grabbed herself and put her toes down. It took me three or four steps to get her going. By the time I got her going, everybody came over on her, and she just sucked out of there. I tried to catch up on the backside, but the other one just got away from us. The break cost us the race.
"Finally, something opened up around the three-eighths pole, a hole opened up a little bit, and I was able to squeeze through there and I pulled out," he added.. "And, boy, did she close down. The winner just got away and didn't come back to us."
The outsider Singhalese, a British bred ridden by Garrett Gomez, rallied mildly for third with Irish invader Luas Line taking fourth and Honeymoon Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) winner Three Degrees fifth.
Memorette, Silver Cup, Sweet Firebird, Isla Cozzene, Thatswhatimean, Silk And Scarlet and Hallowed Dreams completed the order. Louvain scratched.
Cesario earned $450,000 for her fifth win in six starts and has banked $2,578,568 in her career. Her only loss came April 10 at Hanshin, when she was defeated by a head in the Japanese One Thousand Guineas (Jpn-I).
Northern Farm bred Cesario, who is by Special Week-Kirov Premiere (Sadler's Wells).