Robe Decollete became the first American-bred filly to win the Japanese Oaks (Yushun Himba) (Jpn-II) when the daughter of Cozzene nosed out favored Bella Rheia at Tokyo Racecourse Sunday.
Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams bred the filly, who is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Color of Gold. She was ridden to victory by Yuichi Fukunaga, who won his third Japanese Oaks in four years. It was the first victory in a Classic race for a foreign bred. The Japanese Oaks was opened to overseas fillies four years ago.
Trainer Shigeki Matsumoto’s Robe Decollete, the fifth pick among 18, came out ahead of the Shinichiro Akiyama ridden Bella Rheia. Love Caerna finished third in the 2,400-meter event contested on a fair Tokyo track.
Fukunaga had won the 2004 and 2005 Japanese Oaks with Daiwa el Cielo and Cesario, respectively, and took second last year on Fusaichi Pandora in the second leg of the filly’s triple crown.
The 30-year-old rider said his only concern with Robe Decollete was her start. Fukunaga said a poor jump off the blocks cost the filly a victory in the Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas), the first triple crown race.
“She did not go off smoothly in the Oka Sho,” Fukunaga said at the post-race press conference. “I personally worked her out on Wednesday and Friday, and we practiced with her so much that if she didn’t leave her gate this time, we didn’t know what to do. The horse was really calm. The pace tends to settle in the Oaks, so you have to have a horse who can stay with the pace to win.”
“It didn’t matter where we drew,” added Matsumoto, who won his first Japanese Oaks. “She got off to a nice start, and she looked good during the trip. With 300 meters left on the stretch, she was cut off and dropped back a bit. I thought then that this wasn’t our day, but she fought back.”
The race did not feature the top horses in the first race of the series a month ago. Oka Sho champion Daiwa Scarlet pulled out ealrlier this week with a fever, while the runner-up, Vodka, opted for the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) next week.
The Koji Maeda-owned Robe Decollete won for the third time in eight starts for her career. The Japanese Oaks was her first principal race win.