Kent Desormeaux made history at Tokyo Racecourse Sunday when he brought Lady Pastel from far back to post a neck win in a thrilling stretch drive of the filly classic Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, Jpn-I). With the win, Desormeaux, who is only the second foreigner to ride in a classic race in Japan, became the first to win one.
"I'm still in shock," Desormeaux said, struggling for words on his way to the winner's circle. "I'm very honored, but even more, I'm terribly humbled."
The Sunday Silence filly Rosebud finished in second place with race favorite Okasho winner T.M. Ocean crossing the finish line 2 1/2 lengths later in third.
Desormeaux's wife and children were on hand for the historic event. Holding son Jake in the post race press interview, Desormeaux lavished praise on trainer Kiyotaka Tanaka.
"I want to congratulate him for readying this horse perfectly...last start, she was hurrying, but today, when the door opened, she fell into a perfect canter...she was very comfortable, and I've learned that that's the magic word."
Lady Pastel remained three from the rear in the early stages of the race, moving up only slightly before rounding smartly into the straight, at which point Desormeaux still had a lot of horse. "I felt at that point that I was going to win. Without having to ask her for encouragement they came to me," he said of the frontrunners. "I was very excited that I could go from behind the pack to right behind the leaders."
The Tony Bin-sired Lady Pastel won her ticket to the Oaks paired with Desormeaux on April 22 in a close second-place finish in the Sankei Sports Sho Flora Stakes (Jpn-II). She went to the Oaks gate as fifth pick in a lineup of 18 and clocked 2:26.30 over the 2,400 meters of turf.
Lady Pastel, bred by Shinko Farm in Monbetsu, Hokkaido, and owned by Lord Horse Club, is now three for seven, with the ¥97 million ($785,234) winner's share of the Oaks bringing her accumulated prize money to over ¥172 million.
Desormeaux' luck Sunday didn't stop with his win on No. 13 Lady Pastel.
From the Oaks' winner, he hopped aboard yet another in the day's next and final race, picking up his third win of the day and his 13th overall from a total of 67 mounts since beginning his Japan riding stint on April 21.
Desormeaux will aim for the record books again in the May 27 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, Jpn-I) as he takes the reins of the Sunday Silence colt Born King.