Champion Japanese mare Vodka was too good once again, winning an action packed renewal of the final leg of the Asian Mile Challenge, the 59th running of the Yasuda Kinen (Jap-I) June 7 at Tokyo racecourse.
Champion jockey Yutaka Take settled odds-on favorite Vodka midfield in the early stages, on the inside of the field. The pace of the race was hot, with Laurel Guerreiro and Armada coming over quickly from their outside draws soon after the start, and then being challenged by Kongo Rikishio, who eventually took up the leading role. Sight Winner (the Hong Kong winner of the Champions Mile, and therefore eligible for the Asian Mile Challenge US$1m bonus) was just behind the leaders, while the second and third favorites Deep Sky and Super Hornet settled in the second half of the field in the early stages.
The pace was very quick, and as the field entered the straight, the runs started coming. Armada and Sight Winner moved up to hit the front with 400m to go, and then Super Hornet charged up to join them on the outside. Company also grabbed everyone’s attention when he loomed up very wide on the track, but then it was clear that Deep Sky was getting a run through the field.
At the 200m Deep Sky shot away, and the crowd was gasping as horses bunched up behind on the inside of the track, with favorite Vodka in all sorts of trouble searching for a run. Smile Jack almost dropped rider Yasunari Iwata as he run out of room and ran into the back of the tiring Kongo Rikishio.
Company was out wide on the track and tiring as Deep Sky held a decent lead at the 100m mark, but Take squeezed Vodka through a space between Sight Winner and Super Hornet, and the mare accelerated brilliantly to overtake Deep Sky in the closing stages and get up for a fantastic victory. There was a three-quarters length margin on the line, with another length back to outsider Faridat, who came from last on the turn to run third, a nose in front of Company.
Vodka’s win was her sixth top class race victory (five grade I races and the Japanese Derby), and she is now the highest earning mare in Japanese racing history. Five of those race victories have been at the Tokyo racecourse.
Vodka is by Tanino Gimlet out of the Rousillon mare Tanino Sister. She was bred by Country Bokujo, is owned by Mr. Yuzo Tanimizu, and is trained by Mr. Katsuhiko Sumii.