The first dead heat in a grade I race in Japanese history took place May 23 when favored Apapane and Saint Emilion battled to a draw in the $2.2 million Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) at a rainy and soggy Tokyo Racecourse.
Both Apapane, ridden by Masayoshi Ebina, and Saint Emilion, with Norihiro Yokoyama aboard, swung wide into the homestretch over the slightly yielding turf course after racing in mid-pack. They hooked up 200 meters from the wire, neither giving in while fighting to the finish. Heavy rain before the start of the race made visibility poor and it took officials 10 minutes before announcing the result.
Ebina and Yokoyama embraced in joy and relief after the decision. The two appeared for the cameras and post-race interview laughing and joking.
Agnes Waltz, who had taken the lead early from Nimaru Otome, checked in third, two lengths behind the winners. The final time for the 71st running of the Japanese Oaks was 2:29.9 for the 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles).
Buena Vista won last year's Japanese Oaks.
Apapane, by King Kamehameha out of the Salt Lake mare Salty Bid, was bred at Northern Farm and is owned by Kaneko Makoto Holdings. Sakae Kunieda, who trains the filly, notched his first win of the Oaks. It was the second win of the Oaks for jockey Ebina.
The only grade I winner running in this year’s Oaks, Apapane captured her third grade I race following victories in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies last season and the Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas) last month. She became the 12th filly to complete the the Oka Sho/Yushun Himba double.
Saint Emilion, by Zenno Rob Roy out of the Last Tycoon mare Moteck, gave both trainer Masaaki Koga and rider Yokoyama their first wins of the coveted Oaks. Saint Emilion, winner of the Sankei Sports Sho Flora Stakes (Jpn-II) prior to the Oaks, was bred at Shadai Farm and is owned by Teruya Yoshida.
Apapane, the Japanese Racing Association's champion 2-year-old filly last year, now has five wins in seven lifetime starts. Saint Emilion improved her record to four victories in five races.