Sunday Racing Company’s Orfevre became the first horse in five years to win the first two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown before a crowd of 82,240 May 29 at rainy Tokyo Racecourse. The son of Stay Gold unleashed a powerful move at the 200-meter pole and held off Win Variation to take the $3.6 million Tokyo Yushun, or Japanese Derby (Jpn-I) by 1 3/4 lengths.
The final time for the 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) over a left-handed turf course labeled soft was 2:30.50. Ridden by Kenichi Ikezoe, favored Orfevre is trained by Yasutoshi Ikee, who became the youngest Derby-winning trainer in Japan Racing Association history. The winning purse was $1.9 million.
“This was a once in a lifetime chance for Orfevre and being the favorite it was quite tense,” Ikezoe said. “He found the going a little bit tough down the final straight but showed he has the heart for a battle. Since getting up this morning, I have been feeling the weight of this race and for a long time I have wanted to win it with this horse.”
Shadai Corporation bred Orfevre, a chestnut colt out of Oriental Art, by Mejiro McQueen.
Win Variation ran second with Katsumi Ando aboard , while Belshazzar finished seven lengths farther back in third in the 18-horse field. Sheikh Mohammed attended the Derby to watch his Debonair, with Frankie Dettori aboard, run 12th. Libertas failed to finish.
With his previous victory in the Satsuki Sho, Japanese Two Thousand Guineas (Jpn-I), Orfevre could become the nation's first Triple Crown winner since Deep Impact in 2005.