Japan's beloved Buena Vista, disqualified from first to second for interference in last year's Japan Cup (Jpn-I), found no such problems this year. The 5-year-old mare surged late to win the $6.5 million event Nov. 27 before a reported crowd of 103,816 at Tokyo Racecourse.
The victory in the 31st renewal of the Japan Cup was the first in 2011 after four defeats for the Japanese-bred daughter of Sunday Silence stallion Special Week.
Jockey Yasunari Iwata kept Buena Vista out of trouble during the 2,400-meter (about 1 1/2 miles) stakes on a very firm turf course. In a wide open stretch run, Buena Vista caught Tosen Jordan in the final half-furlong and won by a neck. Buena Vista was fourth behind the victorious Tosen Jordan in the Tenno Sho Autumn (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Oct. 30.
Jaguar Mail finished third in the Japan Cup, 1 3/4 lengths farther back, followed by Trailblazer. That gave host Japan a superfecta sweep.
Buena Vista marked her first win since the 2010 Tenno Sho Autumn. She claimed her sixth grade I title overall. The 2010 Horse of the Year repeated the feat that her sire accomplished in his Japan Cup victory in 1999.
“I was never in doubt about her ability during this season, even in defeat—she has always maintained her form," said winning trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda. "She proved that she could keep up with the high pace in the Tenno Sho and secure a fourth place while still not in her best form. It gave me even more confidence that she could beat every one of her foes -- at least the Japanese runners, because I couldn’t compare with the foreign opponents -- in her next start, the Japan Cup."
Matsuda trains Buena Vista for Shunsuke Yoshida's Sunday Racing Co., who won last year's Japan Cup anyway when his Rose Kingdom was elevated to first due to the favorite's controversial demotion. Rose Kingdom finished ninth this year.
The trainer said that Arima Kinen (Jpn-I) in December will be the last start of Buena Vista's career in Japan. He said he would discuss the possibility that she could return for a possible overseas challenge next spring with Yoshida.
While veteran American campaigner Mission Approved and Win Variation dueled for the lead at the top of the homestretch, Tosen Jordan closed in and nailed the front around the 200-meter pole. He was soon to be challenged by Buena Vista who angled out and accelerated powerfully in the last furlong with her usual late charge to forge a narrow advantage approaching the wire. Buena Vista held on tenaciously in the final strides. The final time was 2:24.2.
“It was heart aching for me not to be able to get the expected results during the past three starts, in response to the efforts that the stable staff had put into this mare," Iwata said. "So I was determined to show that Buena Vista is really the very best in Japan, and I am really happy that I was able to win this time."
Jaguar Mail, who surged out behind the winner, also came home impressively.
Danedream, who was attempting to become the first Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner to take the Japan Cup, endured a wide trip and finished sixth. Favored in both the Japanese and American betting pools, the German-bred 3-year-old filly raced near the back of the 16-horse field, but her late kick flattened out in mid-stretch.
“She was bumped by another horse right after breaking and had to be held back a bit; we couldn’t get in a good position," said jockey Andrasch Starke. "She wasn’t the same as when she was in the Arc.”
Second choice both in Japan and North America, Buena Vista paid $12 to win in the U.S. pool. Buena Vista, bred by Northern Racing from the Caerleon mare Biwa Heidi, has now won nine of 22 lifetime starts and a remarkable $16.8 million.
Mission Approved set a solid pace while under pressure and held on well before Tokyo's uphill stretch got the better of him. He faded to 14th.
“I think he ran a great race considering that the pace was a bit fast and that the distance was a little too far for him," said trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul. "A mile race might suit him better. He has the heart and the ability, but to run a mile and a half at that pace was too fast."
French campaigner Sarah Lynx, the Canadian International (Can-IT) winner ridden by Christophe Soumillon, never fired after racing at the back of the pack and wound up 12th. Soumillon was aboard Buena Vista in last year's Japan Cup.
The other foreign competitor in the field, Arc runner-up Shareta, finished seventh.