There were tears of joy everywhere at Meydan Racecourse for earthquake ravaged Japan after Victoire Pisa scored a stunning upset over Transcend to give the nation a one-two finish in the $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I) March 26.
Victoire Pisa's victory was the first for a Japanese-bred horse in the 16-year history of the world's richest horse race.
Three Japanese horses, including the mare Buena Vista, Japan's Horse of the Year in 2010 who finished eighth, were entered in the World Cup. The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of the country clearly were on the minds of the owners and trainers. Many wore polo shirts with the word ``Hope'' on the sleeve and the date of the double-disaster that have left more than 10,000 dead and more than 17,000 missing.
Mirco Demuro guided Victoire Pisa to the surprise victory, making a big early move from the rear of the pack on the backstretch of the 2,000-meter (about 1 1/4 miles) event to challenge pacesetting Transcend on the outside, eventually wearing down his Japanese rival in the long stretch run to win by a half-length. Godolphin Racing, which won three races on the World Cup undercard, took third with Monterosso.
Victoire Pisa is a 4-year-old son of Neo Universe--Whitewater Affair, by Machiavellian, trained by Katsuhiko Sumii for owner Yoshimi Ichikawa. Shadai Farm bred the dark bay colt in Japan.
“Knowing there are horses and people affected by the tsunami or lost their lives, I knew there may be something I could do to give back with a win or by performing well in this race,” Sumii said as supporters sipped champagne and watched reruns of the race. “That is something I strongly feel.
“This victory won’t change people’s lives, but I do hope that in some way I will give back to the horse riding and horse racing community in Japan.”
Cape Blanco finished fourth, with American hope Gio Ponti fifth. Favored Twice Over was unplaced after experiencing trouble early in the race. The final time on a Tapeta racing surface that played very slowly all night was 2:05.94.
The winner paid $36.60 for the win in United States wagering and combined with 40-1 shot Transcend for a $573.40 exacta.
Victoire Pisa, making his synthetic track debut in the World Cup after 12 starts on turf, came into the race in top form. Third in last fall's Japan Cup (Jap-I), he won the Arima Kinen (Jpn-I) by a nose over Buena Vista at Nakayama in December. He began his 2011 campaign with a 2 1/2-length triumph in the Nakayama Kinen (Jpn-II) Feb. 27.
The World Cup was Victoire Pisa's eighth victory in 13 lifetime starts and his fifth graded or group win.
Victoire Pisa was near the back of the 14-horse pack after Transcend took the early lead for jockey Shinji Fujita and settled into a crawling pace, :26.7 for the 400 meters and :53.1 at the 800-meter mark.
The Italy-based Demuro didn't care for the way the race was unfolding and allowed his charge to range up several paths wide on the backstretch to settle in second, just off the flanks of Transcend, where he remained until the stretch drive.
Victoire Pisa gradually drew even with Transcend and took a slight advantage close to home, inching away to the wire in an exhilarating finish with Monteresso also challenging from between horses.
Demuro and Fujita happily embraced each other as the horses galloped out after the finish. Demuro, through tears, told a reporter: "It's unbelievable. It's like I woke up."
Later he said, “My horse usually has a good start, but this time he hit his head in the stall and we had a bad start. But maybe it was lucky because there was a slow pace on the backstretch, so I could find a good position close to the leader.
"It was a really tight finish," Demuro added. "We always believe in him. He's won his last race very easy giving two kilos away. He's a very nice horse. We were hoping to do well, but to win is amazing.”
Fujita, who noted the troubles at home, said Transcend "was shying with the track but he did a very good job. I'm very happy with this result because the people in Japan are having a difficult time at this moment, so we're very happy.”
Mickael Barzalona, jockey for third-place finisher Monterosso, lamented being tight quarters late, saying, “I'm really delighted with his run but I wish I had more room because I'm sure I could have finished second. The lack of pace worked in my favor because this is not really his trip.”
Ramon Dominguez, aboard Gio Ponti, said the American champion was compromised by the lack of pace. Gio Ponti ran fourth in last year's World Cup.
"It's very unfair; they're going extremely, extremely slow and I feel my horse was taken out of his game," Dominguez said. "Turning for home his kick, of course, isn't going to be as effective. Everybody was kind of sprinting home.”
Many of the others in the big field had traffic issues. Twice Over, who broke well, lost much ground when several runners backed into him. He never recovered, finishing ninth.
“It was a messy race for everyone and I never got into it at any stage," jockeyTom Queally said.
"He never got anywhere and it is disappointing, but that is the way it goes," trainer Henry Cecil said of Twice Over, who ran 10th in last year's World Cup. "Tom said he was pushed wide and out of the back. It is such a shame as he was very well.”
Fly Down, another of the three United States' entrants, appeared to get the worst of the bumping along the inside and wound up 13th.
“I had a terrible trip," jockey Julien Leparoux said. "They got me twice into the rail. It's a very bad trip.”
The other American-based horse, Richard's Kid , was 12th.
The complete order of finish: Victoire Pisa, Transcend, Monterosso, Cape Blanco, Gio Ponti, Gitano Hernando, Musir, Buena Vista, Twice Over, Prince Bishop, Golden Sword, Richard's Kid, Fly Down, Poet's Voice.