Vodka Wins Tenno Sho Autumn Thriller

The 4-year-old filly noses Daiwa Scarlett in final jump, with Deep Sky third.

The relentless Vodka, piloted by Yutaka Take, caught Daiwa Scarlett in the final stride to win the $2,448,000 Tenno Sho Autumn (Jpn-I) by a nose before 121,961 spectators at Tokyo Racecourse Nov. 2.

A breathtaking finish saw the 4-year-old filly Vodka, winner of the 2007 Japanese Derby (Jpn-I) over a Tokyo course she thrives on, battling Deep Sky, the 2008 Japanese Derby victor, through the lane, both trying to get to the front-running Daiwa Scarlett. The photo, settled after a lengthy examination, was determined to be the favored Vodka over the second choice Daiwa Scarlett, with Deep Sky a neck back in third. Company, rallying belatedly, was just a nose back in fourth with Air Shady a neck behind that one in the closest finish in Tenno Sho Spring and Autumn history. The final time for the 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) was a stakes record 1:57.2 over a firm turf.

Vodka follows Heavenly Romance, the last filly to win the Tenno Sho Autumn in 2005, and became the 14th female winner overall. The last Japanese Derby-winning filly to capture the race was Hisatomo in 1938.

This year’s Tenno Sho Autumn was billed as a showdown between the contenders who occupied the top three spots in a talent-laden field of 17 -- multiple group I winner and Tokyo Racecourse master Vodka, Daiwa Scarlettt, another 4-year-old filly, and Deep Sky, the youngest horse in the field.

Daiwa Scarlett broke sharply for Katsumi Ando as expected, to stake the early pace, with Tosen Captain and King's Trail chasing while a length behind down the backstretch, Third choice Deep Sky was settled into fifth under Hirofumi Shii while Vodka and Take lost ground and stalked on the outside. Heading into the stretch, Take guided Vodka down the middle of the course with nothing in their path while fighting off the tenacious Deep Sky. Daiwa Scarlett was all out to stubbornly hold on, but came up just short.

Trained by Katsuhiko Sumii for owner Yuzo Tanimizu, Vodka ended a seven-race losing streak when she won the one-mile Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) over males June 8, her first victory since the '07 Japanese Derby. The daughter of Tanino Gimlet, bred in Japan by Country Bokujo, has won seven of 17 career races.