Vodka ended a 63-year drought for fillies at the Japanese Derby (Tokyo Yushun) on Sunday, winning by three lengths ahead of the outsider Asakusa Kings.
Vodka, ridden by Hirofumi Shii and trained by Katsuhiko Sumii, put on a show fitting for the imperial visit to Tokyo Racecourse of Crown Prince Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The victory was her fifth in seven starts.
Vodka, by Tanino Gimlet out of Tanino Sister, became just the third filly to win the Japanese Derby, and the first since Kurifuji in 1943. She crossed the finish line in 2:24.5 as the third favorite in the 2,400-meter event.
Fourth choice Admire Aura took third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Asakusa Kings, who was jockeyed by Yuichi Fukunaga, the winner of last week’s Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks).
Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) champion Victory, second choice in the 18-horse field, got a bad hop out of the gate and finished ninth. Top pick Fusaichi Ho O came in seventh.
It was the first Japanese Derby victory for both Shii and Sumii, who has said he will consider entering Vodka, also the winner of the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) this autumn.
“She felt great around that last turn,” said the 34-year-old Shii, who had come in third in the Japanese Derby the last two years aboard Sixth Sense and Dream Passport. “Once she was free, I was desperate to keep her out in front. I mean, it was the Derby.
“I’m not surprised by this. I always felt she had this kind of potential. I looked at this as a good challenge for her. I didn’t ride her thinking she was a filly. As far as I’m concerned, she’s one of the boys.”
The Japanese Derby had been won by the Satsuki Sho champion the past two years, Deep Impact doing the double in 2005 and Meisho Samson in 2006.