Gentildonna Noses Out Orfevre in Japan Cup

Gentildonna Noses Out Orfevre in Japan Cup
Photo: Kate Hunter
Gentildonna winning the Japan Cup.
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In a battle between Triple Crown winners, Gentildonna became the first 3-year-old filly to win the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) when she took on favored Orfevre in a furious stretch duel and edged the older colt by a nose Nov. 25 at Tokyo Racecourse.

Gentildonna was coming off a successful Japanese filly triple crown series this year, while Orfevre won the Japanese Triple Crown in 2011 and is the reigning Horse of the Year in that country.

The stretch run was not without controversy. Gentildonna had to squeeze through on the rail inside of Tosen Jordan and then angle outside of leader Beat Black. In maneuvering the filly around those two tiring horses, jockey Yasunari Iwata, using a left-handed whip, caused Gentildonna to make contact with Orfevre, who was racing to the filly's outside.

The incident prompted an inquiry lasting about 15 minutes, and the stewards ultimately let the order of finish stand. However, they suspended Iwata two days for careless riding. The jockey will have to serve them Dec. 1-2, keeping him out of the Dec. 2 Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I).

Iwata was winning his third Japan Cup and his second in a row. The Japanese rider captured the 2011 edition aboard Buena Vista and his first one on Admire Moon in 2007.

The Sunday Racing Co. Ltd. of the Yoshida family owns Gentildonna and Orfevre, as well as third-place finisher Rulership and other Japan Cup entrants Fenomeno (fifth) and Rose Kingdom (16th). Sei Ishizaka trains Gentildonna, while Yasutoshi Ikee trains Orfevre.

"It was a very fierce duel in the end with the two horses," said Ishizaka via translator. "But I was certain she would outduel him. She's a great fighter and a very brave filly."

Gentildonna, a daughter of 2006 Japan Cup winner Deep Impact out of the Bertolini mare Donna Blini, was bred by Northern Racing. She was winning her seventh race in nine starts and her fifth race in a row. The Japan Cup, contested over 2,400 meters (1 1/2 miles) on the outer turf course, grossed ¥481.1 million (about $4,498,280), and Gentildonna earned ¥250 million. She stopped the timer in 2:23.1.

Breaking from post 15 in the 17-horse field in front of a crowd of 117,776, Gentildonna moved over toward the rail quickly and raced in third around the first turn behind pacesetters Beat Black and Tosen Jordan.

"I had studied the condition of the track and thought that the inside was much better," said Iwata via translator. "I started from a wide draw, but she was in perfect shape, very fit, and able to get a very good position."

Beat Black drew out to a long lead deep into the backstretch and around the final turn. When first Tosen Jordan and then Beat Black began to falter, the stage was set for the stretch incident.

"Although we had won, it would have been perhaps nicer if we had a cleaner race," said Iwata. "Because of the really fierce duel, I did as a result sort of bump into Orfevre and cause a little disturbance on his side, which I feel sorry for. But please, I hope that you would give credit to a 3-year-old filly who was able to outrun and win against such a great horse like Orfevre."

The Japan Cup initially shaped up as a rematch between Orfevre and the only other filly in the field, France's Solemia. Four-year-old Solemia had narrowly defeated Orfevre in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I).

Several days before the Japan Cup, however, Solemia's connections said that they felt she had lost some weight and that she probably wouldn't like the expected firm turf. The Arc was contested on soft going. Solemia was never a factor in the Japan Cup, finishing 13th over the firm ground.

Solemia was one of five Europeans that challenged 12 Japanese runners. Joining her were Jakkalberry, Mount Athos, and Red Cadeaux, who had finished third, fifth, and eighth, respectively, in the Nov. 6 Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I), and Sri Putra.

Red Cadeaux ran best of the foreigners in eighth and was involved in a second incident that the stewards investigated. Gerald Mosse, who rode Red Cadeaux, claimed foul against Tosen Jordan to his inside and Fenomeno to his outside, alleging that they squeezed him in the stretch.

The stewards ruled that Dark Shadow, racing outside of Fenomeno, came in, causing Fenomeno to impede Red Cadeaux. Dark Shadow ultimately finished fourth. The stewards did not feel the incident warranted a disqualification, but they fined Dark Shadow's jockey, Mirco Demuro, ¥30,000.

Gentildonna and Orfevre finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Rulership, who was followed by Dark Shadow, Fenomeno, Tosen Jordan, Beat Black, Red Cadeaux, Eishin Flash, Jaguar Mail, Jakkalberry, Mount Athos, Solemia, Oken Bruce Lee, Meisho Kampaku, Rose Kingdom, and Sri Putra.
 

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