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Buena Vista incurs stewards' wrath: Rose Kingdom awarded the Japan Cup - By Tom Krish

Posted on - 29 Nov 2010

Buena Vista incurs stewards' wrath: Rose Kingdom awarded the Japan Cup
Tom Krish, Chicago, November 28, 2010
It is one of the biggest stages in horse racing. The Japan Cup, the turf version over 2400 metres, offers the second biggest purse. The Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp takes the cake. In terms of history, the Japan Cup is in its 30th year but in terms of prestige, the Japanese showpiece has had a meteoric rise. Now, there is also a dirt edition of the Japan Cup. On Sunday, the Japan Cup (turf) was run at Tokyo Racecourse. There was an attendance of 106,322 and eighteen runners west postward in Japan’s premier race. The total prize money this year was 5,872,000 dollars.
Don’t we have friends tell us that this is the first time that a thing like this has happened? There is always a ‘first’ and the 2010 (turf) Japan Cup provided a ‘first’ of a dramatic kind. Buena Vista, a four year-old filly and the darling of the local fans, was the 9/10 favorite and she justified the public confidence in decisive fashion. All the betting in Japan is done on the tote. Christophe Soumillon, Buena Vista’s jockey, pumped his fist in the air as he flashed past the line. The hard part had been completed and what was left was the ceremonial part. The Tokyo stewards who pride themselves on breathing new life into the adjective ‘punctilious,’ found a transgression in the running of the race. An inquiry was ordered. The ironic element in the plot was that Buena Vista and Rose Kingdom, the horse interfered with by the winner and who finished second, belonged to the same owner. Shall we say that it was a domestic dispute? The adjudication was taking place on a public forum.
The stewards’ verdict that came after a 24-minute inquiry was met with what the Racing Post has called an ‘audible groan.’ I am sure that the groan was much louder than the one I heard as Blame and Zenyatta raced past the wire in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in early November.  The judges held that Buena Vista had interefered with Rose Kingdom. Buena Vista was demoted and placed second.  Rose Kingdom, who made a desperate lunge in the waning yards to deprive Victoire Pisa of second place, was awarded first place. The disqualification of Buena Vista is only the beginning of this story. The denouement of the 30th Japan Cup (turf) will be talked about for years to come and the undeniable fact will remain that the prize was taken away from a deserving winner who did not do anything to warrant such serious punishment.
Victoire Pisa, Maxime Guyon up, was in striking range as the field settled down. Rose Kingdom was in seventh position. Buena Vista, after overcoming a spot of trouble early, was 13th and 14th and well off the pace.  Guyon struck the front with Victoire Pisa coming into the uphill part of the lane. Soumillon had navigated a clear path for his filly and Buena Vista was full of run when she was let loose. Rose Kingdom, in the center of the course, had his momentum checked and was regrouping for a late charge. In the last 150 metres.  Buena Vista, to the delight of her backers, found another gear and quickened spiritedly. The filly won by a length and three quarters. Rose Kingdom was a head in front of Victoire Pisa. The 2400-metre race was run in 2 25.2 seconds and the going was firm.
The winning connections of Rose Kingdom at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday.
Picture courtesy : Japan Racing Association.

The fourth favorite at 78/10, Rose Kingdom was ridden by the Japanese legend, Yutaka Take.  Kojiro Hashiguchi trains the winner. The owners are Sunday Racing Co Ltd. Rose Kingdom, a three year-old colt, is by King Kamehameha out of Rosebud, a Sunday Silence mare. King Kamehameha is the 2004 Japanese Derby winner. Rose Kingdom was second in the Japanese Derby and also the bridesmaid in the Japanese St Leger.
The top three spots in the Japan Cup were taken by Japan-based horses. Nakayama Festa, second to Workforce in the Arc, finished 14th. Joshua Tree, an Aidan O’Brien trainee and the winner of the Canadian International at Woodbine, was ridden by Colm O’Donoghue and took 10th. Paul Mulrennan was aboard the England-based Dandino and ran 11th. The total money bet on Sunday’s Japan Cup card was yen 27,484,952,900. Ninety yen equal one US dollar. Please figure it out. The Japanese bet with both hands. If there was a third, the handle will be much higher.
Rose Kingdom has now won five times in nine outings. His cheque on Sunday was for yen 253,780,000. A tidy sum indeed and there’s more to come.
Trainer Hashiguchi spoke. “I have mixed feelings. Rose Kingdom has been extremely consistent this fall. Jockey Take positioned the colt a little forward. He (Rose Kingdom) certainly has the ability to shift into another gear in the last 100 metres. Today, being bumped a few times did not faze him. He put in another effort even after that to finish second.”
Yutaka Take speaks English and expresses himself very well. “I’m happy to have won. This is my third time on this colt. He was so calm going into the gate that it got me worried but once into stride, he was full of go. I had good position. I played it by the ear-as the Japan Cup is difficult to predict how the race will develop-everything worked out to our advantage. We had a clear path going up the hill and when I was about to hit the accelerator, we were bumped two or three times from the outside and the inside. In any case, he finished strongly. I am extremely grateful being able to partner up with such a talented colt.”
Christophe Soumillon is a brilliant jockey. He is also adept at not talking when the matter calls for a terse statement. “It is better that I do not say anything,” Soumillon said.
Soumillion’s silence did not last long. The frustration generated by the disqualification did not end as the dust settled. The Tokyo authorities were not satisfied that they had punished Soumillon enough. They slapped a ban on the Belgian ace that will stop him from riding in the big races at Sha Tin (Hong Kong) on December 12.  Soumillon was to partner Planteur in the Hong Kong Cup. Planteur is owned by the Wildenstein family with whom Soumillon has signed a contract for 2011. The French riding star also has other Group I commitments in Hong Kong on December 12. Yes, it is a devastating blow. Insult has been added to injury.
The evolving situation elicited a response from Soumillon. “When you don’t kill a man in a fight, he will come back stronger. For sure, I’m very unhappy and sorry for the trainer (Hiroyoshi Matsuda) and all the fans. Buena Vista is the most wonderful filly I ever rode. I gave the best riding performance I could. The owners’ pain is not too much, they still won the race. I am still young and will hopefully learn a lot from the experience.”
Giving his side about the controversy, jockey Soumillon elabotared, “the horse inside me came across and then hung away. My filly, having been pushed a few times from the back, has just hung slightly with the horse inside to have something to race against.”
Without being emphatic and making a blunt reference, Soumillon heaped praise on Buena Vista and ,in the process, implied that the Japanese filly was a level superior to Zarkava. The Aga Khan-owned Zarkava won the Arc in 2008 and retired unbeaten. Soumillon was Zarkava’s rider.
The outspoken Ryan Moore does not worry about political correctness. At Royal Ascot, he said that the Royal Meeting is not a big deal for him though he likes to win races at the Berkshire venue. Moore was fourth in the Japan Cup with Jaguar Mail. He did not mince words. “It is the wrong decision. They want a champion and now they haven’t got one. It is such a shame.”
Do the Japan authorities believe in free speech? We will see. Will Ryan be in hot water? Discretion is the better part of valor but Ryan has different ideas on the subject.
The Japan Cup (dirt) will be run on December 5. There was a lot of Graded action at week’s end in America. We will take a look at all this in the next report. 

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