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Equinox is the Overwhelming Pick for the JRA's Horse of the Year Award

Kitasan Black progeny Equinox joins his father as a repeat winner of the yearly award. Equinox won four Grade 1 races in as many starts in 2023.



Equinox, steered by Christophe Lemaire, rides to victory in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) on October 29, 2023, at Tokyo Racecourse. (ⒸSANKEI)

Equinox received 99.3% of the votes for the 2023 Japan Racing Association's 2023 Horse of the Year Award, it was announced on Tuesday, January 9.

The retired 4-year-old son of Kitasan Black also won the award in 2022.

Equinox is the first thoroughbred to claim back-to-back Horse of the Year accolades since Kitasan Black in 2016 and '17.

What's more, they are the first father-son duo to become winners of the award in consecutive years.

Journalists cast 295 votes for Horse of the Year, with Equinox receiving 293 of them. Two votes went to Liberty Island, winner of three JRA G1 races in 2023 (Oka Sho, Yushun Himba and Shuka Sho) and the runner-up in the Japan Cup.

Equinox, who made 10 starts in his career (eight wins, two runner-up finishes), retired to stud at Shadai Stallion Station in Hokkaido Prefecture in late November 2023. His career ended on a high note: winning the Japan Cup on November 26 at Tokyo Racecourse. At that time, he was the world's top-rated horse.

Equinox, seen closing in on a victory in the Japan Cup on November 26, 2023, at Tokyo Racecourse, retired with eight victories in 10 career starts. (ⒸSANKEI)

French jockey Christophe Lemaire rode trainer Tetsuya Kimura's superstar racehorse in every one of his races, starting in August 2021.


Equinox competed in four races in 2023, winning all of them.

He triumphed in the 2,400-meter Dubai Sheema Classic on March 25.

After the race, Lemaire said: "I rode the best horse, I had no fear to make the pace."

Equinox followed that successful outing with JRA Grade 1 wins in the Takarazuka Kinen (2,200 meters) at Hanshin Racecourse on June 25, the 2,000-meter Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo Racecourse on October 29 and the 2,400-meter Japan Cup.

Reflections on Equinox's Sensational Season and Career

Reacting to the news of Equinox's selection for Japan's top thoroughbred prize for 2023, Kimura expressed pride.

"I am very honored that my managed horse, Equinox, has been selected as the Horse of the Year," Kimura said, according to Tokyo Sports.

The trainer added, "I am very proud of his performance in his first overseas race in 2023."


As for the future, Kimura remarked, "I am sure that he will live up to the expectations of his fans as a stallion."

Lemaire admitted that it was an incredibly satisfying overall experience serving as Equinox's only jockey. 

"For me, he is a horse I will never forget," Lemaire was quoted as saying by Tokyo Sports. "I think his run was unforgettable not only for his fans but also for everyone involved."

Liberty Island
Yuga Kawada rides Liberty Island to victory in the 28th Shuka Sho on October 15, 2023, at Kyoto Racecourse. (ⒸSANKEI)

Additional 2023 JRA Horse Awards

Other JRA awards for 2023 included Best Two-Year-Old Colt (Jantar Mantar), Best Two-Year-Old Filly (Ascoli Piceno), Best Three-Year-Old Colt (Tastiera), Best Three-Year-Old Filly (Liberty Island), Best Older Colt or Horse (Equinox), Best Older Filly or Mare (Songline) and Best Dirt Horse (Lemon Pop).

Mitsumasa Nakauchida, Liberty Island's trainer, shared his thoughts about his horse's selection for top awards in two straight years. 

"I am grateful to have won the title of Best 3-Year-Old Filly, which follows the title of Best 2-Year-Old Filly [for 2022]," Nakauchida said, according to Sankei Sports. "It is a great honor, and an honor to be able to work with horses like this."

With another successful year for Liberty Island in 2023, Nakauchi aims to continue along that path this year.

"The entire team will work together and do our best so that we can live up to our title this year as well," he said, according to Sankei Sports.



Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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