Panthalassa built a seemingly insurmountable 15-length lead by the third corner of the 166th Tenno Sho (Autumn). But fast-chasing Equinox had the speed and stamina to snatch the victory in the 2,000-meter race.
French jockey Christophe Lemaire engineered a sensational come-from-behind triumph on Sunday, October 30, steering race favorite Equinox to a one-length win over Yutaka Yoshida and Panthalassa at Tokyo Racecourse before an announced crowd of 62,958 on a beautiful autumn afternoon.
"I'm happy that we were able to catch Panthalassa," Lemaire told reporters after collecting his 42nd Japan Racing Association Grade One victory. "When I saw him way in front of us after turning into the straight, the huge gap did worry me a bit. But my colt gave his best and displayed an incredible turn of foot."
Depending on Equinox's physical condition in the days to come, trainer Tetsuya Kimura's horse could begin making preparations for another marquee G1 race before the end of the year.
"If he comes out of this race safe and well, he has every chance to do well in the Japan Cup [on November 27] or the Arima Kinen [on December 25]," the 43-year-old Lemaire stated.
"This was his first G1 win, but definitely not his last."
Kitasan Black-sired Equinox completed the race in 1 minute, 57.5 seconds, including 32.7 seconds over the final three furlongs. (Watch the race here.)
Panthalassa slowed down considerably near the race's end, clocking 36.8 seconds for the last three furlongs.
Third-place finisher Danon Beluga (Yuga Kawada), the fourth favorite, was another strong finisher. Timed in 32.8 seconds for the final three furlongs, he placed a neck's length behind Panthalassa, the seventh favorite.
How the 166th Tenno Sho Unfolded
About a minute into the race, Panthalassa held a comfortable eight-length lead, with Babbitt chasing the frontrunner, followed by North Bridge and third favorite Jack d'Or.
Panthalassa nearly doubled the lead to 15 lengths, and still maintained a 10-length advantage with 400 meters remaining.
"I wanted to do something [special] because I was working hard until the end," was how Yoshida described his approach to the race, according to Japanese racing website Netkeiba.
But the gap began to close even more as Jack d'Or, ridden by Yusuke Fujioka, and Equinox noticeably picked up the pace.
With 200 meters to go, Danon Beluga, Jack d'Or and Equinox, seen from the inside to the outside of the turf track, were nearly stride for stride in pursuit of the tiring Panthalassa.
Equinox galloped past Jack d'Or into second place with 100 meters remaining, then continued his improbable surge from near the back of the 15-horse pack to the front.
Piloted by Lemaire, Equinox was the runner-up in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) on April 17 and second-place finisher in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) on May 29. It was clear on Sunday that those G1 races provided valuable experience for Equinox in his development.
Tenno Sho Trivia
Yutaka Take is first among active jockeys with six Tenno Sho (Autumn) victories, with his most recent victory aboard Kitasan Black in 2017. Second on the list is Lemaire, who has four, including in 2018 aboard Rey de Oro and in 2019 and 2020 with Almond Eye.
The next G1 race on the JRA calendar is the 2,200-meter Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Hanshin Racecourse on November 13. Seven days later, the Mile Championship, another G1 race, will be held at the same venue.
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Author: Ed Odeven
Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter ＠ed_odeven, and find him on JAPAN Forward's dedicated sports website, SportsLook.