New Era For Japan At Meydan

Countdown to Saturday 25 March

The spring equinox, traditionally a time of renewal, is perhaps as fitting a moment as any to mark a new era at Meydan.

The Japanese media, omnipresent at every Dubai World Cup since the inaugural meeting at Nad Al Sheba in 1996, returned en masse for the first time since 2019 to witness their record contingent for Saturday’s 27th running of the meeting, which offers $30.5 million in prize-money across nine races, step out in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Andrew Hawkins writes that among 27 horses representing the country this year is the equine Equinox, making his maiden foray abroad for trainer Tetsuya Kimura.

Equinox cantering around the Meydan Main Track on Tuesday (Pic – Dubai Racing Club/Liesl King)

Set to contest the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, the reigning Japanese Horse of the Year had an easy bowl around the Meydan dirt ahead of Saturday’s 2400m test.

“This is his first overseas trip and he’s still getting used to his new surroundings, although I think he’s getting better day by day and I am happy with how he moved this morning,” Kimura said trackside. “I know that this horse has plenty of talent and I hope that he can live up to the expectations of Japanese race fans by winning the Dubai Sheema Classic.”

Fittingly, it is the first time since 2019 that Japan’s leading horse of the previous season will step out on the Dubai World Cup card. Equinox, like that year’s Group 1 Dubai Turf (sponsored by DP World) heroine Almond Eye, is raced by Silk Racing with 500 fans sharing in his ownership.

Christophe Lemaire, who rode Almond Eye throughout her career and also partnered Equinox to victories in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at 2,000m and the Group 1 Arima Kinen at 2,500m, retains the ride on Saturday.

“This is a tough race but Christophe knows Meydan and knows this horse so I am not concerned,” Kimura said. “There have been some very good winners of the Dubai Sheema Classic and so I respect how difficult it will be. It is an honour to be here with a horse like Equinox.”

Should he pass his Dubai Sheema Classic test with flying colours, the fan-voted Takarazuka Kinen over 2200m at Hanshin in June looms as Equinox’s next target.

However, Silk Racing chief executive Masashi Yonemoto is already looking further afield with his star colt, although a tilt at the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) at Longchamp in October remains an unlikely option.

“There are quite attractive races at home, such as the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Japan Cup,” he told local media. “However, I think the Breeders’ Cup Turf is an attractive option. It is important for him to do well here if we are to travel again but I think the Breeders’ Cup would be better than the Arc, especially with the ground.

“I think this season is when we will see the best of him and I think this race is a good challenge for him. Hopefully, he can prove he is a great horse.”

Kimura also cast an eye over his Group 1 Dubai World Cup (sponsored by Emirates) runner Geoglyph, who actually boasts a top flight victory over his more established stablemate in last year’s Satsuki Sho, the Japanese 2000 Guineas, over 2000m.

The four-year-old enters off a last-start fourth in the Group 1 Saudi Cup (1,800m) to compatriot Panthalassa and will also be ridden by Lemaire on Saturday.

“I have been very happy with him since he arrived here,” Kimura said. “He was fourth by a close margin and it was his first dirt race so I was satisfied with that performance. I think his experience in Saudi Arabia will help him here.

“He worked well this morning along with Equinox. I think this is a more suitable race, stepping up to 2000 metres, and I hope that he can run another good race on Saturday.”

Both Equinox and Geoglyph will complete their most testing hit-out of the week on Wednesday morning, along with the majority of Japanese contenders.

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