The Japan Racing Association just cannot seem to get it right. When top European jockey Christophe Soumillion piloted the great Japanese filly Buena Vista to a seemingly easy victory in the 2010 edition of the Japan Cup, it appeared a decisive and popular decision in the nation’s biggest race. That feeling would not last, though, for after the race, a lengthy inquiry ensued. Eventually the review resulted in a disqualification of the impressive winner. It was determined that she had impeded the progress of Rose Kingdom, also of Japan, and ridden by Yutaka Take, as she was sweeping to the lead in the stretch.
To the credit of Rose Kingdom, he did come on strong to get up for 2nd on the wire, after checking briefly from the incident. This photo became important when the inquiry sign went up. More than 100,000 on-track fans would find just how crucial some 24 minutes later when the decision was finally announced. The $5.8 million dollar race had been reversed. Rose Kingdom was declared the Japan Cup winner and favored Buena Vista was placed 2nd.
To be frank, the steward’s decision was poor. Did Buena Vista come over and impede Rose Kingdom to some extent? Absolutely, but was it enough to take down an easy winner of one of the biggest races in the world? Not by a long shot. She was much the best in the rich and prestigious Japan Cup. After 24 minutes the decision makers got it wrong. Taking Buena Vista down for her petty crime was nothing short of criminal.
Flash forward to yesterday’s running of the Japan Cup, where a terrific battle between the two best horses in the country should have been the perfect climax to the big race. It was not. As the Japanese filly Triple Crown winning, Gentildonna, dueled race favorite and 2011 Japanese Triple Crown winner, Orfevre, to the wire, the contest became a little more than just spirited. At the finish, it was Gentildonna by a nose over Orfevre, but the photo of the two horses at the wire only tells a small part of their battle…
Not only was the unlucky Orfevre bumped hard twice by his foe, but he was knocked off stride, and actually went back to the wrong lead after the first bumping incident. It’s hard not to look at this infraction by Gentildonna and rider, Yasunari Iwata, who was suspended for the foul, and believe the nose decision should have been allowed to stand, but after another lengthy delay, the Japan Racing Association declared the original order official.
Gentildonna is a superbly talented three-year-old filly, and with the victory she became the first sophomore female ever to win the Cup, but the decision seem less than just. Simply stated, Orfevre deserved to win the race, just as Buena Vista did two years ago. Perhaps the four-year-old son of Stay Gold, and recent, narrow loser of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, will find some retribution in next year’s Japan Cup, much like Buena Vista found last year, but he should not need to in order to be recognized as a Japan Cup champion. It is a shame the Japan Racing Association cannot get it right on the one day that the world is watching.