On a card worthy of the obscene purse money being handed out, one nation stood above all the rest. Japan domination was the story of Dubai World Cup day, as the three most impressive winners all hailed from the island nation.
In the span of a few races Saturday at Meydan Racecourse, Derma Sotogake, Equinox and Ushba Tesoro all looked like the best horses in the world in their respective divisions.
At this point, it would seem just a matter of time before Japanese horses win all the world’s biggest races.
To date, the Kentucky Derby, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Breeders’ Cup Classic have been out of their grasp, but 2023 could be the year all of that changes.
It seemed rather sudden, but the truth is the two Breeders’ Cup wins by Japanese horses in November 2021 was a long time coming, and it appears to be the tip of the iceberg.
For many years, the racing industry in Japan has been doing it right. While American racing races to breed, Japan breeds to race.
The best horses in the U.S. retire as early as possible to get breeding-shed money, but Japanese horses stick around to see what they can win. And it’s not just on turf anymore. They are equally adept on the dirt.
The latter two facts were on full display when Ushba Tesoro came rolling down the stretch to win the Grade 1, $12 million Dubai World Cup as much the best.
The 6-year-old son of the Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre put an exclamation point on another great day for his home nation on the world stage.
A month removed from a brilliant display on Saudi Cup Day, Japan once again flexed its collective muscles at the expense of all comers.
Once thought to be the domain of the Americans, we now have more than our hands full with Japanese runners on the main track. Being best on dirt is no longer a birthright for those born in the Bluegrass.
A decent horse on the turf, Ushba Tesoro has become a bona-fide monster on the main track. I once wrote the same words about an American winner of the Dubai World Cup. His name was Cigar, and he was great. But the days of horses with the career of that champion in the U.S. seem to be a thing of the past.
If he comes to America for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Ushba Tesoro can become the first Japanese horse to win it. The same can be said for Derma Sotogake and the Kentucky Derby.
A son of an excellent sprinter, it would seem that Derma Sotogake inherited the excellence of the American runner Mind Your Biscuits but also the staying power of his Japanese female side.
In a brazen display of outclassing a large international field, Derma Sotogake went straight to the lead for the first time in his career and then turned the Meydan homestretch into his personal playground.
The 5 1/2-length romp in Saturday’s $1 million UAE Derby (G2) was impressive as it looked. He completed the about 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.81 and looked like anything but a tired horse when the race was over.
For numerous reasons, the Kentucky Derby is probably the most difficult of all great races for a foreign raider to win, but this could be the year. Derma Sotogake is that good.
Then finally you have Equinox. The best of them all, and facing the toughest field of the card, the son of Kitasan Black turned in a stunning performance that produced an easy-as-he-pleased win in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1).
Whether it’s the Arc in Paris or the Breeders’ Cup Turf in California, the Japanese horse of the year will be the horse to beat.
I mentioned earlier that it’s been a long time coming for Japanese racing. Perhaps we can trace the recent surge of success all the way back to the day Sunday Silence was imported from America.
The great champion of the U.S. was not commercially popular to American breeders more than three decades ago, and Japanese racing has been all the better ever since.
The shining star of Japanese breeding, it should come as no surprise that Derma Sotogake, Equinox and Ushba Tesoro all have the name Sunday Silence in their pedigree.
When I was a kid, a favorite movie of mine was titled “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming”. Right now, in racing, it would be fitting to say, “The Japanese are coming, the Japanese are coming.” And it’s a trend I don’t see ending anytime soon.