Talented Japanese stayer Epiphaneia returned to winning form for the first time in over a year with an outstanding victory in the 2014 Japan Cup at Tokyo yesterday.
Epiphaneia stamped himself as the most promising stayer in Japan when he scored a dominant five lengths win in the Group 1 Japanese St Leger (3016m) in October last year, but had been denied victory in his three race starts in 2014 before the Japan Cup last night.
Jockey Christophe Soumillon opted to settle Epiphaneia close to the speed in the early stages of the race and the four-year-old responded extremely well when asked for an extra effort at the top of the straight to race away from his rivals and recorded a dominant four lengths win from Just A Way and Spielberg, while two-time winner Gentildonna finished a credible fourth.
Soumillon was delighted to be able to win the Japan Cup for the first time in his career, after finishing second on Buena Vista in 2010, and he was quick to pay credit to the outstanding performance of Epiphaneia.
“It means a lot because, as you know, I was unable to win this race with Buena Vista four years ago, and I am very grateful to Mr. Yoshida [Katsumi] for giving me the opportunity to ride this time,” Soumillon said after the race.
“When I asked him to go, he just hung a little to the rail then started to stride like an amazing horse.
“To be able to perform like that after making the race difficult on himself is just amazing on his part.”
The Japan Cup meeting, which was attended by over 100,000 people, finished on a sour note after Jim Bolger-trained Trading Leather was put down after suffering a serious leg fracture during the running of the Japan Cup.
Trading Leather gave Bolger one of the biggest wins of his training career when he took out the 2013 edition of the Group 1 Irish Derby (2414m) and the Carlow-based trainer was devastated to announce the death of the popular galloper.
“Trading Leather was much adored and had a tremendous career, the highlight being his Irish Derby win,” Bolger told the Godolphin website.
“His passing is tough for us all, especially my staff.
“This is a very sad loss.”
Champion mare Gentildonna had the opportunity to become the first horse in history to win the Japan Cup on three occasions and she was given a lovely ride by jockey Ryan Moore, but she was no match for Epiphaneia in the final stages of the race.