Vermilion gallops to record win in Japan Cup Dirt

by Barbara Bayer

Race favorite Vermilion extended his winning streak to two with a record win in the Japan Cup Dirt Saturday at Tokyo Racecourse.

The 5-year-old son of El Condor Pasa trumped a field of 16 that included three runners from overseas, clocking 2 minutes, 6.7 seconds over 2,100 meters of dirt. The time shaved 1.3 seconds off the record set in 2005 following the course renovation in 2003.

Yutaka Take described the run as “perfect” from start to finish and both trainer and jockey cited the horse’s ever-increasing mental maturity as a key factor in the win.

Not generally a good starter, Vermilion got under way satisfactorily for the race’s eighth running and was held midfield until the turn, where he went wide, then moved in slightly on a diagonal track, catching leader Field Rouge with 200 meters to go before breaking away for the win by 1 1/4 lengths.

A difficult horse to bring to top condition on schedule, trainer Sei Ishizaka, 56, said he had taken heart after the Dubai World Cup in March, in which Vermilion placed fourth.

“I had high hopes for him from his debut, especially as he won a grade race in his second year, but he lacked mental maturity.”

The horse’s performance was inconsistent, but the tenacity he displayed in Dubai indicated to Ishizaka that he was ready for big things at last.

“He has always had the talent and I always thought he was the best, but today we were able to prove that,” Ishizaka said.

Take agreed.

“He has always had something go wrong, something just not right on race day, but today everything came together. He’s difficult for the stable staff, but easy for the jockey. He’s serious and honest and gives you his all in a race,” Take said.

Ishizaka said he would consider taking on the Dubai World Cup again next year and Take was of the opinion that they could take on the world “with head held high.”

Vermilion, owned by Sunday Racing and bred at Northern Farm in Hokkaido, claimed a winner’s share of ¥130 million.

None of the three foreign-based contenders made the board, but Student Council of the United States finished eighth.