Filly Apapane joins elite company with Triple Crown win

Kyodo

Apapane galloped into the history books, becoming just the third horse ever to win the Japanese Fillies’ Triple Crown as the outstanding favorite won the Shuka Sho on Sunday.

Apapane broke from the No. 15 post and held off Animate Bio by three-quarters of a length to win the 2,000-meter race at Kyoto Racecourse in 1 minute, 58.4 seconds.

Part of the stable of Deep Impact owner Makoto Kaneko, the daughter of King Kamehameha is the first filly to accomplish the feat since Still in Love in 2003. Mejiro Ramone was the first to do it in 1986.

“I have all the faith in the world in this horse,” said jockey Masayoshi Ebina, who nearly made history earlier this month in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when he narrowly came in second on Nakayama Festa.

“I wasn’t worried. She’s such a competitor, always working hard. I was convinced that if I got her to run her best race, then there would be no question,” he said.

It was the first Shuka Sho victory for Ebina and trainer Sakae Kunieda.

“I’m so relieved we’ve won the Triple Crown,” Kunieda said. “I couldn’t be prouder as a trainer. The most important quality of this horse is that she’s always so calm.”

Second choice Apricot Fizz took third in a full field of 18. The winning time on firm turf was three-tenths off the race record held by Fabulous la Fouine.

The No. 3 pick Sante Emilion, who won the Japanese Oaks in a tie with Apapane in May, had a poor jump out of the gate and finished dead last in her first race of the autumn.

Ebina had Apapane positioned mid-pack on the outside during the entire journey, steering her away from the traffic by the railing.

On the fast October track at Kyoto, Ebina unleashed Apapane early on the final straight and there was no turning back once she was out in front. Animate Bio made a late run through the middle for the ¥89 million winner’s check, but Apapane never gave in.

“She’s the queen,” Animate Bio’s jockey Hiroki Goto said. “You can only tip your hat off to her.”

“She ran a much smoother race than last time, settled really well,” Ebina said of last month’s Rose Stakes where Apapane finished fourth to start the fall. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. The opposition will get tougher from here, but I believe she’ll be able to handle it.”

Apapane, out of Salty Bid, has six wins in nine starts with four Grade 1 titles, taking her career earnings to more than ¥400 million. Along with the Shuka Sho and the Oaks, she has won the Oka Sho and the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies.