Buena Vista grew the wings of Pegasus in the 142nd Tenno-sho on Sunday, the 4-year-old filly soaring to victory in the 2,000-meter Emperor’s Cup for her fifth Grade 1 title.
The overwhelming first choice didn’t disappoint the crowd of 83,900 at Tokyo Racecourse as Buena Vista won by two lengths ahead of 3-year-old Pelusa in a time of 1 minute, 58.2 seconds on slightly heavy going.
“Today, she looked like she has some wings coming out of her back,” said jockey Christophe Soumillon, who won his first Grade 1 race in Japan and became just the second foreigner to win the Tenno-sho after France’s Olivier Peslier.
“She’s a great filly like Vodka and all the superstars. She knows she’s good, and she’s really relaxed in her head. I know she can be a bit light sometimes, but that’s her nature. She was beautiful today.”
Buena Vista became only the 15th female horse to lift the Emperor’s Cup in the race’s history, and the first since Vodka in 2008.
Second favorite Earnestly came in third a length and a half behind fourth pick Pelusa, who wasted an explosive stretch run by acting up inside the gate and breaking late.
It was also a forgettable afternoon for the spring Tenno-sho winner Jaguar Mail, who, under Hong Kong-based jockey Douglas Whyte, was demoted to last from 15th in the maximum field of 18 after cutting across the final straight.
Buena Vista made her first start since the Takarazuka Kinen on June 27, when she finished second behind Nakayama Festa, who went on to nearly win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe earlier this month.
The Buena Vista camp wants a rematch with Nakayama Festa in the Nov. 28 Japan Cup, also held in Tokyo, or the Dec. 26 Arima Kinen at Nakayama.
“Nakayama Festa proved that he was a great champion,” Soumillon said. “It will be nice to see a rematch if he will come to (the Japan Cup).”
Soumillon has been so impressed by the Hiroyoshi Matsuda-trained Buena Vista that he compared her to star filly Zarkava, who won the Arc two years ago with a perfect 7-for-7 record and was retired with five Grade 1 titles.
“I think Zarkava was the best horse I’ve ever ridden,” Soumillon said. “Maybe Buena Vista can be better than her one day, but on the whole career, she will not do better because Zarkava is unbeaten.
“I think if (Buena Vista) can do what she did today in (the Japan Cup and the Arima Kinen), that will mean she is one of the best fillies I ever rode.”
The race got under way with long-shot Silport setting the pace as expected, with Soumillon positioning Buena Vista by the railing and mid-pack after departing from the No. 2 post.
Rounding the final bend, Soumillon pushed his mount toward the front, rather than bringing her on the outside from behind as Buena Vista had done for a bulk of her 15-race career.
“I saw most of her races and many times, she was running from the back,” the Belgian rider said. “But it’s very difficult to be in last position and come wide to win every time, it’s why maybe she’s been second so many times in her career.”
“When I entered the home straight I was trying to find my gap like every jockey tries to do. I didn’t have the time to ask her to go; I was already out in front.”