Orfevre claims Takarazuka victory


Reigning horse of the year Orfevre bounced back to silence the critics in the Takarazuka Kinen on Sunday, winning the last Grade 1 race of the spring season by a cool two lengths at Hanshin Racecourse.

Orfevre, last year’s winner of the Triple Crown as well as the Arima Kinen, went off as the favorite to cut a winning time of 2 minutes, 10.9 seconds over the 2,200 meters for his fifth G1 title.

The Yasutoshi Ikee-trained colt, who had lost his last two starts including the spring Tenno Sho, found space on the inside to finish comfortably ahead of second choice Rulership who lifted the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong in April.

In a fast pace set by long-shot Neko Punch, sixth pick Shonan Mighty took third while Beat Black, who won the Tenno Sho in which Orfevre slumped to 11th, was ninth in a glamorous full field of 16.

Orfevre’s jockey Kenichi Ikezoe was pleased to see his horse hop back on the winning track ahead of the scheduled trip to France in the autumn for the world’s most prestigious race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

“It’s about time,” said Ikezoe, who won the race for his third time. “I’m glad the fans got to see what this horse is truly made of. He was far from being in perfect condition, but he was relaxed the moment he set foot on the course. He responded so well today.

“Now we can head to the Arc with our confidence on a high.”

Orfevre, by Stay Gold out of Oriental Art, took his earnings to more than ¥978 million with the ¥132 million victory. He is 8-for14 for his career.