Eishin Flash ended a dry spell of two years, five months on one of Japanese racing’s biggest stages as the Mirco Demuro-ridden 5-year-old won the Tenno-sho under the gaze of the imperial couple on Sunday.
In Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko’s first visit to the race in seven years, Demuro and fifth choice Eishin Flash held off favorite Fenomeno by half a length for his first victory since the 2010 Japanese Derby.
Eishin Flash’s winning time was 1 minute, 57.3 seconds over the 2,000 meters on firm going at Tokyo Racecourse. Second choice Rulership came in third a length and a quarter behind Fenomeno.
Demuro lifted the Emperor’s Cup in his first fall Tenno-sho appearance on his first ride with Eishin Flash, who improved to just 5-for-20 for his career. Trainer Hideaki Fujiwara also captured the race for the first time.
“It was my first time to ride Eishin Flash, my first time to ride in the Tenno-sho,” said Demuro, who has had his share of moments aboard Japanese horses, most notably in the 2011 Dubai World Cup which he won with Victoire Pisa. “Everything was my first time today.”
“He was so good, so relaxed today. He worked very well the last two weeks and I believed in him.”
After the lap of honor, Demuro hopped off his mount and kneeled before the emperor and empress who acknowledged the knightly gesture with applause.
“It’s a very special day because the emperor is here,” the Italian said. “I was so excited I was thinking to do something special.”
Three-year-old Fenomeno lived up to the billing as the top pick, traveling in fourth position off the pace of long-shot Silport who led a scattered group of 18 through the first 1,000 meters in a blistering 57.3 seconds.
As the pack began bunching up around the final bend, Fenomeno had a free lane right down the middle of Fuchu’s punishing 525-meter straight, with Eishin Flash trailing on the inside.
An uninterrupted path opened up by the rail and Eishin Flash made the most of it, taking the shortest route home before passing Masayoshi Ebina’s colt to his right.
“I thought I rode a good race,” Ebina said. “I steered him away from traffic during the trip and he had plenty of horse left for the stretch.”
“All we missed was a little bit of luck. But we proved he can run with the big boys. We’ll get them back next time.”
Fujiwara said Eishin Flash’s next start will be the Nov. 25 Japan Cup, the richest race in the country also held at Tokyo over the distance of 2,400 meters.
“As Mirco said, it’s just a dream come true to win this race before the emperor himself,” Fujiwara said. “It’s been so long since the Derby. We ran in many Grade 1 races after that, thinking we would win another one soon.”
“I was confident of his form. Demuro worked the horse the last two weeks and as you would expect from a world-class jockey, got a real good feel for him. He knew exactly what he was doing today.”