After becoming No. 1 in Japan, Yutaka Take and Kizuna are ready to take on the world.
Take won a record fifth Japanese Derby aboard favorite Kizuna on Sunday, and will head to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe this fall to try to bring Japan its first victory in the world’s most prestigious race.
Kizuna was as good as advertised, beating 13 horses on the final straight at Tokyo Racecourse to snatch the second jewel in the triple crown in 2 minutes, 24.3 seconds over the 2,400 meters on firm going.
Take, who last won the Derby in 2005 with Kizuna’s sire Deep Impact, steered the Shozo Sasaki-trained colt past third choice Epiphaneia just before the wire for the ¥200 million victory before a crowd of 139,806 — the largest turnout since Deep Impact won the race.
Eighth choice Apollo Sonic was third after the photos, a length and a quarter behind Epiphaneia. Second pick Logotype, who captured last month’s Satsuki Sho, the first triple crown race, was fifth.
“It’s a great feeling, no matter how many times you win this race,” said the 44-year-old Take, who won the 67th Grade 1 race of his career and described himself as a “beacon of light for all middle-aged men.”
“It feels especially great because I won it with Kizuna. I want to make him the No. 1 horse in the world.”
This year’s Arc is set for Oct. 6 at Longchamp Racecourse. Japan has come in second three times, most recently last year when Orfevre was pipped by Solemia over the final few strides.
Take himself took third with Deep Impact in the 2006 Arc, before the horse suffered the humiliation of being disqualified for the use of a banned substance.
Sasaki said he wanted to race Kizuna in the Arc as a 3-year-old because of the handicap. 3-year-old colts have an advantage of 3.5 kg on the older horses.
“The Arc almost always favors 3-year-olds,” said Sasaki, who won the Derby for his first time.
“(Kizuna is) so mentally strong, he can handle all the difficulties that go along with racing overseas which is why I asked the owner to enter him for the race.
“We won in front of more than 130,000 fans with Yutaka Take as our jockey. Take means so much to all of racing and it was just a beautiful day all around.”
Added Take, “Riding Kizuna in the Arc would mean a lot to me. I lost in the Arc with Deep Impact and since then, going back with one of his sons has been a goal of mine.”
Kizuna had a safe trip after leaving from the inside post in what was a clean race, traveling around the track towards the back before Take gave his partner the green light on Fuchu’s 525-meter home stretch.
Yuichi Fukunaga thought he had his first Derby winner’s medal in the bag with Epiphaneia, but Kizuna rushed him from the outside to deny the jockey glory by half a length.
Kizuna, out of Catequill, is 5-for-7 with earnings of more than ¥352 million.
“It’s been a while since I rode in the Derby on a horse of his caliber,” Take said. “He was the betting favorite and I wanted to win, no matter what. I didn’t really have a set plan, but it was my fourth time riding him so I had a good feel for him.”