More Sports / Horse Racing

Orfevre closes career with sensational victory


Two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runnerup Orfevre ended his career on an emphatic note as the 2011 Japanese Triple Crown champion won the Arima Kinen by an astounding eight lengths on Sunday.

The overwhelming first choice under Kenichi Ikezoe, Orfevre captured Japan’s grand season finale for the second time in a one-horse show that left the other 15 runners stunned and in the dust at Nakayama Racecourse.

The former Japanese horse of the year cut a time of 2 minutes, 32.3 seconds over the 2,500 meters — 1.3 seconds faster than second-place Win Variation.

Last year’s winner Gold Ship, who went off as the second pick, came in third another length and a half behind. Long-shot Love Is Boo Shet took fourth, trailing Orfevre by a total of 12 lengths.

“I wanted to show everyone at the racetrack that Orfevre was No. 1,” said Ikezoe, who rode trainer Yasutoshi Ikee’s horse to all six Grade 1 wins.

“I thought I may have moved a little bit too soon but he felt great coming around the last turn. I wasn’t worried about the other horses; I was just focused on getting mine to run at a good rhythm. We were right behind Gold Ship, and he managed to stay during the trip.”

The 5-year-old Orfevre, by Stay Gold out of the Mejiro McQueen mare Point Flag, retires to stud with 10 wins from 17 starts including six Grade 1 titles. His career earnings exceed ¥1.34 billion.

Ahead of his first race since the Arc in October, Orfevre had not looked sharp in his workouts this week, with Ikee admitting the hall-of-fame bound horse was far from being 100 percent.

But Orfevre seemed anything but unfit on Sunday. He traveled toward the back and when Ikezoe gave him the green light rounding the next-to-last turn, accelerated like his usual dominant self.

Orfevre was already in the lead by the start of the homestretch and never looked back, widening the gap with each stride before taking the tape to the roar of the crowd.

Orfevre is only the sixth two-time winner of the Arima Kinen, which is arguably the highest-grossing race in the world alongside Britain’s Grand National.

“I just want to congratulate him on his career,” Ikee said. “I think Orfevre is the strongest horse in the world. Like all the best horses have done in the past, he helped define his generation of racing.”

“He won the Triple Crown in the year of the quake (2011), and I like to think he gave people hope and something to look forward to.”

Added Ikee, ” ‘Thank you’ is all I can say, really. He actually wasn’t in the best of conditions, but like he’s done throughout his career for better or worse, he surprised us.”