TOKYO // Vodka became Japan's most successful Grade One winner yesterday when she took the prestigious Japan Cup by a nose to capture her seventh victory at the highest level. The five-year-old edged out Oken Bruce Lee in the 533.5million yen (Dh22.6m) race to cap a remarkable year in which she became the first Japanese filly to top US$10million (Dh36.7m) in prize money.
Vodka, who finished third in the Japan Cup last year and fourth in 2007, has been Japan's most popular horse since becoming the first filly in 64 years to win the Japan Derby in 2007. Ridden by Christophe Lemaire, Vodka overtook Reach The Crown in the home straight of the 2,400- metre race but was challenged by a fast-finishing Oken Bruce Lee and the pair crossed the line neck and neck. The photo finish revealed Vodka had just prevailed, much to the delight of Lemaire.
"I was not sure at the winning post I would win," said the Frenchman, who had replaced the Japanese jockey Yutaka Take on Vodka after the horse failed to win in her last two races. "She wanted to go in the last corner and I tried to keep the energy for the last 220 metres.I am very happy for all the Vodka fans. She is such a great horse and she deserves a victory like the Japan Cup." Vodka was sent off second favourite behind the British raider Conduit, who battled to fourth place after winning the $3m Breeders' Cup Turf in California for a second year in a row earlier this month.