x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Vodka retires ahead of World Cup

The hot favourite from Japan was looking for a Dubai swansong while Sheikh Mohammed's Eagle Mountain is also forced to quit after suffering serious injury.

Vodka, one of the favourites to win this month's Dubai World Cup (DWC) - the world's richest horse race - has been retired by her stable just days after suffering a second nosebleed in a few months. Japan's two-time horse of the year, believed by many to be the most likely winner of the US$10million (Dh36.7m) race on March 27, suffered the nosebleed during the Maktoum Challenge Round III race at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday. She faded to finish eighth out of 14 runners.

Vodka had also bled in winning the Japan Cup for the second time in November and the six-year-old's trainer, Katsuhiko Sumii, said he and the horse's owner, Yuzo Tanimizu, "did not want to see a pitiful horse". "When we saw that she had a nosebleed again after the race I decided to retire her," Sumii said. "Tanimizu said he doesn't want see a pitiful horse and wants her to become a fine breeder. I feel the same way."

Vodka was outshone by Red Desire on Thursday, and that filly will now be primed for a shot at either the DWC or the Sheema Classic on the same night. She finished third, behind Vodka, in the Japan Cup last year. Vodka has been one of the most popular horses in Japan since winning the Japanese Derby in 2007, becoming the first filly to do so in 64 years. The record-equalling seven-times Group One winner won 10 of her 26 races and earned more than 1.3billion yen (Dh53m) - the most prize money won by a mare in Japan and third most in the world.

She was due to retire after World Cup night but will now be bred to last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sea the Stars - who retired in November after a perfect campaign that saw him win six Group One races in as many months - in the Republic of Ireland and not return to Japan. "It would be wrong to push her," said Sumii. "We wanted one final swansong for her but it wasn't to be unfortunately. Vodka was a true champion. We are deeply grateful to her."

Vodka ran twice at the Nad Al Sheba racetrack in Dubai last year, finishing fifth to Balius in the Dubai Racing Carnival before coming home seventh behind Gladiatorus in the Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night. Her last major win came in last year's Japan Cup. The sad news of Vodka came on the same day as Mike de Kock's 2008 Hong Kong Cup winner Eagle Mountain was also retired after picking up another serious injury.

Trained at Ballydoyle by Aidan O'Brien in his formative years, he joined South African De Kock after finishing a short-head second to Literato in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket in 2007. He was second to Conduit in the Breeders' Cup Turf a year later before his big win in Hong Kong but has suffered badly with injury since. "This is his third career-threatening injury and enough is enough. He's been a great servant to Sheikh Mohammed and the stable and did us proud," said De Kock.

"Eagle Mountain's future as a stallion is being discussed and we will entertain offers for him. "He has an amazing race record and was one of the best horses I have ever worked with." @Email:sports@thenational.ae