11/27/2011 9:24AM

Japan Cup: Buena Vista gets to keep victory this time

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TOKYO - Buena Vista won the $6.7 million Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday with a stretch rally that left the wildly popular mare in front through the final sixteenth. She led long enough for jockey Yasunari Iwata to fully realize the magnitude of the moment as it unfolded.

“I was above the clouds,” Iwata said through an interpreter. “It was awesome.”

The result was awesome for Japanese racing fans, too, many of whom were disappointed when Buena Vista was disqualified from first and placed second in the 2010 Japan Cup for causing interference in the stretch.

This year, there was no controversy. Buena Vista raced on the inside, in the middle of the 16-horse field, for the first mile. Iwata moved Buena Vista between horses in early stretch and they steadily made progress to move within striking range of the leaders in the final quarter-mile.
Buena Vista, the 2-1 second choice, caught stretch leader Tosen Jordan to win by a neck, finishing 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:24.20.

“She responded well going around the turn,” Iwata said. “She got in between horses and was able to split horses. I kept on riding with the belief that Buena Vista is the strongest. She really responded.”

Tosen Jordan, who beat Buena Vista when they were first and fourth in the Group 1 Tenno Sho Autumn Stakes on Oct. 30, held second, finishing 1 3/4 lengths in front of Jaguar Mail, who was third. In the stretch, Australian jockey Craig Williams thought he was aboard the winner on Tosen Jordan.

“I like the way my horse fought back,” Williams said. “He got beat by a horse that was better on the day.”

Trailblazer, another Japan-based runner, finished fourth, followed by Win Variation, Danedream, Shareta, Eishin Flash, Rose Kingdom, Oken Bruce Lee, To the Glory, Sarah Lynx, Victoire Pisa, Mission Approved, King Top Gun, and Pelusa.
Danedream won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 2, and could have become the first winner of that race to win the Japan Cup. Sent off as a slight 2-1 favorite, Danedream was as far back as 13th for the first mile, and rallied wide through the stretch to finish 3 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

Mission Approved, the winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park in June, led by about four lengths on the backstretch Mission Approved maintained a lead on the final turn and into early stretch, but faltered after being challenged by Win Variation, who led briefly in the stretch.

Buena Vista’s win was a massively popular result. The champion 2-year-old filly of 2008 and 3-year-old filly of 2009 in Japan, Buena Vista has won nine of 22 starts and an astonishing $16.8 million.

A 5-year-old Japanese-bred mare by the Sunday Silence stallion Special Week, Buena Vista races for the Sunday Racing Co., and trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda. Buena Vista’s win was the second consecutive Japan Cup win for Sunday Racing. After her disqualification last year, Sunday Racing still won the race with Rose Kingdom, who was promoted from second.

Buena Vista is expected to make one more start in Japan, in the Group 1 Arima Kinen at Nakayama on Dec. 25.  A start overseas, perhaps in Dubai, is a possibility in early 2011 before she is retired to be bred, Matsuda said.

Regardless of those results, Buena Vista finally won the Japan Cup on Sunday, a gratifying result for Iwata, 37. The winning jockey in the 2007 Japan Cup on Admire Moon, Iwata began riding Buena Vista earlier this year. She had lost four starts this year before Sunday’s race, with Iwata aboard for three of those races.

“She’s easy to ride and she gives her best,” Iwata said. “I do believe she is the strongest runner at this time. It’s no doubt this is the biggest race in Japan. To win this is a good feeling.”