11/27/2011 10:43AM

Japan Cup: Win a fairytale ending for Buena Vista's many fans


TOKYO - Zenyatta would have been jealous of the cheers that Buena Vista earned after her win in the $6.7 million Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday.

For the second consecutive year, Buena Vista was first past the wire in the Japan Cup. Last year, she was disqualified and placed second in a controversial decision. This year, there was a genuine celebration from an ontrack crowd of 103,816.

They cheered when she broke off during the post parade, and even louder when she took the lead in the final sixteenth, rallying past the Japanese Group 1 winner Tosen Jordan. It was a change from Buena Vista’s previous starts. Until Sunday, Buena Vista had not given them much to shout about this year.

The Japanese champion 2-year-old filly of 2008 and 3-year-old filly of 2009, Buena Vista was winless in four starts this year – an eighth in the Dubai World Cup in March, second in two Group 1 races in Japan in May and June, and a fourth in the Group 1 Tenno Sho Autumn Stakes on Oct. 30. In the latter race, she was fourth behind Tosen Jordan, but encountered trouble in the stretch, losing by 1 3/4 lengths.

The losing streak cast doubts in some circles as to whether the 5-year-old Buena Vista could regain her past form, an issue that was moot with about an eighth of a mile from the finish of the Japan Cup when she rolled alongside Tosen Jordan.

“It’s after the race is when you feel the filly is really exceptional,” trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda said through an interpreter.

It was during a brief press conference that Matsuda’s emotions, and the pressure he faced in the past year, caught up with him. The 55-year-old trainer choked up when recalling the frustration of the 2010 Japan Cup result.

“This year I am truly relieved to get my revenge and prove she is an exceptional mare,” he said after quickly regaining his composure. “She has always been her best during the season despite not being able to get a title.”

Winning jockey Yasunari Iwata picked up the mount on Buena Vista after the Dubai World Cup. The losses this year were beginning to wear on him, too, he admitted.

“It was heartbreaking as a jockey to not get the results during the year,” Iwata said. “I know how hard the stable staff was working with the mare. I was determined to prove the power she had and get results for our team.”

With nine wins in 22 starts and earnings of more than $16.8 million, Buena Vista has become a popular fixture on the Japanese racing scene in the last three years. She was considered Japan’s best chance in the Dubai World Cup earlier this year, a race won by fellow Japanese traveler Victoire Pisa. Sunday, in his first start since the Japan Cup, Victoire Pisa could only finish 13th in the field of 16.

There will not be many more races for Buena Vista, who is owned by the Sunday Racing Co. Matsuda said she will start in the Arima Kinen at Nakayama on Dec. 25, and may make one more start overseas, perhaps in Dubai in the spring. She will be bred next year.

After that, her fans will have memories of races such as Sunday’s Japan Cup to treasure, and perhaps a few mementos. The gift stores at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday sold Buena Vista commemoratives on T-shirts, caps, lapel pins and scarves. Zenyatta did not have all of that.

No dream double for Danedream

Danedream, the winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris last month, could only finish sixth behind Buena Vista, extending a winless streak for Arc winners in the Japan Cup.

Danedream was as far back as 13th for the first mile of the race over 1 1/2 miles, and made progress through the stretch. She was beaten 3 1/2 lengths. Jockey Andrasch Starke wondered after the race if Danedream could have fared better if she had not been drawn in post 13.

“We may have been able to finish closer if I’d had more of an inside draw,” he said.

Danedream was the seventh Arc winner to start in the Japan Cup. The best result among those horses was a third-place finish by Helissio in 1996, the year he won the Arc. More recently, Bago, the winner of the 2004 Arc, finished eighth in the 2005 Japan Cup.

Danedream will have the winter off. Her 2012 campaign could include a return engagement to Japan. The 3-year-old filly is co-owned by Teruya Yoshida of Japan.

“If she’s good enough, we’ll come back,” trainer Peter Schiergen said. “We had to try it.”

Mission Approved fades

Mission Approved, the lone American entrant, made his presence felt from the start, but eventually faded to finish 14th.

The winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park in June, Mission Approved led by about four lengths on the backstretch, but was under pressure on the turn. At that point, Mission Approved was joined on the front by the Japanese 3-year-old Win Variation, who took the lead from Mission Approved in early stretch.

Jockey Jose Espinoza did not urge Mission Approved after he began to fade from the front.

Trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul said that Mission Approved will be rested at a farm in Ocala, Fla., this winter before resuming training in the spring. The goal for the first half of 2012 is a defense of the Manhattan Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf in June, although Chatterpaul suggested that could be one of the longer of Mission Approved races next year as an 8-year-old.

“I want to give him a prep race before the Manhattan,” he said. “I want to shorten him up.”

*The ontrack crowd was down slightly from the 2010 figure of 106,322, but an increase over the 98,811 who attended the 2009 running.