Equinox stars again with striking Takarazuka Kinen verdict

Equinox made a blistering return to action, coming with a scything run to land the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin racecourse on Sunday.

The Japanese star was sent off a hot favourite on his first start since romping to a wide-margin success in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March.

That three-and-a-half-length victory over Westover at Meydan established the Tetsuya Kimura-trained Equinox as the top horse on the planet according to the Longines World Best Racehorse standings.

On his return, Christophe Lemaire was patient towards the rear of the 17-strong field in the 11-furlong Grade One contest and was still at the back of the pack turning for home, having suffered a wide trip.

Yet the son of Kitasan Black always travelled sweetly and cruised into the lead approaching the final furlong.

Though he had just a neck to spare from outsider Through Seven Seas, the official margin was no reflection of the dominant performance, with his French rider having to pose few questions of the colt.

“Though we were unable get a good position toward the front due to the fast pace at the beginning, the horse was relaxed in the rear and I wasn’t worried at all,” said Lemaire.

“As the inner track condition was not so good, we made bid from the outside early and turned wide to the straight, where he stretched really well.

“Hanshin’s inner course is tricky and (the) Takarazuka Kinen is a difficult race to win, even for champion horses, so I’m very happy that I was able to win the race with the number one horse in the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. I realised again how strong he is. I hope to win more big races with him in the autumn.”

Equinox was completing his fourth successive top-class success, having previously taken the Tenno Sho and Arima Kinen last year before his Sheema Classic success.

Victory gives the four-year-old automatic entry to both the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley later this year, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf. It is unlikely that Equinox will be seen by British racegoers, however.

Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs, poured cold water any thoughts of the possibility he could turn up the Berkshire track.

He said: “Sadly, the Japanese do not appear that interested in coming over. It is a shame, but we will still continue to strive to attract the best international runners to Ascot.”

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