Gentildonna (far side) just gets up rail to beat Orfevre in Japan CupPICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi
Gentildonna thwarts Orfevre in Japan Cup
Report: Japan, Sunday
Tokyo: Japan Cup (Grade 1) 1m4f, turf, 3yo+
WITH the European contingent nowhere to be seen, domestic horses completed a clean sweep in the Japan Cup on Sunday as top three-year-old filly Gentildonna (Sei Ishizaka/Yasunari Iwata) got the better of Arc runner-up Orfevre in a thrilling dash to the line.
Gentildonna, a daughter of the great Racing Post world champion Deep Impact, had won the fillies' Triple Crown in Japan this year prior to Sunday's victory, in which she thrust her head forward on the rail to nip Orfevre - by a nose.
The winner, 5.6-1 second choice on the Japanese pari-mutuel, then had to survive a stewards' inquiry.
Presumably it was a close-run thing: Gentildonna kept the race, but her jockey Yasunari Iwata was banned for two days (December 1-2) for interference to Orfevre. The stewards adjudged the move not to have affected the runner-up's momentum, so the result stayed the same after a 15-minute inquest.
The Ed Dunlop-trained Red Cadeaux did best of the visitors in eighth place, though neither he nor any of his British-trained compatriots ever looked likely to play a meaningful hand in Sunday's 481 million yen (£3.64m) contest, which took place in front of a crowd of 117,776 - up 13.45 per cent on 2011 and the biggest since Deep Impact won in 2006.
Of the other visitors, Emirates Melbourne Cup third and fifth Jakkalberry and Mount Athos again finished close together in 11th and 12th, one place ahead of surprise Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Solemia. Sri Putra was last of 17.
After throwing away the Arc owing to his wayward tendencies, last year's Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre was sent off a hot favourite despite his wide draw as Kenichi Ikezoe replaced the hapless Christophe Soumillon.
The colt was on slightly better behaviour this time, making smooth headway after being settled towards the rear before overwhelming runaway leader Beat Black in the Tokyo straight.
But though Orfevre looked set to make rich amends for his Longchamp debacle, he again found less than expected and lost out to Gentildonna (received 9lb), who had raced forwardly at the head of the chasing pack behind Beat Black before being strongly driven to the line.
Winning jockey Iwata said: "I was able to keep the best position throughout and we had the perfect run. It would have been a perfect race if I hadn't touched Orfevre in the final straight.
"It was a fierce battle in the end and I wish it could have been a bit cleaner. I'm sorry we bumped Orfevre and yes, she did have a 4kg weight advantage, but she really deserves congratulations for her magnificent effort.
"I saw Gentildonna's real potential for the first time today. She gave me the best result on the best stage."
Trainer Sei Ishizaka, 62, is looking towards the international stage for Gentildonna, who has won seven of her nine career starts.
"I don't have any specific plans yet but I would say the Arc is a possibility, as well as possibly running in Dubai or the US," he said. "I am thinking long-term and not necessarily of next year."
Hong Kong winner Rulership took third two and a half lengths back to complete a 1-2-3 for the home nation - and for the Yoshidas' powerful Sunday Racing syndicate, which had five runners carrying their well-known black, red and yellow silks.
Red Cadeaux's rider Gerald Mosse objected against riders of Fenomeno and Tosen Jordan for alleged interference. Having looked at the film, stewards decided it had been caused by Marco Demuro on Dark Shadow hanging to his left and fined the Italian jockey 30,000 yen.
"Considering he was struck into on the first bend and then got stopped in the straight, he's run a great race," said the trainer wife Becky Dunlop. "He travelled well through the race, and hopefully he'll be okay to go to Hong Kong."
The Mount Athos team were left lamenting a moderate pace, also cited for the gelding's undoing in Melbourne.
"Fenomeno dropped across me at the start and I got stuck on the fence, where he was a bit keen," reported Ryan Moore. "There was room to go through in the straight but after the slow pace, he just couldn't go with them and I looked after him."
Solemia's trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias said: "We rode her to win but it was very difficult from her wide draw. When it came to the finish, there was no petrol in the tank."