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Gentildonna (far side) wins Japan Cup from Orfevre - Japan 25/11/2012

Gentildonna (far side) wins Japan Cup from Orfevre

  PICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi  

Gentildonna outstanding in Cup win over Orfevre

WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the international scene according to Racing Post Ratings

THE ORFEVRE project took another twist at the weekend. After three defeats this year, all partly attributable to the jockey, connections decided to remove the rider from the equation in the Japan Cup on Sunday.

The galloping four-year-old cruised up turning into the straight, cruised down the straight in his stretch battle with Gentildonna and cruised past the post in second. Jockey Kenichi Ikezoe didn't raise his hand once, preferring to nudge his mount to the line.

Softly, softly could be the way this headstrong horse needs to be ridden, but his fourth defeat of the season, by a nose, to a rival who was given an altogether more vigorous ride, is yet another occasion where the rider can be said to have played a part - or not.

But let's assume Ikezoe was right not to give Orfevre a reminder. The horse didn't hang into the rail, or across the track, and didn't appear to idle as he did at Longchamp, so perhaps this is the way to ride him. Perhaps this is the best Orfevre can be?

Assuming he has reached a plateau (RPR 129), and that a crack of the whip wouldn't have seen him finally fulfil his 2012 promise, it was a terrific performance from the winner to outgun him through good, old-fashioned class.

She may have given him a bump as she switched around the fading pacemaker, for which her jockey received a two-day ban, but she was behind the runner-up turning into the straight and was clearly in front of him after the line.

Orfevre hasn't lost a race fair and square since early 2011 but he did on Sunday, which speaks volumes for Gentildonna.

The form is superb, with a strong pace ensuring almost everything ran to their marks. This backs up the assumption that Orfevre ran his race and, in beating him, Gentildonna produced an outstanding performance; perhaps the best by a three-year-old in the world this year.

Orfevre and third-placed Rulership (125) ran to the same marks they achieved when running one-two in the Takarazuka Kinen in June, while fifth-placed Fenomeno (123) ties up the Tenno Sho (Autumn) form and even the likes of front-runner Beat Black (119) in eighth and leading Euro, Red Cadeaux (119) in ninth hit their marks.

It hasn't been a stellar year for the three-year-olds, but this was an exceptional effort from the daughter of Deep Impact. She posted an RPR of 126 for the win, which, when you factor in her fillies allowance, puts her at the top of the global Classic division.

Dullahan, I'll Have Another and Camelot have all registered RPRs of 127 this year, but considering Gentildonna would receive at least a 3lb allowance in the highly unlikely event that she ran against them, she would be rated at least 2lb superior on the card.

German colts Pastorius and Novellist were the only three-year-olds to win open Group 1s in Europe this year, while Dullahan's Pacific Classic and Trinniberg's Breeders' Cup Sprint were rare highlights for the US classic crop.

But none of those victories compares with what Gentildonna did on the weekend. Orfevre is the highest rated middle-distance performer on the planet and she beat him. If she wasn't carrying a sex allowance, she would be world middle-distance champion.

It might have taken until the end of November, but we finally have a three-year-old to really shout about - and what a talent to look forward to next year.

This wasn't a one-off either. She has won seven of her nine starts, staying on for fourth over a mile in her only defeat at graded level. She really needs further than a mile, although she did land the Oka Sho (Japanese 1,000 Guineas) over that trip, where she got going late.

Over 1m4f she looks truly world class. Two runs, two wins. The first came in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), where she annihilated the opposition, wining by five lengths and looking a class apart. The second came on Sunday.

An RPR of 126 for her latest success ranks her above smart mares of recent years like Vodka and Buena Vista. Both those fillies managed to land Grade 1s against the boys in Japan, but neither enjoyed success overseas.

This is where Gentildonna could break new ground. She is already the first ever three-year-old filly to win the Japan Cup and her future is bright. The Sheema Classic, the King George, the Arc? Take your pick.

Sometimes you don't need to go overseas to prove you're the best on the planet. Australians have that luxury in the sprint division and, at present, Japan holds that distinction over middle-distances.

After a series of runner-up spots, however, Japanese trainers are still aching to land the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. With Orfevre and Gentildonna looking possibles for next year, maybe those famous Sunday Racing colours will secure a one-two for Japan in the 2013 Arc.

Gentildonna has finished for the year but it may not be over for Orfevre just yet. The colt shot to stardom in last year's Arima Kinen and perhaps in this year's Christmas feature it will all finally come together for him? Would you bet on it, though?

TOP OF THE CLASS: Orfevre 129

Yasutoshi Ikee (Jap) (Japan Cup, Tokyo, 1m4f, November 25)


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Frankel (GB)
Queen Anne/International 143T
 Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr)
Prix Dollar/Champion Stakes
3 Excelebration (Ire) Queen Elizabeth II 131T
4  Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
 Hay List (Aus)
Newmarket Handicap 129T


 Orfevre (Jap)
Takarazuka Kinen/Japan Cup
7 Fort Larned (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 128D

 Wise Dan (US)
Ben Ali/Stephen Foster  128A/D
9 Camelot (Ire) Derby 127T

 I'll Have Another (US)
Preakness Stakes 127D
   So You Think (Ire)
Tattersalls Gold Cup 127T
   Nathaniel (GB)
Eclipse/King George 127T
   Moonlight Cloud (Fr)
Prix Maurice de Gheest 127T
   Dullahan (US)
Pacific Classic 127A
  Mucho Macho Man (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 127D


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Frankel (GB)
Queen Anne/International 143
 Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr)
Prix Dollar/Champion Stakes
3 Excelebration (Ire) Queen Elizabeth II 131
 Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
 Hay List (Aus)
Newmarket Handicap 129

 Orfevre (Jap)
Takarazuka Kinen/Japan Cup
 Wise Dan (US)
Woodbine Mile
 8  So You Think (Ire)
Tattersalls Gold Cup 127
   Moonlight Cloud (Fr)
Prix Maurice de Gheest 127
   Nathaniel (GB)
Eclipse/King George 127
   Camelot (Ire)
Derby 127


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Wise Dan (US)
Stephen Foster Hcap 128
  Fort Larned (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 128
3 Mucho Macho Man (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 127

 I'll Have Another (US)
Preakness Stakes 127
5  Bodemeister (US)
Arkansas/Preakness 126
   Caleb's Posse (US)
Met Mile 126
7  Amazombie (US)
Churchill Downs 125

Game On Dude (US) Awesome Again 125
9  Ron The Greek (US)
Stephen Foster Hcap 124
   Shackleford (US)
Met Mile 124
   Successful Dan (US)
Alysheba Stakes


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Wise Dan (US)
Ben Ali 
2  Dullahan (US) Pacific Classic 127
 Monterosso (UAE)
Dubai World Cup 126
4  Amazombie (US)
Bing Crosby Handicap 125
   Game On Dude (US)
Hollywood Gold Cup 125
6  Camp Victory (US)
Triple Bend Hcap 124
7  Krypton Factor (BHR)
Golden Shaheen
8  Musir (SAF)
Maktoum Challenge R1
   Colour Vision (GB)
Sagaro Stakes 122
   The Factor (US)
Triple Bend Hcap 122


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