'I'm back' - Cervinia hits Classic heights for Christophe Lemaire and sire Harbinger

Sunday's Japanese Oaks (Yushun Himba) was held in Tokyo

Cervinia and Christophe Lemaire timed it just right in Sunday's Japanese Oaks

Christophe Lemaire returned for more Classic success aboard second favourite Cervinia in Sunday's Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) in Tokyo.

The master French rider, who is based permanently in Japan, only returned to action earlier this month after being taken to hospital from a fall on Dubai World Cup night.

He missed a ride on Cervinia in the Japanese 1,000 Guineas (Oka Sho), in which Cervinia was disappointing, but she was ideally positioned wide and in the rear of a high-tempo race set by longshot Windstille.

Favourite and Oka Sho winner Stellenbosch emerged on the inside to lead at the final furlong but was pipped in the last strides by a half of a length as Cervinia got rolling.

The filly is a seventh Group 1 winner for the brilliant King George winner Harbinger, who is based at Shadai Stallion Station and had provided previous placed runners in the race, Namur and Mozu Katchan. Cervinia is out of King Kamehameha's Japanese Group 2-winning mare Cecchino and marked her third win from five career starts, including one juvenile Grade 3, for owner Sunday Racing, trainer Tetsuya Kimura and breeder Northern Farm.

Christophe Lemaire was grateful to be back in action
Christophe Lemaire was grateful to be back in actionCredit: Masakazu Takahashi

She had missed the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies last December due to lameness and had to rest for five months before the Oka Sho, finishing 13th.

"I’m back," Lemaire said. "It’s a wonderful feeling. The filly didn’t do well in the Oka Sho but I know how high her potential is and was very confident today. I tried not to let her make an early bid, let her find her stride after turning into the straight, and she just stretched beautifully from there.

"I wanted to hold out until the home turn. In the straight, she stretched out with great strides and showed us the true Cervinia."

Lemaire added his gratitude to his wife Barbara. "She gave me great support when I fell down in Dubai," he said. "Thanks to her, I was able to ride in good spirits. You have been by my side during my difficult times. I love you."

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