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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Nicholas Godfrey, Thoroughbred Racing Commentary — Equinox showed precisely why he is the world’s #1 racehorse with a commanding performance in the 43rd edition of his nation’s greatest race, the Japan Cup, on Sunday [Nov 26] at Tokyo racecourse.

In recording a four-length victory (value for more) over fillies’ Triple Crown winner Liberty Island in the ¥1.085bn yen ($7.25m/£5.8m) contest, the Japanese superstar recorded a TRC Computer Race Rating of 135 – the highest of his career, and the equal of the best achieved by Winx and Baaeed.

Indeed, only Frankel (142) and Flightline (141) have ever achieved higher single-race performance ratings (see table below).

Equinox stands alone at the top of Thoroughbred Racing Commentary’s exclusive Global Rankings, having improved his index by 208pts to reach a figure of 2413 – nearly 400pts ahead of Elite Power, who claims second place overall on 2019.

Such a sizeable advantage is indicative of the manner in which the four-year-old son of Japanese Derby winner Kitasan Black has dominated the world stage in 2023 with a string of authoritative displays.

Trained by Tetsuya Kimura for owners Silk Racing, Equinox is the 23rd individual horse to reach the #1 spot since we started compiling racehorse rankings in 2014. His G1 winning streak now counts six, and he has topped the rankings for 36 weeks since his brilliant victory in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March. Winx (176), American Pharoah (40), Almond Eye (40) and Enable (36) are the only horses to have spent same time at the head of affairs.

Much was expected of Equinox in front of an official crowd of 85,866 at Fuchu and the four-year-old certainly did not let anybody down as he completely overwhelmed an 18-runner Japan Cup field featuring no fewer than seven fellow G1 winners.

World leader: Equinox (Christophe Lemaire) strolls home unchallenged for his sixth consecutive G1 win in the Japan Cup. Photo: Japan Racing AssociationWorld leader: Equinox (Christophe Lemaire) strolls home unchallenged for his sixth consecutive G1 win in the Japan Cup. Photo: Japan Racing AssociationAs is his wont, Saudi Cup winner Panthalassa (retired after the race) went off at a fierce pace, establishing an 18-length lead by halfway and covering the first 1,000 metres in a 57.6s. Multiple G1 winner Titleholder raced in second, a couple of lengths ahead of Equinox and five-time Japanese champ Christophe Lemaire.

Panthalassa still led the way turning for home but he was to pay for his exertions as Equinox cruised up to him, hitting the front about 300 metres out in front of the colossal Fuji View grandstand.

The race was all but done at that stage, with Equinox plainly a cut above his toiling rivals. Without any semblance of pressure from Lemaire, he strolled home well clear, justifying odds-on favouritism in comprehensive style.

Liberty Island won the race for second, with Classic winners Stars On Earth and Do Deuce – who beat Equinox by a neck in last year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) – claiming third and fourth.

“Today I felt very privileged to be on the back of a fantastic horse,” said Lemaire. “He’s the number one horse in the world and today we just saw a beauty on the track. I hope everywhere, everybody enjoyed it and we remember this race for a very, very long time.”

The jockey added: “I thought it would be difficult to match Almond Eye when she retired, but Equinox is special. I’m not sure where he’s heading, but he keeps maturing and I just don’t know how good he could be.

“He is literally a superhorse – he gave me so much confidence as a jockey. He is so easy to ride and calm; it’s almost like a pony. Anyone can ride him.”

Back home: Equinox in his stable after his Japan Cup triumph. Photo: netkeiba.comBack home: Equinox in his stable after his Japan Cup triumph. Photo: netkeiba.comEquinox has won eight of ten career starts, finishing second in the other two. Taking into account the $3m bonus he won on Sunday for having won the Japan Cup after winning the Sheema Classic, he is the first horse ever to exceed ¥2bn yen in earnings. Prize-money earnings of just over £14m is second only to Winx on the world all-time list.

What the future holds is unclear, with connections suggesting he will have a short break, which seems to rule out defending his crown in the Arima Kinen, the end-of-season grand prix at Nakayama.

As such, Dubai may well be a tempting proposition once more as a five-year-old – unless he is retired to stud, although European-based pundits are already licking their lips at the prospect of a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as a five-year-old.

• TRC Global Rankings combine all a horse’s TRC Computer Race Ratings into one figure which reflects the level of its merit, our uncertainty around its best performances, and the consistency and longevity of its career. These are the numbers which appear in our rankings tables.

The rankings were first produced in January, 2014. But for a few exceptions, only horses who have run within 100 days qualify for a ranking, so Frankel, for one, never appeared in the rankings as his career pre-dated our era.

A total of 55 horses have achieved a ranking index in excess of 2000 points. Three of these were trained in Japan. Equinox was already above Triple Crown winner Contrail, but his Japan Cup win earns him an index above Almond Eye. We now consider him the best horse trained there since our rankings began. The Top 20 ranking indices are listed in the table.

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