Epiphaneia stormed to a shock victory in the Japan Cup on Sunday, stunning a quality field in front of a crowd of more than 100,000 in Tokyo.
The four-year-old colt, ridden by Belgian Christophe Soumillon, finished four lengths clear of Just A Way, rated as one of the world’s best racehorses, with Emperor’s Prize winner Spielberg third a nose further back.
Favourite Gentildonna trailed home in fourth in a failed bid for a hat-trick of victories in Japan’s richest race, worth $2.1 million.
“I wasn’t confident,” Soumillon told reporters after covering the 2,400-metre race in a winning time of two minutes, 23.1 seconds.
“The horse was sweating and nervous before the start. I was told to aim for sixth or seventh but didn’t see how I could even achieve that. With all the people screaming in the crowd before the race I nearly fell off.
“I also had trouble slowing him down in the turns,” added Soumillon, who crossed the line first in the 2010 Japan Cup on Buena Vista, only to be demoted to second after a stewards’ inquiry for careless riding.
“But he started to lengthen his strides in the home straight. I was amazed. It’s one of the greatest performances of my career.”
Epiphaneia’s remarkable triumph gave trainer Katsuhiko Sumii a first Japan Cup title since famed filly Vodka caused a stir by winning the prestigious race in 2009.