Jodie finishes 4th in Belmont Oaks; Master Fencer finishes 13th in Belmont Derby
Horse Racing in Japan：
Master Fencer’s valiant American swing came to a rather unspectacular end with a 13th-place finish in the $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on Saturday, when unheralded Jodie did Japanese racing proud by coming in fourth in the $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational.
Master Fencer had turned heads this spring by finishing sixth and fifth in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, respectively, with Julien Leparoux in the saddle as the colt took a shot at the American Triple Crown. But returning to the turf on Saturday – a surface he has never won on in Japan – the son of triple Grade 1 champion Just a Way passed the post second to last among 14 runners.
The glory in the 70th running of the Belmont Derby – the first leg of the Turf Trinity – belonged to Henley’s Joy who cut a winning time of 1 minute, 58.29 seconds over 2,000 meters on firm grass at Belmont Park. The Michael Maker-trained long-shot at odds of 20 to 1 took home a prize of $535,000, over Social Paranoia.
Despite the result, Koichi Tsunoda, the trainer for Master Fencer, was anything but down after the race.
“He traveled well in a position we were happy with, considering how fast the pace was,” Tsunoda said. “I thought this whole trip was very meaningful to us because until you actually go out and do something, there’s no way of knowing what you can and can’t achieve.”
“Fortunately, we have an owner who has the guts and courage to take chances and thanks to his decision, we experienced a lot and learned a great deal from our time here. But above all, we’re glad our horse got through it all in one piece.”
With Suguru Hamanaka replacing Leparoux, Master Fencer – the first Japanese bred to run in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes – tried to take the race early to a field that saw He’s No Lemon scratched and Demarchelier pull up midway through.
But clearly not the same as he is on dirt where he flashes a devastating closing rush, Master Fencer was effectively out of contention and tired with two, three furlongs to go. Hamanaka, however, echoed the sentiments of the horse’s trainer, saying Master Fencer’s tour through the United States was more than about trying to win in a country where the Japanese contingent has not had the kind of success its had in other parts of the world.
“Speaking to the trainer he wanted me to push him towards the front so I did. There wasn’t much pressure from elsewhere and managed to get a much better position than I anticipated,” Hamanaka said of Master Fencer, out of Sexy Zamurai, by Deputy Minister.
“He’s not the quickest to respond and tends to fall behind around the final bend so I wanted to make my move early, but we just couldn’t stay when the pace started picking up.”
“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the owner, trainer and everyone else involved for this incredible experience – most of all Master Fencer himself, who I can’t thank enough for his effort.”
On the same terms as the Belmont Derby Invitational, Jodie raised a lot of eyebrows in the Belmont Oaks Invitational, throwing down the gauntlet for what could be an intriguing autumn campaign for the Daiwa Major daughter. The Hirofumi Toda-trained filly went off as the eighth betting favorite in a small party of nine, with third-year jockey Miyabi Muto handling the rein.
Though only 21, Muto showed poise and purpose aboard Jodie, coaxing his partner out of the gate and setting the pace for most of the race. It wasn’t until Jodie came under pressure from Concrete Rose, the second favorite overall, midway through the final straight that she conceded the lead and crossing the line a respectable fourth, less than five lengths out of first.
Concrete Rose’s jockey Leparoux felt Jodie played a part in changing the complexion of the race, which was expected to be dictated by top pick Newspaperofrecord before the race.
"I thought (trainer Chad Brown’s) horse (Newspaperofrecord) would be on the lead unless they came for her, but I guess today they tried something new and took her back a little bit," Leparoux said.
"The Japanese horse wanted to go, so I was happy to be second and my filly relaxed beautiful for me the whole race. I knew at the quarter pole, I had a lot left. She made a big run at the end. It was nice."
Toda, naturally, gushed with praise for Jodie after her performance, which somewhat came out of the blue. Jodie has yet to win a graded race in Japan – she had two wins from nine starts, both by Muto – and in her most recent start, was coming off a 14th-place finish in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks).
“Looking back at it overall, she ran a heck of a race,” Toda said. “I thought she was very convincing. This trip is one we can build on going forward because it turned out to be a terrific experience for both the jockey and horse.”
“We found out she can hold her own up to 2,000 meters, won’t embarrass herself out there which now gives us a lot of options looking ahead.”
Muto, one of the most promising riders in the Japan Racing Association, said Jodie had been adjusting well to Belmont Park ever since her arrival on June 29.
“Probably the most important factor was that she acclimatized to the conditions here very well,” Muto said. “I also had the fortune of being part of an excellent team who offered more support than I could ever have asked for.”
“(Jodie) got off to a clean start and I thought she traveled really well. She began pushing herself from the next to last turn but the winner had us marked and got us in the end, which was a shame.”
Concrete Rose, trained by George Arnold II, held on for victory in 1:59.97 by almost three lengths ahead of Just Wonderful to collect the $400,000 winner’s check.