Cheers! Vodka perfect tonic for Sumii
A year and a week after her historic Japanese Derby win, the brilliant filly Vodka was another to frank the form of the Dubai Duty Free as she turned it on again to spreadeagle yesterday's Yasuda Kinen field and add one more mighty strike to the record of her young trainer Katsuhiko Sumii.
Sumii, who has risen comet-like to Japan's A-list trainers in recent years with top grade victories both home and overseas with the likes of Delta Blues, Pop Rock, Cesario and Hat Trick, bounced Vodka back from disappointment on her return from Dubai to record one of the most impressive wins in the Yasuda Kinen's history.
Vodka was the first female in over 60 years to win Japan's Derby last year, but had not won since in a handful of starts, and some were doubting her willingness to be part of racing after defeat at short odds against her own sex after running fourth in Dubai.
'Since the Derby win, she has not had any big problem but there have been some things niggling and holding her back,' Sumii said.
'She did recover fairly quickly after Dubai but I did think she would be at her best today. She was very fit, my job was just to keep condition on her.' The Duty Free has turned out to be an outstanding form race, with the winner, Jay Peg, scoring again in the Singapore International Airlines Cup, third-placed Archipenko winning the QE II at Sha Tin and now Vodka's hollow vctory by 31/2 lengths in what is usually a highly competitive race.
Key to the win may have been Sumii's late engagement of Melbourne Cup winning jockey Yasunari Iwata to replace Yutaka Take, and Iwata had her much closer in running than had previously been her style.
The big Fuchu crowd howled in surprise in the first 200m as Kongo Rikishio took up the running as expected over Armada but Vodka was right there on the speed with them before easing in behind Armada when her pattern previously has been to race right back in the field.
But when Iwata let her go, her turn of foot was awesome and the race became a chase in a twinkling.
'Take was already booked and I was lucky to get Mr Iwata but there was no deliberate change of tactics - I actually asked the jockey before the race if he would put her closer to the front and he said 'no, if I try to do that she might run right through the bridle',' Sumii said.
'So I was surprised too, but he said she began so well that he didn't have to push her to be closer and she still settled very well.'
Sumii would not discuss future plans and whether they might include Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific international showpiece in December.
'She won't run in the immediate future but we didn't really discuss what will happen later,' he said. 'We will keep her quiet through the summer and work out what we can do in the autumn. There may be other targets overseas and I would also like to think about taking her back to 2,000m.'