Ushba Tesoro win at Dubai World Cup adds new chapter to Japan success story in Gulf

Victory at Meydan comes hot on heels of Saudi Cup triumph

Yuga Kawada guides Ushba Tesoro to victory at the Dubai World Cup, at Meydan Racecourse, on March 25, 2023. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Japan’s emergence in the Gulf as a racing powerhouse continues after they added the $12 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan to last month’s triumph in the $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh.

That double-success underlined Japan’s status on the international racing circuit, particularly in a region expected to spread across Qatar and Bahrain and help establish a lucrative Gulf swing.

In 2022, Japan scooped four of the eight thoroughbred prizes on the Dubai World Cup night and Chuwa Wizard finished a creditable third behind the American pair Country Grammer and Hot Rod Charlie.

The Japanese runners achieved a similar result in the Saudi Cup meeting that year. They scooped four prizes and their horses filled the second and third spots in the Saudi Derby.

This time round at Meydan on Saturday, the Japanese runners filled more than half the field – eight of the 15 contenders – in the Dubai World Cup, and it played into their strength.

Ushba Tesoro under Yuga Kawada came from last to first to win from Algiers and Emblem Road to cap a memorable night for Japan.

The six-year-old son of the Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre, Ushba Tesoro had more than 15 lengths to make up in the early stage of the 2,000-metre race on Meydan’s dirt surface.

James Doyle and Algiers appeared to have the race in the bag when Kawada and Ushba Tesoro surged into the lead in spectacular fashion to win by a comfortable two and three quarter lengths.

Winning trainer Noboru Takagi said the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the one race Japan has yet to conquer and the one it covets most, will come under consideration later in the year.

“It's a great feeling! After watching his previous run [when winning the Kawasaki Kinen last month], the Dubai World Cup was certainly on my mind for this horse,” Takagi said.

“Everything went as planned. Actually, when he first got here, he was quite nervous and a bit toey but that was expected and as the days went by he gradually got used to his environment and ran a great race. This is by far the greatest honour of my career.

“We will go back to Japan as he's a bit vulnerable in hot weather and heat. We'll see how he is over the summer and come up with a plan for him.”

Kawada was on Ushba Tesoro for the first time and admitted it was a tremendous honour to ride him.

“Thanks to the effort of the horse he fought on very well and I'm very proud of myself as the leading Japanese jockey by winning the leading race in the world today,” he said.

Japanese runners T O Keynes and Crown Pride finished fourth and fifth, ahead of local horse Bendoog and last year’s winner Country Grammer.

Last month’s Saudi Cup winner Panthalassa couldn’t do more than finish 10th after being drawn in the widest gate.

The connections of Algiers were graceful in defeat with Doyle saying he was delighted the way the horse ran.

“It was a first opportunity to run at this top level and he has acquitted himself magnificently,” he said.

“He travelled around like a superstar and it has been a lot from the top bend to the winning line, but his stamina just kind of drained at the end.”

Co-trainer Ed Crisford added: “He ran with great credit. James gave him a beautiful ride. He jumped well and turning in I thought we had it in the bag, but the last furlong he was just treading water a bit.

“Probably just got outstayed with the tempo of the race, but huge credit to the horse and my team at home and we should be proud. He ran his race there if not better.”

Updated: March 26, 2023, 11:59 AM