Dubai: 2011 will go down in the history of the Dubai World Cup as possibly one of the most emotional years. Japan, one of the world’s great racing jurisdictions, had been fielding Dubai World Cup contenders since the race’s inception in 1996, but was yet to score a winner. They came closest maybe in 2001 with To The Victory’s second place, but other than that did not have much to show.
The preparations for the world’s richest race were set against a backdrop of the devastating March 11 earthquake, which triggered the tsunami killing more than 15,000 people. The Japanese contingent in Dubai wore black polo shirts all week with the word “hope” emblazoned on the sleeve and the date of the tsunami on the back.
Despite the upheaval in their home country, Japan still fielded three runners in the Dubai World Cup - Victoire Pisa, Transcend and Buena Vista. Victoire Pisa was Japan’s top three-year-old in 2010, yet it was his jockey, Mirco Demuro who was to be instrumental in getting the best out of him.
Demuro restrained the colt in last place before moving up to join the leaders half a mile from the finish of a slowly run race. He took the lead in the straight and held off the challenge of his fellow Japanese challenger Transcend by half a length with Monterosso in third and Cape Blanco in fourth.
The parade ring erupted as Katsuhiko Sumii’s galloper crossed the line, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai was not left out of the celebrations, receiving a tearful bear hug from Manami Ichikawa, the daughter of Victoire Pisa’s owner, Yoshimi Ichikawa.
Victoire Pisa became the first Japanese-trained horse to win the world’s richest race. Demuro returned to the winner’s enclosure in tears, while trainer Katsuhiko Sumii said that he felt that “the whole country was behind me”.
Victoire Pisa returned to Japan at the end of the year but was unable to reproduce his early season form. He finished thirteenth behind Buena Vista in the Japan Cup and eighth behind Orfevre in the Arima Kinen. He was retired from racing at the end of December.
Victoire Pisa was next sent off to Europe again but did not contest any races after sustaining a series of leg injuries. Sumii commented on the colt’s retirement by saying that “I feel I should apologise to him because I couldn’t get him back to his best but at least I am happy that I can send him to the stud without any further accidents”.
Victoire Pisa was named Japanese Champion Older Male for 2011. Shortly, he was retired from racing to become a breeding stallion at the Shadai Stallion Station.