2024 Yushun Himba: Group 1 Race Review

Venue: Tokyo
Distance: 2400m
Value: ¥325,000,000 (about US$2.3million)

‘Team Equinox’ of jockey Christophe Lemaire and trainer Tetsuya Kimura have found a new superstar in the form of Yushun Himba winner Cervinia.

The all-conquering Equinox is a hard act to follow but Cervinia’s staying performance suggested the filly will be a contender in Japan’s big races and around the world.

An emotional Lemaire pointed to the sky after the race in tribute to fallen former rival Kota Fujioka, who died after a race fall at Hanshin last month.

It was Lemaire’s first Group 1 since returning from a shoulder injury suffered on Dubai World Cup night and came after finishing second in the NHK Mile Cup on Ascoli Piceno and then in the Victoria Mile on Fierce Pride.

Aggressive tactics from the start from Yasunari Iwata on 215-1 chance Shonan Mauela and then Hiroshi Kitamura, who ran along at a ridiculous clip on 184-1 shot Windstille, meant the race was dragged along at an unsustainable speed.

The leading chances settled behind midfield, although Mirco Demuro found himself in an awkward spot in front of the main group, racing third, on Tegano Elpida.

The jockeys of the two leading chances in betting charted different paths from the top of the Tokyo straight. Keita Tosaki stayed on the inside on favourite Stellenbosch and Lemaire went looking for clear air to the outside on the second favourite Cervinia.

Both had their chance but perhaps Cervinia had more momentum and probably proved to be the better stayer regardless, turning around her unplaced effort behind Stellenbosch in the Oka Sho, when she was four wide, no cover under hard riding throughout for Bauyrzhan Murzabayev.

2024 Yushun Himba: Race Replay

CERVINIA / G1 Yushun Himba // Tokyo /// 2024 //// Video by JRA


Imported stallion Harbinger has slowly slipped down the ranks, painted as unfashionable by breeders and is perhaps unfairly overlooked on the all-star roster at Shadai Stallion Station.

Cervinia comes from his smallest crop to hit the track so far but is bred for the distance, out of the 2016 Oaks runner-up Cecchino. 

The Statistic

It was Lemaire’s 51st JRA Group 1 and fourth Yushun Himba win after victories on Soul Stirring (2017), Almond Eye (2018) and Stars on Earth (2022). That is the most of any active jockey. 

CHRISTOPHE LEMAIRE, CERVINIA / G1 Yushun Himba // Tokyo /// 2024 //// Photo by Shuhei Okada

What They Said

Christophe Lemaire: “I’m back. It’s a wonderful feeling. The filly didn’t do well in the Oka Sho but I know how high her potential is and was very confident today. I tried not to let her make an early bid—let her find her stride after turning into the straight—and she just stretched beautifully from there.”

Michael Cox is Editor of Idol Horse. A sports journalist with 19 years experience, Michael has a family background in harness racing in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region of Australia. Best known for writing on Hong Kong racing, Michael’s previous publications include South China Morning Post, The Age, Sun Herald, Australian Associated Press, Asian Racing Report and Illawarra Mercury.

View all articles by Michael Cox.

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