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集中連載:「調教のすべて」第20回

■限界まで仕上げられたサラブレッドの激走
ただし、厳しい調教を課されて極限に仕上げられた馬が、己の能力の限界を超えて120%の力を出してしまうことも確かにある。目の前のレースに照準を絞り、考えうる限りの強い追い切りをかけられた馬が、あっと驚く激走をするところを幾度となく私は見てきているのだ。だからこそ、私はこう考える。

「サラブレッドは鍛えれば(少しばかりは)強くなるし、ギリギリに仕上げると(少しばかりは)速く走ることができる」

あくまでも(少しばかりは)という括弧付きではあるが、その(少しばかり)が勝負の行方を左右するのも事実である。サラブレッドの競走は0,1秒を争うものであり、わずか鼻の差でレースの勝敗が分かれてしまうことは少なくない。相手よりも鼻の差だけでも前に出ることができれば、勝負に勝つことができる。そのわずかな差を埋めるために、(少しばかり)速く走ることが必要になるのである。

同じサラブレッドが80%に仕上げられた時と、100%に仕上げられた時で、一緒に走ったと仮定すると、間違いなく100%に仕上げられた時の方が勝利を収める。最後のひと踏ん張りが違ってくるからだ。これまで、限界まで仕上げられたサラブレッドの激走を数多く見てきた経験からも、このことは自信を持って言える。

たとえば、これは皮肉にも藤澤和雄調教師のケースであるが、平成11年のNHKマイルカップを勝った時のシンボリインディはギリギリの仕上げであった。いつもならばゴール前も馬なりのままフィニッシュする藤澤流だが、このレース前の最終追い切りに限っては、シンボリインディをゴール前強めに追い切ったのだ。当日の体つきを見て、もうひと絞り必要だと考えたのかもしれない。それでも、当日のマイナス12kgの馬体重は、藤澤調教師の思惑に反して仕上がり過ぎてしまったはずである。100%に仕上げられたシンボリインディは、己の能力を極限まで出し切って、シンボリ牧場に14年ぶりとなるタイトルをもたらした。

Tyoukyou27 by sashiko

しかし、100%に仕上げられた馬は、肉体的にも精神的にも大きな反動に襲われる。その後のシンボリインディは14着、9着、9着、5着、10着、5着と、G1ホースとはとても思えない惨敗を繰り返した。そのレースが最後であれば、それでいいかもしれないが、ほとんどのサラブレッドの競走は1回で終わるわけではなく、その後も続いてゆくものだ。目先の勝ちだけを追って、馬の成長や将来を考えない調教は、長い目でみるとマイナスの効果しか生まない。

藤沢調教師は、誰よりもそのことを身に染みて分かっている。だからこそ、たとえ仕上げてしまえば勝てるかもしれないレースであっても、ギリギリの仕上げを施すことなく、余裕を持たせて出走させる。我慢をすることができるのだ。だからこそ、藤沢調教師の管理馬は、故障が極端に少なく、高齢までコンスタントに走り続ける馬が多い。

■目に見えない部分
馬は鍛えることで強くなるのかという問いに対して、トップトレーナーたちそれぞれの考え方を紹介してきたが、いずれにせよサラブレッドの調教は「質×量」であるということに落ち着くのではないだろうか。サラブレッドがアスリートである以上、本番で能力を最大限に発揮できるような状態に持っていくことが調教の目的であり、調教師の仕事である。その持っていき方(仕上げ方)に、調教師の思想や技術、ひいては個性が表れていくのである。

実は藤沢調教師や角居調教師の馬は、たとえばグリーンウッドや山元トレセンなどの育成牧場(施設)で乗り込まれて来ているからこそ、それほど速い時計を出さなくても仕上がるという事情もある。調教師一人あたりの馬房数に制限がある現在の制度上では、1頭の馬をずっと厩舎に置いておくのではなく、当面レースに使う予定のない馬はすぐに短期放牧に出し、レース直前に入厩させることによって、馬房の回転数を良くしていくことが厩舎の好成績につながるのだ。こうして育成牧場を効率的に使っている厩舎の馬には、短期放牧先でもしっかり乗り込まれてきているからこそ、レース前に強い追い切りをかける必要はないということである。

また、追い切り以外の引き運動や常歩運動などの運動をどれだけしっかりと行っているかに関しても、数字としては表に出てこない、目に見えない部分である。だからこそ、藤沢調教師や角居調教師の調教は楽で、戸山調教師や白井調教師の調教が厳しいとは一概には言えないのである。運動量という意味においては、もしかすると藤沢調教師や角居調教師の調教の方が馬にとってはハードなのかもしれない。

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