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誰もが泣いていた。

Japancup09 by Deliberation
ジャパンカップ2009-観戦記-
エイシンデピュティから先頭を奪ったアサクサキングスから、リーチザクラウンがハナを奪う形でレースは進んだ。前後半の1200mが共に71秒2という、ジャストが付く平均ペースで流れ、展開による有利不利のほとんどない、各馬が実力を出し切ったフェアなレースとなった。先行して抜け出したウオッカも強ければ、後方から追い込んだオウケンブルースリも強い。

ウオッカはスムーズにスタートを切り、ゴチャつきやすいジャパンカップの第1コーナーを無事に乗り切った。道中は折り合い良く進み、追い出しをギリギリまで我慢して、ラストの一瞬の脚で抜け出した。ゴール前は止まっていたが、オウケンブルースリの追撃をハナ差だけ凌いだところがゴールであった。最大の勝因はウオッカ自身の体調の良さだろう。毎日王冠、天皇賞秋とは比べ物にならないほど、最高の仕上がりにあった。昨年の敗北を糧にして、今年はジャパンカップをピークになるように仕上げてきた陣営の手腕には恐れ入る。

牝馬のジャパンカップ制覇は、あのホーリックス以来、20年ぶりの快挙となる。日本馬としては初めてであり、これで名実共に日本競馬史上、最強牝馬の座を確たるものにした。ウオッカの凄さを挙げればキリがないが、ひと言で言い表すとすれば、強さを持続することの強さであろう。2歳時に阪神ジュべナイルFを制してから、3年間にわたって古馬や牡馬、そして世界の強豪たちと極限の戦いを続けてきたのである。ただ強いだけでも、その一瞬だけ強いでもない、常にトップレベルでの強さを持続していることがウオッカの強さである。

ルメール騎手はテン乗りにもかかわらず、ウオッカの力を最大限に引き出した。脚を溜めながら先行する技術はさすがで、仕掛けどころも文句なし。あっと言う間に後続との差を拡げ、ちょうどスタミナが尽きたところがゴール板前であった。武豊騎手の名誉のためにも言っておくと、彼が前走の天皇賞秋でゆっくり走るリズムを覚えさせたからこそ、さらに距離が伸びた今回のジャパンカップを克服することが出来た。また、競馬に飽きてきていたウオッカにとっては、ジョッキーが乗り慣れた武豊騎手からルメール騎手に替わったことも、良い刺激となったのではないだろうか。

ハナ差で惜しくも敗れてしまったオウケンブルースリも、最後は1頭だけ凄い脚で突っ込んできた。昨年時に比べると、夏の休養を挟んで、トモが強くなってきている。成長の余地を残しているだけに、もっとパンとしてくれば、スムーズに前に行けて、なおかつ今回のような強烈な脚を使えるようになるだろう。4コーナー手前で僅かに不利もあった。内田博幸騎手は悔しくて眠れないに違いない。走りたかったポジションを取れなかったが、最後の直線での鬼気迫る追いっぷりは、さすがリーディングジョッキーであった。

レッドディザイアは四位騎手のエスコートに導かれ3着と大健闘した。最もロスなく乗られて、力を出し切っての結果だけに、今回は上位2頭が強かった。秋華賞で極限の状態に仕上げられたレッドディザイアの体調を考慮して、エリザベス女王杯をスキップした陣営の選択は正しかった。5着に入ったエアシェイディは、高齢馬ながらよく走っている。内が開かず、前が詰まったのは誤算だったが、最後まで良く伸びた。後藤浩輝騎手としては、もう少し前の位置取りを取りたかったのだろうが、馬がズブくなっていて行けなかった。

BCターフ馬のコンデュイットは、外枠のロスや中2週のローテーションをはねのけて、2分22秒台で走っているのだから本当に強い。ジャパンカップに照準を合わせて狙ってきていたら、おそらくこの馬に勝たれていただろう。ダカラニ×サドラーズウェルズという重厚な血統だが、軽さと瞬発力を兼備していることが証明された。これからは日本の地にその血を伝えていって欲しい。

それにしても、今年のジャパンカップは国際色豊かなレースであった。英リーディングジョッキーのR・ムーア騎手をはじめ、フランスのルメール騎手、スミヨン騎手、米リーディング2位のルパルー騎手、そしてM・スタウト調教師にドライスディール調教師と、世界のホースマンが一堂に会した。ジャパンカップというレースの格式を感じさせるには十分であったが、そんな中でBCターフ2連覇馬を尻目に日本馬がワンツーしたことが今後どう出るのだろうか。海外からの強い馬の参戦があってこそのジャパンカップでもあるから。

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