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ダービーを勝たせるために生まれてきた

Derby2014 by M.H
ダービー2014-観戦記-
エキマエが先頭に立ち、前半1000mが59秒6という引き締まった流れをつくり出した。2番手以下の集団もおよそ平均ペースで流れており、馬群が凝縮して、わずかの隙間もなく、ヨーロッパ競馬のようなタイトな競馬となった。どのジョッキーも道中のロスを最小限に抑えたい、少しでも上の着順に持ってきたいという強い意志を持って騎乗していることが、手に取るように伝わってくる素晴らしいレースであった。今年は力の抜けた馬がおらず、枠順やポジションの差で勝敗が分かれたように、運の良い馬が勝つという言葉を体現したようなダービーであった。

勝ったワンアンドオンリーは、内枠を引いたことが勝利に結びついた。内枠を引いたからこそ、横山典弘騎手もスタートから迷うことなく馬を出してゆく選択をすることができ、道中は引っ掛かりながらも馬を周りに置いて我慢させることができた。外枠を引いて、いつものように中団より後ろから行っていたら、届いていなかったかもしれない。「格好悪い競馬だった」と横山騎手自身も語るように、人馬共に苦しみながらの勝利であったが、ダービーを勝つということはそういうことなのだろう。1着でゴールインしたのち、左前を行く蛯名正義騎手の姿を見て、横山騎手の胸の内にどういった感情が去来したのだろうか。それは単なるダービーを勝った喜び以上の、ベテランジョッキーにしか知りえない、もっと深い何かであった気がする。

それにしても、ワンアンドオンリーに究極の仕上げが施されていたことは間違いない。本来、トモがそれほど強くない(未完成な)馬であったが、ここに来てグンと成長したことを含め、肉体的にも精神的にも前のポジションで競馬ができるよう目一杯に仕上げられていた。橋口弘次郎調教師がダービーを勝ちにきて、勝つべくして勝ったダービーであったと言える。あのダンスインザダークの屈辱を18年後にようやく晴らした橋口調教師の意地と矜持に、最大の拍手を送りたい。新馬戦の凡走からここまでの過程を振り返ると、ワンアンドオンリーはまさに橋口調教師にダービーを勝たせるために生まれてきたような馬に思えてならない。一方で、究極に仕上げられて勝ったダービー馬は、秋以降が鬼門となることも示唆しておきたい。

イスラボニータは負けて強しの競馬であった。勝たなければ意味がないのがダービーかもしれないが、それ以上に、競走馬としての資質の高さを見せつけてくれたレースであった。スタートで他馬と接触したことがきっかけとなり、馬がエキサイトしてしまい、道中ではハミを噛む時間が長かった。それでも最後の直線では、1頭持ったままで先頭に踊り出たように、スピードとスタミナの絶対値が高い。今回はレースの綾が絡み合い、より適性の高い、より仕上がった馬に負けてしまったが、見る人が見ればこの馬の強さは分かるはず。未完成な馬体でここまで走るのだから、もしかすると、総合的な能力の高さという点では父フジキセキを超えているかもしれない。蛯名騎手の「枠順の差(枠順が逆だったら)」というコメントは心の叫びだろう。

マイネルフロストは枠なりで競馬をして好結果に結びついた。松岡正海騎手らしい、絶妙な騎乗であった。対して、2番人気のトゥザワールドは、せっかくの好枠を引いたにもかかわらず、最初から外に出そうと決めていたようだ。跳びが大きく、これまでも外を回って勝ってきた馬だが、さすがにあのポジションでは5着が精いっぱい。馬群の内に入れない気性的な問題があるのか、もしないのであれば、マイネルフロストが走ったポジションを走っていれば3着はあったはず。唯一の牝馬であったレッドリヴェールは見せ場なしの大敗を喫してしまった。休み明けの桜花賞とは打って変って体調が悪く、ステイゴールド産駒の牝馬の仕上げの難しさがここにある。ト-センスターダムは積極的に2番手を追走し、良い形で直線に向いたが、苦しがって内ラチに激突してしまった。同馬にとっては距離が長いことに加え、仕上がりも不十分であったことが原因か。

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