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Vodka noses out Oken Bruce Lee in Japan Cup

In what will likely be the final race of her career, Vodka (JPN) held on by a sliver of her nostril to edge out Oken Bruce Lee (JPN) to win the 2009 G1-Japan Cup, the world's richest grass race. Vodka stalked a mild pace for much of the early going and then powered into the lead in the middle of the stretch only to see Oken Bruce Lee put forth a serious charge in deep stretch. The Place horse was wiping out Vodka's lead with every stride but needed at least one more jump to get by Japan's 2008 Horse of the Year.

Something that has always struck me as odd is the fact that when you watch international racing you never are given any fractional splits so we never really have any clue as to the pace of the race. Post race usually isn't much better as other countries tend to not produce the kind of detailed results charts that we see in the North America. The official site of Japanese Racing (link), however, did provide a pretty nice breakdown of the pace and internal splits which I've condensed into the table below.

¼

½

¾

Mile

1 ¼

Final

23.2

24.0

24.0

24.1

23.4

23.7

23.2

47.2

1:11.2

1:35.3

1:58.7

2:22.4

The first thing that stands out to me in that chart is the time at the 1 ¼ mark, 1:58.7. The pace, which was fairly strong in the early going but not insane, really picked up at the mile marker. I don't know what Vodka's internal splits were, but considering she was stalking the leaders towards the mile marker and had broken a couple lengths free of the pack by the time they were in the final furlong, it's not a stretch to estimate that she might have run that fifth quarter in sub :23.0. Whatever the actual number is the fact remains is that Vodka came home very quickly and is certainly worthy of Group 1 glory.

Two-time Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Conduit (IRE), finished what can only be described as a disappointing fourth. Rated well back for most of the race he didn't have nearly the closing kick needed to get to the top two and never was a serious threat to win at any point. The three American horses in the race, Just as Well, Intrepatation, and Marsh Side, finished 7th, 14th and 17th, respectively.