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Royal Ascot: Equinox profile

On the back of a sensational performance in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in the spring, Japanese sensation Equinox is being hailed as the world's top middle distance performer.

The remainder of his campaign remains to be decided, but hopes are high that he'll be making the trip to Europe in the coming months to strut his stuff.

Rising star of Japanese racing

Trainer Tetsuya Kimura has overseen the ascent of Equinox to the pinnacle of the game in six starts.

He debuted in Tokyo back in November 2021 and made no mistake in the hands of Christophe Lemaire as they won the Grade 2 Hai Stakes over nine-furlongs.

A four-race season of excellence in 2022 helped catapult Equinox right into the limelight.

It commenced at Nakayama in April as the three-year-old opened with a close second in the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho over a mile-and-a-quarter as stablemate Geoglyph took out the prize.

A month later and legendary pilot Yutaka Take had his measure as Equinox was second in the Tokyo Yushun - the Japanese Derby - behind the Yasuo Tomomichi-trained Do Deuce.

Taking over at the top

After a few months off, Equinox returned in the Tenno Sho back in Tokyo in late October.

He started 8/5 favourite for the Grade 1 contest and Lemaire got him up in the final strides to deny Panthalassa and Danon Beluga in a pulsating finish.

One of the biggest and most prestigious of Japan's domestic races was next, the famous Arima Kinen at Nakayama racecourse on Christmas Day.

Once more the strong favourite at 13/10, Equinox powered home for a decisive win from Boldog Hos in second spot.

He was now the talk of Japanese racing and his next start would confirm his potential as a global star.

Meydan demolition job confirms star quality

Now crowned as Japan's Horse of the Year, Equinox was completing a Grade 1 hat-trick with his Sheema Classic triumph at Meydan on Dubai World Cup Night in March.

The best three-year-old in his homeland, there were some willing to question whether or not he'd be able to mix it with hotshots from Europe and the United States when they all converged.

There was no call for doubt as Equinox made all in a track-record time under for a dominant success over a top-class international field on his first run outside Japan.

Last summer's Irish Derby winner Westover took the silver medal but, in truth, he never laid a blow on the ultra-impressive Equinox.

"It was a tough field with some very strong horses but he's a champion and he was just the best," said the winning trainer.

"He got the job done and made it all look so simple. I am very happy with this performance."

Performance hailed by the opposition

It wasn't just Tetsuya Kimura who was impressed by the Meydan rout.

William Haggas labelled Equinox's performance in Dubai as the "greatest" he had ever witnessed live over a mile-and-a-half.

Fellow Newmarket handler Roger Varian went even further as he recalled the festive frolics he'd witnessed in the Far East some months previous.

"We were actually at the Arima Kinen in December," Varian told the Racing Post.

"I came back and told everyone, 'I think I've seen the best horse I've ever seen', because he was phenomenal. To see him back it up in Dubai was brilliant."

He has the racing world at his feet and all eyes will on what he does and where he goes next.

Longchamp target an obvious one

Japan's obsession with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe remains unsatisfied. Europe's premier middle distance race is an intense focus-point in the Land of the Rising Sun and has been for three decades.

Potential repeat wins in the Tenno Sho and Arima Kinen may be targeted later in 2023 but the summer months remain open.

Equinox is having a sabbatical now and, as yet, connections have made no intimation they are targeting Royal Ascot.

The most likely European aspiration would be Longchamp in the autumn and Equinox is the current 13/2 favourite to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday 1st October in Paris.

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