'He was nearly the perfect racehorse' – Equinox crowned world's best racehorse of 2023

Equinox has been announced as the highest-rated Japanese horse of all time and the world's best racehorse of 2023.

EQUINOX winning the Japan Cup at Tokyo in Japan.
EQUINOX winning the Japan Cup at Tokyo in Japan. Picture: Japan Racing Association

The Japanese superstar quickly announced himself as something special on the world stage when cruising to a brilliant three-and-a-half-length success over Westover in the Dubai Sheema Classic, before going to land a further three top-level prizes, which included a fairytale farewell four-length victory in the Japan Cup at Toyko last November.

The six-time Group 1 winner was handed a rating of 135 in the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings, 5lb lower than last year's winner Flightline but 7lb higher than both Ace Impact, winner of last season's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Royal Ascot hero Mostahdaf.

Few knew Equinox better than French-born jockey Christophe Lemaire, who partnered the Northern Farm-bred sensation in all ten of his career outings.

Asked what it was like to ride Equinox, Lemaire joked: "To be honest it was quite enjoyable!

"Each time he ran there were big expectations, but I had so much confidence in the horse that I had no fear. To ride him, it was just a pleasure to be on a galloping horse.

"The way he ran was just amazing. Of course, I tried to do my job as well as possible and it was a great journey – I will miss him a lot.

"As have most top athletes, he had a combination of physical strength and mental strength. His physical allowed him to run fast and further using his beautiful stride, very well-balanced and also, he was very clever, so he understood very quickly what he had to do to win the race.

"My job was just to take a good start and put him in the right position to let him express his talent.

"He was nearly the perfect racehorse, and we have to congratulate the breeder (Northern Farm) who could produce such a beautiful horse and the trainer for getting him mature to compete at the best level.

"Just after his debut, I could feel he was special, the way he moved, his acceleration, his attitude on the track – I could feel very quickly he would become a very good horse. Most other people discovered him in Dubai, but in Japan, he was already a rising star."

Speaking through a translator, trainer Tetsuya Kimura said: "I wasn't prepared for it all (the praise he received after Dubai), I feel like I've still been in a dream since then.

"The expectations were very high (before the Japan Cup) and it was very difficult to stay calm, but Equinox showed an amazing start, and he has the most beautiful stride in the world, and he managed to beat all his rivals with his amazing stamina, so I have nothing else that I wanted from him at all."

Equinox officially retired from racing at the end of November and will stand as a stallion for ¥20 million (just over £106,000) at Shadai Stallion Station.

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