Popular Vodka shocks fans

JAPAN'S racing phenomenon, Vodka, retired earlier than planned at the weekend, shocking fans and sports media that praised the mare as a determined champion that made historic achievements.

JAPAN'S racing phenomenon, Vodka, retired earlier than planned at the weekend, shocking fans and sports media that praised the mare as a determined champion that made historic achievements.

The six-year-old suffered a nosebleed and failed to shine in a Thursday race in Dubai as she prepared for the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest horse race that was originally scheduled to be her final run.

"Her condition is not serious, but she still has to work as a breeder. We must not let her push herself any more," trainer Katsuhiko Sumii told Japanese reporters on Sunday in Chiba, east of Tokyo.

"I hope to train her offspring and try them in overseas competitions." Vodka, Japan's most popular race horse with a record-tying seven domestic wins in major Group One races, will be sent to a stud farm in Ireland.

The news of her retirement made front pages in Japanese sports newspapers. The decision came after the mighty horse finished only eighth in the third round of the Maktoum Challenge and the bleeding began.

Vodka had also suffered a nosebleed when she became the first mare to win the Japan Cup on November 29 and was suspended from racing for one month.

Horses cannot breathe through the mouth, and repeated nosebleeds can affect their performance on turf.

Vodka won the nation's hearts when she became the first mare in 64 years to win the Japanese Derby in 2007.

She had won 10 out of her 26 races, earning more than 1.3 billion yen (R1,106million dollars) since 2006, making Vodka the third most successful race horse in the history of the Japan Racing Association.

The 2000metre Dubai World Cup on March 27 offers total prize money of R74million dollars. - Sapa-AFP

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