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Horse racing: 7-time G1 champion mare Vodka dies

This file photo shows Japanese thoroughbred mare Vodka winning the 2007 Japanese Derby. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese thoroughbred mare Vodka, who became the first filly to win the Japanese Derby in 64 years, has died from laminitis, the Japan Racing Association said Wednesday.

The 15-year-old mare died Monday in Newmarket, England, where she had been staying to mate. She tied the JRA record with seven Grade 1 victories before retiring in 2010.

Vodka debuted in 2006 and earned her first G1 win at that year's Hanshin Juvenile Fillies. In 2007, she became the first mare of the postwar period and third in history to win the Japanese Derby.

She beat rival Daiwa Scarlet by a nose at the 2008 Autumn Tenno Sho and defended her title at the Yasuda Kinen in 2009, while collecting final wins at the Victoria Mile and Japan Cup.

After retiring, Vodka had been utilized as a breeding mare in Ireland. In January, she gave birth to a filly sired by undefeated British racehorse Frankel.

Jockey Hirofumi Shii, who rode Vodka to victory at the Japanese Derby, was shocked by the news, saying "An irreplaceable horse. We may never see the likes of such a horse again."

Vodka's rider at the Autumn Tenno Sho, JRA veteran Yutaka Take, was also saddened to learn of the mare's passing.

"A very memorable horse. I think she was worthy of being called a great horse," Take said.

Over her career, Vodka had 10 wins and 18 top-3 finishes in 26 races, including four winless trips overseas. She won over 1.3 billion yen (about $11.7 million) in prize money and was inducted into the JRA Hall of Fame in 2011.

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