THE jubilation was short-lived for Christophe Soumillon as he rode Buena Vista across the finish line to what he believed was a win of the Japan Cup on Sunday.

It was, however, not the sweet taste of the victory champagne that awaited Soumillon but bitter disappointment, when nearly half an hour later, a lengthy inquiry ended in the win of the 30th Japan Cup going to Rose Kingdom.

Until that time, all had looked well to the crowd at Tokyo Racecourse and, apparently, to Soumillon as well, but the final furlong had cost him dearly.

Rounding wide into the stretch, Soumillon brought Buena Vista up on the outside and, with some 200 meters left, urged her strongly on, his whip striking her repeatedly on her right side.

Buena Vista accelerated sharply and moved inward. Running to her inside was Rose Kingdom, who had Victoire Pisa coming toward her on her inside. It was a tight spot, too tight for comfort, and Rose Kingdom’s Yutaka Take was forced to pull back.

Soumillon, not realizing what had happened, continued his drive home to cross the finish line a length and three-quarters in front of Rose Kingdom, with Victoire Pisa a nose behind in third.

The crowd roared in congratulations and Soumillon, waving and punching the air in triumph, trotted Buena Vista along the entire length of the stands showing off what he believed was the winner of the race’s 30th running. The joy in the air was palpable.

That joy was nowhere to be seen some 30 mintes later when the decision to reverse the order of the first two finishers was made.

There was no joy and no smiles on the faces of fans nor on the faces of reporters. There wasn’t even joy on the faces of the declared winner’s connections.

Buena Vista, the darling of all, had run her heart out, crossed the line ahead of the 17 others and yet, due to a tragic mix of bad luck and perhaps overzealous riding, was denied the win. Rules were rules.

But, even in Japan’s squeaky-clean racing, this was surely one time most everyone wished the rules could have been bent.

Even Rose Kingdom’s trainer, Kojiro Hashiguchi, who was given his first victory in the Japan Cup, said, “It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

By the time the decision was in, Rose Kingdom had long been back at the wash-rack. She had to be quickly scraped down and brought back for the award ceremony.

“Well, the owners are the same, but...,” said Hashiguchi, referring to the fact that Buena Vista and Rose Kingdom are both owned by the racing club Sunday Racing Co. Ltd.

“Still, they kept us waiting a long time. Maybe they weren’t too sure of themselves,” he added of the stewards, who had found themselves in a very difficult position.

Reversing the order was surely a painful decision to make, but, in the end, surely the only option left them. The interference at the finish had not been the only incident in which Buena Vista’s run had raised questions.

Just after the break, she had stumbled and given rise to the inquiry light on the infield board. At the top of the stretch, she was cited for moving into the path of other runners. And then, the final transgression, an unforgivable and . . . unforgettable one.

Eighth choice Victoire Pisa finished in third place with Jaguar Mail and Pelusa making the board in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Meisho Beluga, Oken Bruce Lee and Eishin Flash continued the sweep of the race’s top eight places, with France’s Cirrus des Aigle, in ninth place, the best finisher overseas’ contenders.

The race fourth pick Rose Kingdom recorded his fifth win in nine starts, with the 250 million yen first-place prize money raising his earnings to nearly 569 million yen. The three-year-old Rose Kingdom was bred at Northern Farm in Hokkaido. He is by King Kamehameha out of the Sunday Silence mare Rosebud.