Japanese thoroughbred Equinox lived up to his billing as the world's top-rated racehorse by claiming his fourth straight Grade 1 victory in a thrilling finish to the Takarazuka Kinen on Sunday.

Piloted by Christophe Lemaire, the 4-year-old colt began making his move from out wide on the final bend at Hanshin Racecourse, chasing down the front-runners in the home stretch of the 2,200-meter race for 3-year-olds and up.

The solidly favored Equinox finished a neck in front of outsider Through Seven Seas, with second-favorite Justin Palace, winner of the Spring Tenno-sho, a further length back in third.

"We couldn't get a good position at the start and ended up at the back, but the pace was fast, so I wasn't worried about running from behind," Lemaire said. "He was able to show his strength as the world's best horse."

After notching his third straight Grade 1 title at the Dubai Sheema Classic in March, Equinox was ranked first in the latest Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings.

Sunday's race marked Lemaire's second Takarazuka Kinen win and the first for trainer Tetsuya Kimura.

Jockey Christophe Lemaire reacts after riding thoroughbred Equinox to victory in the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse in Takarazuka, in western Japan's Hyogo Prefecture, on June 25, 2023. (Kyodo)