Anxious minutes followed a thrilling homestretch battle and a finish too close to call until at long last Britain’s Alkaased was named winner of the Japan Cup on Sunday over local runner Heart’s Cry, by a nose and in record time.
“My gut feeling was I had won,” said jockey Frankie Dettori of his anxious wait for the final decision.
“They made me suffer and sweat and I wasn’t sure if I’d had my eyes open or not.”
The final announcement that Alkaased was indeed the victor was met by screams and hugs outside the weighing room as owner, jockey, trainer and all involved embraced in relief and joy. Tears continued to stream down the face of trainer Luca Cumani as he made his way to the award ceremony.
“I am just over the moon,” he said.
Alkaased rewrote a race record that had stood for 16 years, topping the New Zealand mare Horlick’s time of 2 minutes, 22.2 seconds by one-tenth of a second.
The race unfolded at a very high pace, with Tap Dance City and Stormy Cafe pulling the field of 18. Dettori said his main concern, having drawn the No. 14 gate, was to get an inside position as soon as possible after the break.
“He’s a very, very slow starter, but the race went very quick and I was able to get on the rail,” he said.
With the field strung out and Tap Dance City far out in front, there were visions of a replay of his wire-to-wire win of the Japan Cup two years ago. Alkaased’s trainer said at that point, “I think I had my heart in my mouth.”
Into the stretch at the top of the hill, Alkaased, who went off as third choice behind race top pick Zenno Rob Roy, had to fight off the favorite as Zenno Rob Roy made a courageous bid for the front.
Briefly gaining the top, he then flattened with 100 meters to go, at which point Cumani said, “I thought we had it won.”
Heart’s Cry, however, came up strongly on the inside to engage Alkaased for the remaining meters.
“He fought and fought to stay in front,” Dettori said of the 5-year-old Kingmambo-sired Alkaased. “He’s a horse that has a tendency to get lazy but he’s very tenacious.”
Zenno Rob Roy held on for third place a length and three-quarters behind Heart’s Cry, who was ridden by French rider Christophe Lemaire. Zenno Rob Roy, with American jock Kent Desormeaux up, was followed by ninth pick Lincoln from Japan in fourth by a nose.
The English filly Ouija Board made the board by a neck in fifth place.
The win of the Japan Cup was worth 250 million yen. Owner Michael Charlton said they had targeted the Japan Cup along with three other races. “The horse made the decision to come here. He knew we could win. Believe me, it was a real pleasure.”