Japan savors Dubai glory

Kyodo, AP

Real Steel and Lani won their respective races to secure a double for Japanese-trained horses at the Dubai World Cup Day on Saturday.

This year, a record 10 Japanese horses took part in the Dubai World Cup Day which featured nine races at Meydan Racecourse. Real Steel was making his international debut and top jockey Yutaka Take was booked for three races, including the one on Lani.

In the seventh race of the day, Real Steel, ridden by British jockey Ryan Moore, powered down the stretch of the 1,800-meter turf course for a come-from-behind half-length victory over Euro Charline, giving Japan its 29th Grade 1 victory on an overseas tour.

“We finally did it. There are no words to express how I feel now,” said trainer Yoshito Yahagi, who picked up his first Grade 1 international victory in his eighth try.

It was the first time since Just A Way in 2014 that a Japanese horse won the Dubai Turf, and the third time in history.

Earlier in the day, Take steered Lani to Japan’s first-ever victory at the U.A.E. Derby, a 1,900-meter dirt race for three-year-olds. Lani overcame a slow start caused by tripping to beat fan favorite Polar River by three-quarters of a length.

Japanese horse Yu Change came third a neck behind.

“We had to start from behind but I had a good feeling throughout the race,” said Take, who posted his fourth win at the Dubai event.

In Take’s two other races, he finished 12th in the Al Quoz Sprint atop Bel Canto and fifth in the Dubai Sheema Classic with One And Only.

“Bel Canto was in good condition, but the race was tough. One And Only performed well. I had expected him to slow down after the fourth corner so we moved as planned. It was a good race,” he said.

Elsewhere for Japan, Hokko Tarumae, ridden by Hideaki Miyuki, was 9th in the Dubai World Cup, the $10 million finale race won by California Chrome.

Duramente and jockey Mirco Demuro placed second in the Dubai Sheema Classic, while Last Impact and jockey Joao Moreira followed in third in the same race.

Neo Black Dia was eighth in the Dubai Gold Cup under Shinichiro Akiyama.

California Chrome was back at his best, soaring to a five-length victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

The winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness finished second last year in the world’s richest horse race. This time, the 5-year-old was ridden by Victor Espinoza, who was aboard American Pharoah for last year’s Triple Crown sweep.

“Today, it proves how he can run when he’s 100 percent,” Espinoza said. “He felt strong during the prep. He won easy.”

The race, however, was not without problems. California Chrome’s saddle slipped way down his back near the end. But by then he was way in front.

“I wasn’t that concerned,” Espinoza said. “I just kept looking forward and thinking, ‘Where’s the wire?’ It was not coming fast enough.”

California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year, won $6 million and now tops the earnings list after his third straight victory.

“It’s the dream of a lifetime for me, it doesn’t get better,” trainer Art Sherman said. “The Chromies (fans) will be going crazy (back home).”

The winner covered the approximately 2 km in 2:01.83. Mubtaahij of Ireland was second on the dirt track, followed by Hoppertunity of the U.S. The 12-horse field also featured Frosted and Keen Ice, the only horse to beat American Pharoah. Frosted was fifth and Keen Ice eighth.