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After three years of failure, Americans succeeded in bagging the Japan Cup Dirt, amid the rain and mud — by a mere 4 cm.Fifth pick Fleetstreet Dancer, one of two U.S. horses in the international field of 16 on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse edged race favorite Admire Don from the home team after a thrilling stretch battle.

The L.A.-based Fleetstreet Dancer traveled handily from the start in second position some 4 widths off the rail. Into the stretch he took the lead but was headed by Admire Don halfway home. The 5-year-old gelding fought back, giving it his all to beat his rival.

“It was very exciting,” a stunned Jon Court said after the race. Court, though one of the top riders in Kentucky, had yet to claim a Group 1.
“It’s still soaking in,” he said, “I don’t think I’m going to sleep a wink tonight.”

Fleetstreet Dancer, bought by Lee and Ty Leatherman for a mere $40,000 after a claiming race in 2001, had only won 4 races in 22 starts.

“We figured one of these days he’d have to win and he picked a great day to win,” Leatherman said. Trainer Doug O’Neill, who admitted they’d come to Japan for the “mucho yen,” said they had thought of the invitation mostly as a “great vacation and ‘oh, there’s a race too.’ ” Fleetstreet Dancer (Smart Strike-Street Ballet, by Nijinksy) won his connections 130 million yen for his efforts.

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