The home team completely flattened the foreign competition Sunday in the 23rd running of the Japan Cup with Japanese horses sweeping the top five finishing places.

Fourth choice Tap Dance City went wire-to-wire for a stunning 9-length win, followed over the line by That’s the Plenty, favorite Symboli Kris S, Neo Universe and Active Bio in that order.

It was the biggest victory margin in the Japan Cup yet, and only the second wire-to-wire win of the race since Japan’s Katsuragi Ace victory in 1984.

“I thought if I just broke well and cornered well, I’d be happy with whatever the results were,” winning jockey Tetsuzo Sato said.

“My main concern was just keeping him running smooth and relaxed. I wasn’t worried about the others behind me.

“He’s had a good rotation as far as other races are concerned and was in good condition. Rather than any skill from me, it was more of the fact that this horse was prepared and ran its own race,” jockey Sato said.

Winning hadn’t been foremost in the mind of trainer Shozo Sasaki either. The usually talkative Sasaki was simply gushing with excitement at the victory press conference.

“All I remember at the finish is that I think I was screaming my head off,” Sasaki, 47, said.

Sasaki said when he looked at the track Sunday morning he’d found it “not as bad as I’d expected. Even if it was slippery I thought he could handle it.” But, Sasaki said, “I knew he was going to run well, but I never thought he would win the race.”

Sasaki said he had strong memories of the first Japan Cup in 1980. “I thought back then that if I ever became a trainer I would make the Japan Cup my goal.”

On Sunday that dream come true. The American-bred 6-year-old Tap Dance City (Pleasant Tap-All Dance, by Northern Dancer) is now 9 for 32.

The Japan Cup’s first-place prize of 250 million yen boosted his earnings to over 746 million yen.

The finishing order of the foreign-based Japan Cup entrants was as follows: Tigertail sixth, Ange Gabriel seventh, Denon eighth, Islington ninth, Ana Marie, 12th, Slew Valley 14th, Johar 16th, Sarafan 17th and Fields of Omagh 18th.

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