KYOTO — Sunday saw the birth of Japan’s sixth Triple Crown champion as Deep Impact rocked a record Kikkasho crowd of nearly 137,000 with a race that had hearts in mouths till the very end.

News photo
Odds-on favorite Deep Impact, ridden by jockey Yutaka Take, comes from behind to beat Admire Japan and win the 66th Kikkasho at Kyoto Racecourse, becoming the sixth horse in Japanese racing history to achieve the Triple Crown. Deep Impact also won the Satsukisho and Nippon Derby earlier this year.

In his shortest winning margin in the series’ three legs, Deep Impact caught and passed Admire Japan with some 80 meters to go to win the 3-year-old classic’s 66th running by 2 lengths. Rosenkreuz followed Admire Japan over the line four lengths later in third place, with Six Sense and Fusaichi Auster making the board for fourth and fifth.

From the start, jockey Yutaka Take had his hands full as the usually-slow-out-of-the-gate Impact burst out in his “best start ever.” The sprint-perfect start, slow pace and absence of any strong front-runners had Deep Impact keening to reach the top of the 16-strong field.

A deafening roar from the stands that Take described as the loudest he’d encountered in his 18 years riding met Impact as he careened into the straight. Apparently mistaking the homestretch and the roar as his cues to do what he always does, Deep Impact picked up the speed, pulling with open mouth and head high as Take desperately tried to calm him.

News photoJockey Yutaka Take waves to the crowd after riding Deep Impact to victory at the 66th Kikkasho in Kyoto.

“I wanted the crowd to just shut up but I knew that we were the reason they were yelling,” Take said.

At last realizing he had another lap to go in the 3,000-meter marathon race, Deep Impact settled in the backstretch, maintaining about 7 lengths between him and the front-running Shadow Gate and Admire Japan.

The second turn into the stretch saw Admire Japan in front with a substantial lead. Trainer Yasuo Ikee, however, said he was thinking of another Triple Crown winner — Shinzan in 1964.

“He didn’t step ahead until the very end and I had a feeling that was what Deep Impact would do.”

Moving from the rail to the center of the stretch, Deep Impact flew, passing Admire Japan with 80 meters to go.

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