Deep-blue, post-typhoon skies and a rare late-afternoon appearance by Mount Fuji set the stage for the 136th running of the Emperor’s Cup Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse. With the day’s uncommon beauty came an uncommon show of strength as race favorite Meisho Samson reigned supreme in a star-studded lineup of 16 that included six group 1 winners, four-time group 1 winner Daiwa Major and Melbourne Cup champ Pop Rock.

News photoFavorite Meisho Samson, ridden by jockey Yutaka Take, wins his second Emperor’s Cup of 2007 on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse before a crowd of more than 100,000 spectators.

None of the other heavies, however, could match Meisho Samson, as he gained the top early in the stretch and remained unchallenged to the end, trouncing all by 2 1/2 lengths. The win gave Samson his fourth top-level victory and the claim of being only the fourth horse in the race’s history to win both the marathon-length spring version and the shorter fall version in the same year.

Breaking from the innermost gate, Samson, under Yutaka Take, took up a position five from the front as Cosmo Bulk pulled the field at a medium pace. Samson, a bit too eager in the early stages, settled in the backstretch as the rest of the field, strung far out, held their positions.

Into the stretch, with about 350 meters to go, Eishin Deputy, under Yuichi Shibayama, suddenly veered out, causing a near-domino effect as horse after horse was pushed into the other. Obstructed were Agnes Ark, Shadow Gate, second pick Admire Moon and third choice Daiwa Major. Samson, unaffected, with a clear run and the lead he had gained at the 400-meter mark, went on unchallenged to the wire.

Agnes Ark finished in second place, with Company, Pop Rock and Cosmo Bulk, in that order, making the board for the top five spots. Troublemaker Eishin Deputy finished in eighth place but was sent back to 14th following a lengthy inquiry.

Though those caught in the homestretch ruckus will undoubtedly think the results could have been otherwise, Take gave Samson top marks. The roar from the crowd as the Opera House colt romped home indicated the feeling was mutual.

“He’s Japan’s No. 1 horse. He has superb overall ability. Everything is great about him,” Take crooned. “Coming around the final bend, I could feel the power in him. It was a great feeling.”

Take, used to great feelings, has now notched his fourth autumn Tennosho, his 10th win of the race overall.

The 4-year-old Meisho Samson clocked 1 minute, 58.4 seconds over 2,000 meters of slightly yielding turf. Samson is owned by Yoshio Matsumoto and was bred in Hokkaido’s Urakawa. With nine wins in 19 starts, he now has accumulated earnings of more than ¥890 million.

Curlin victorious

OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) Curlin put the finishing touches on a championship season with a stirring stretch run and splashed his way to victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on Saturday.

The race was marred in the final meters when European star George Washington broke down and was euthanized on the track.

Curlin, the Preakness winner, moved into contention around the final turn and swept past Hard Spun and Lawyer Ron before a cheering crowd that had endured a rain deluge most of the day.

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