• Kyodo

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Four-year-old Transcend threw down the gauntlet to Espoir City as the favorite went wire-to-wire to capture the Japan Cup Dirt on Sunday for his first Grade 1 title.

Without defending champion Espoir City, the reigning dirt horse of the year in Japan, Transcend held off a field of 16 to win the 1,800-meter contest at Hanshin Racecourse in 1 minute, 48.9 seconds over eighth choice Glorious Noah by a nose.

Eleventh pick Admire Subaru came in third another length and a quarter behind.

There were no foreign runners in the race this year, and Espoir City has yet to recover from his unsuccessful trip to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup last month, when he was 10th out of 12.

Shinji Fujita rode Transcend to the jockey’s first G1 victory since last year’s Sprinters Stakes, the 13th of his career. Star jockey-turned trainer Takayuki Yasuda hauled in the first G1 silverware for his stable.

“I’m glad we lived up to the hype,” Fujita said of the Wild Rush son out of Cinema Scope by Tony Bin. “He’s got such speed that all I had to do was focus on getting him to run his race.

“He’s a big horse with a long stride, and a fast track isn’t a problem for him. The pace was a little faster than I expected but he still left everyone behind. He was tough, there’s no question about that.”

Second choice and last year’s runnerup Silk Mobius just cracked the board to finish fifth, while 10th pick Birdie Birdie bravely took the fight to Transcend on the home stretch before fading to fourth.

Transcend was coming off another runaway victory in the Grade 3 Miyako Stakes — his seventh in 14 starts — over nine furlongs at Kyoto on Nov. 7, which featured many of the entries in the Japan Cup Dirt.

“The makeup of the field was kind of similar to the last race, and there were no horses from overseas. It was his Grade 1 debut, but I still thought we could win it,” Fujita said.

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