KYOTO – Outstanding favorite Gold Ship sailed to the last jewel in the Japanese triple crown by winning the Kikka-sho in near record fashion on Sunday.
After Japanese Derby winner Deep Brillante was scratched earlier in the week, Gold Ship was widely tipped to add the Kikka-sho title to the Satsuki-sho — the first leg in the triple crown — he won back in the spring, and the Naosuke Sugai-colt did not disappoint.
Gold Ship went under the wire almost two lengths in front of fifth-choice Sky Dignity ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal, cutting a time of 3 minutes, 2.9 seconds over the 3,000 meters — just 0.2 off the race record and 0.1 off the mark of last year’s champion Orfevre, who completed the triple crown.
Seventh-pick Yuki Soldier was third a further two lengths back.
Jockey Hiroyuki Uchida said he did not doubt his partner for a second as Gold Ship became the first horse to capture the Satsuki-sho and Kikka-sho double in 12 years, not withstanding Orfevre and 2005 triple crown winner Deep Impact.
“He already has one G1 title to his name and I wanted to show the fans how tough he is,” Uchida said. “The horse ran his heart out.”
On a brilliant day for racing at Kyoto Racecourse, Gold Ship was slow to break from the inside gate, running the first lap in last among a bunched-up pack of 18 led gingerly by long-shot B B Japan.
Uchida began nudging his mount forward along the outside on the back stretch, and moved to seize the lead on final bend.
Once Gold Ship was out in front on the flat 400-meter straight, there was no looking back. When he sensed Sky Dignity closing in, the Stay Gold son just turned it up another notch to pull away.
“He didn’t start as fast as I expected him to,” Uchida said. “But I wasn’t worried at all. I decided to sit back and enjoy the ride because the pace wasn’t too fast. I moved him up slowly as we traveled so he wouldn’t be flung to the far outside turning for home.
“He doesn’t let anyone beat him when he senses someone coming from behind. From here on, we go up against the older horses and I can’t wait to see how he does.”
Gold Ship is 6-for-9 with four graded titles and career earnings of almost ¥400 million.
Frankel retires unbeaten
Frankel finished his dazzling career unbeaten by winning the Champions Stakes at Ascot on Saturday for a 14th straight victory, cementing his status as one of the greatest racehorses.
Setting off as a 2-11 favorite in front of Queen Elizabeth II and 32,000 spectators, the world’s top-ranked horse coped well with the soft going to come home with a length and three-quarters to spare ahead of 2011 winner Cirrus Des Aigles (9-2).
The 4-year-old colt was slow out of the starting blocks but quickly recovered under jockey Tom Queally before showing his trademark turn of speed to overtake Nathaniel and then Cirrus Des Aigles in the final 2 furlongs.
“He’s the best I’ve ever had, he’s the best I’ve ever seen — I’d be surprised if there’s ever been any better,” said Frankel’s decorated trainer Henry Cecil, who has been handling racehorses for 43 years.