• Kyodo

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Yutaka Take was back doing what he does best, winning his record seventh spring Tenno-sho title aboard Kitasan Black on Sunday.

Take, who last won the race 10 years ago on Deep Impact, went wire-to-wire on the 4-year-old second-favorite to edge long-shot Curren Mirotic in a photo finish which had the crowd at Kyoto Racecourse on its feet.

Last season’s Kikka-sho (Japanese St. Leger) winner Kitasan Black, trained by Hisashi Shimizu, clocked 3 minutes, 15.3 seconds over the 3,200 meters on firm going, where he upstaged top choice Gold Actor who faded to 12th in a full field of 18.

Third pick Cheval Grand came in third.

“He fought back at the end. He’s legit,” the 47-year-old Take said. “It feels great to win again. It’s been a while.”

The Black Tide-sired Kitasan Black had a favorable draw for the 153rd edition of the Emperor’s Cup, leaving from the No. 1 gate as Take nudged his partner out in front.

Last year’s Arima Kinen champion Gold Actor, who went into the race having won his past five starts, traveled midfield but appeared to have a hard time settling. He fought his jockey Hayato Yoshida and turned for home with clearly not enough left in the tank.

Kitasan Black set a gentle pace to the two-mile journey, never relinquishing the lead while jogging along the rails. The only challenge he faced was on the 400-meter final straight from Curren Mirotic, who finished third in last year’s race but went off as the 13th choice after a poor recent run of form.

With a penchant for the big races, Kenichi Ikezoe came within a nose of orchestrating another upset but was up against the wrong guy on this afternoon in Take, who made sure to milk his mount to the last drop to win by the smallest of margins.

“I had a few ideas before the start, but I decided to go right after the gates opened,” said Take, who has also won the fall version of the race five times.

“Everything went according to plan. He doesn’t accelerate that fast but he’s got a lot of stamina. He’s going to become much stronger. He has lots of potential.”

Sunday’s victory was Kitasan Black’s second at the Grade 1 level following the Kikka-sho. He is now 6-for-10 for his career and pocketed a winner’s check of ¥150 million yen, taking his earnings to more than ¥530 million yen.

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