Kitasan Black cruised to win the Japan Cup, the Yutaka Take-ridden first choice leading from start to finish to capture the nation’s richest race on Sunday.
The 4-year-old Kitasan Black went wire-to-wire in 2 minutes, 25.8 seconds over 2,400 meters on firm going at Tokyo Racecourse, crossing the post 2½ lengths ahead of fifth-pick Sounds of Earth. Finishing third a further neck behind was Cheval Grand, the sixth favorite.
It was Kitasan Black’s third Grade 1 victory after last year’s Kikka-sho, the Japanese St. Leger, and this spring’s Tenno-sho. The Black Tide son, owned by famous enka singer Saburo Kitajima, cashed in a winner’s check of ¥300 million.
It was Take’s fourth Japan Cup victory and trainer Hisashi Shimizu’s first.
“I worked him myself this week, and it was the first time I rode him since his last start,” Take said, referring to the Oct. 10 Kyoto Daishoten also at 12 furlongs.
“But I could tell right away he was in very good condition. I wanted to make sure he got a good start to the race. If no one made the move, I was going to take the lead and that’s how things turned out.”
Kitasan Black departed from the inside barrier, immediately grabbing the rail and setting a gentle pace for the 17-horse affair. Real Steel and Gold Actor, the second and third choice, respectively, stalked him throughout the journey.
Take kept his competitors at the perfect length, and all but appeared to have the race in the bag as he ushered the party into the half-kilometer final straight at Fuchu.
Sounds of Earth’s jockey, Mirco Demuro, tipped his hat to the Kitasan Black team.
“You just have to hand it to the horse who won today; he was strong,” Demuro said. “If (Sounds of Earth) can maintain this form, I think we’ll have a good chance in the Arima Kinen.”
Kitasan Black will shoot for his third G1 win of the season in the Dec. 25 Arima Kinen at Nakayama, which would make him a good bet to be named horse of the year.
“He felt comfortable going into the homestretch,” Take said. “I saved him for the last 300 meters. He reminded me just how good of a racehorse he is. I thought it was the best performance of his career.
“I’ve enjoyed a great season with him.”
Shimizu said Kitasan Black could race overseas next season, with the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as potential targets.
“He did everything we asked him to do in the workouts so I was confident of his form,” Shimizu said. “The jockey unleashed him at just the right time. You can’t help but consider Dubai and the Arc as they are natural fits for him.”
Kitasan Black, out of Sugar Heart, is now 8-for-13 for his career with earnings of more than ¥946 million. The Japan Cup was his sixth graded title.