Gold Ship won the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen for Naosuke SugaiPICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi
Gold Ship stamps class on Takarazuka Kinen
Preview: Japan, Sunday
Hanshin: Takarazuka Kinen (Grade 1) 1m3f, turf, 3yo+
DUAL Classic winner Gold Ship (Naosuke Sugai/Hiroyuki Uchida) came out much the best in a major clash of Japan's top middle-distance horses in the Takarazuka Kinen.
Despite not looking an easy ride for much of the journey, the grey four-year-old powered down the straight to score by three and a half lengths over outsider Danon Ballade, who edged Japan Cup winner Gentildonna for second.
Gold Ship, sent off 19-10 second favourite behind Gentildonna, won both the Japanese Guineas and St Leger last term before crowning a fantastic season with success in the Arima Kinen, Japan's end-of-season grand prix.
The son of Stay Gold bounced back from a lacklustre display when he was hot favourite for the Tenno Sho (Spring) and would be a major Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe contender, though latest news from Japan suggests he may not make the trip. Gold Ship would need to be supplemented.
Last year's Arc runner-up Orfevre missed Sunday's 254 million yen (£1.68m) race after bleeding following a workout, leaving last year's filly Triple Crown winner Gentildonna to go off as 7-5 market leader. She sat inside Gold Ship as Silport set a crazy pace, more than ten lengths clear of the main pack.
Silport cried enough as they turned into the Hanshin straight, where the big three - Gentildonna, Gold Ship and Tenno Sho winner Fenomeno - all launched attacks on the outside, with Gold Ship producing a ferocious charge to the line to pull clear of his rivals.
Winning jockey Hiroyuki Uchida, who had been shoving his mount along almost from the starting gate, said: "The horse was in very good form, so I was able to take him towards the front while saving enough energy for the finish.
"I'm very glad that we were able to win over the other two strong rivals and look forward to his further great performance in the future.
Gold Ship's victory earned an expenses-paid trip to the Breeders' Cup Turf under the 'Win and You're In' Challenge.
Gentildonna's sights are still trained on the Arc, her jockey Yasunari Iwata pointing out that she may well have needed the run, her first since finishing runner-up in the Dubai Sheema Classic.
However, anyone fancying her Longchamp chances may also want to note his comments about the going. "She doesn't like a wet ground like this," he said.