Gold Dream strikes on big February day in Tokyo
Epicharis earns Kentucky Derby spot with Hyacinth Stakes win
Report: Japan, Sunday
Tokyo: February Stakes (Grade 1) 1m | dirt | 4yo+
With Ryan Moore's mount Moanin disappointing, second favourite Gold Dream (Mirco Demuro/Osamu Hirata) held off his rivals in the stretch to claim the February Stakes, the most prestigious dirt race of the Japanese winter-spring calendar.
The 210 million yen (£1.5m) event is generally regarded as Japan's principal trial for the Dubai World Cup, and it also forms part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge, offering a guaranteed starting spot in the $6m contest at Del Mar in November.
That place goes to Gold Dream, a four-year-old son of stallion Gold Allure, who reportedly died of heart failure on Saturday.
In front of a crowd of 52,344 at Tokyo racecourse, the 4-1 shot won his first race at the top level after racing in mid-division and then floating out wide before hitting the front just before the furlong marker. "He responded beautifully in the straight," said winning jockey Demuro. "He still had a lot left at the end."
He held Best Warrior by a neck, with market leader Kafuji Take finishing fast to take third a further three-quarters away.
Last year's winner Moanin could finish only 12th, two places ahead of veteran dirt star Copano Rickey, who won the race in 2014 1nd 2015.
Also on Sunday
Tokyo: Hyacinth Stakes (Listed) 1m | dirt | 3yo
Hot favourite Epicharis (Kiyoshi Hagiwara/Christophe Lemaire) took his unbeaten record to four as he scored by three-quarters of a length over Adirato.
The winner, like Gold Dream a son of Gold Allure, earned a guaranteed place in the starting gate as a result of his victory.
"I was a little worried that Epicharis had been off for a long time but his condition was good," said Lemaire. "He has enough speed to race forwardly so I think he could challenge for big races in the US."
Epicharis is a 33-1 shot for the Kentucky Derby with bet365, with the Bob Baffert-trained Mastery and the unbeaten McCraken heading the market at 12-1.