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Take and Kitasan Black dominate as European raiders disappoint

Kitasan Black: could be heading to Ireland later this year
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Report: Japan, Sunday

Tokyo: Japan Cup (Grade 1) 1m4f, 3yo+

The wait goes on for more overseas success in the Japan Cup after home-grown favourite Kitasan Black stamped his undoubted authority on the country’s oldest international event to give perennial star rider Yutake Take his fourth race win from 23 attempts, while a trio of European contenders were reduced to bit-part players.

Attempting to bridge an 11-year gap since Alkaased took the prize to Newmarket, the German-trained Iquitos ran the race of his life to be beaten about a length off second in seventh place, but fellow German runner Nightflower and France's Erupt disappointed in 12th and 14th.

Hans-Jurgen Groschel and Ian Ferguson, the veteran trainer-jockey partnership associated with Iquitos, could not conceal their delight, but there was a degree of disappointment that the four-year-old might have done even better but for wandering left close home.

Groschel said: "It was a good run and if he'd not been squeezed he might have been third," while Ferguson added: "He gave me everything."

Erupt, sixth last year, had every chance on the home turn but flattened out halfway up the straight, leaving trainer Francis Graffard deflated and short of an explanation.

He said: "He had a perfect run through the race but there was nothing left in the straight." 

While Erupt’s onward ticket to Hong Kong for next month’s Vase is now in doubt, the future for Nightflower, who for the second year running suffered from a wide draw and never threatened to get beyond the tail of the field, is assured – she will be retired to stud.

But none of the trio, nor the rest of the cream of Japan’s middle-distance horses, could hold a candle to Kitasan Black, who stood out in the pre-parade ring, jumped quickly from his inside draw and made every yard.

He was in total control throughout the straight and came home two and a half lengths clear of strong-finishing Sounds Of Earth, with Cheval Grand a neck away in third, narrowly ahead of the winner’s closest market rivals Gold Actor and Real Steel.

Kitasan Black winning the Tenno Sho (Spring)

Ryan Moore, who rode two winners on the Tokyo undercard and was seeking his 20th Group/Grade 1 success in 2016, gave Dubai Turf winner Real Steel every chance to stretch his stamina but the final furlong proved one too many.

Kitasan Black, whose noted singer-owner Saburo Kitajima delighted the crowd of 88,865 by serenading them from the prize-presentation stage, was winning his third Group 1 but his first over a mile and a half, after landing the local St Leger last year and the 2m Tenno Sho (Spring) this term.

After demonstrating his versatility under a perfectly timed ride by Take, and having bypassed last month’s Tenno Sho (Autumn), won by the Hong Kong-bound Maurice, Kitasan Black will almost certainly be given the chance to challenge Maurice for Horse of the Year honours in the Arima Kinen at the end of the year.

Sunday’s winner will race on, and trainer Hisashi Shimizu, who was making his Japan Cup debut, hinted that Dubai in March for the Sheema Classic was a possibility, with the holy grail of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe a long-term ambition.

It was a good run, and if he had not been squeezed he might have been third
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