Gutsy Alkaased gave trainer Luca Cumani his first and jockey Frankie Dettori his third Japan Cup triumph when battling down the Tokyo straight to first fight off the challenge of last year’s winner Zenno Rob Roy, and then to repel the late charging Heart’s Cry by a nose in a thrilling 25th running of the Japan Cup (Gr 1) at Fuchu racecourse on Sunday.
In winning the Japan Cup, the twelfth and penultimate leg of the World Racing Championships Alkaased set a new track record in 2m 22.10s for the 12 furlongs, lowering the time set by the New Zealand mare Horlicks in 1989 by one tenth of a second.
Drawn wide in gate 14, Alkaased was able to make his way across to the rail and take up a position in mid-division behind Ouija Board and Bago, his fellow European challengers.
Improving his position at the head of the stretch, Frankie Dettori threw down the gauntlet to his rivals, setting sail for home and passing the tiring pacemakers Tap Dance City and Stormy Café.
Alkaased was challenged and briefly passed by Zenno Rob Roy, but under Dettori’s urgings, fought back to go clear as the 2004 winner weakened, and then held on by the narrowest of margins as Christophe Lemaire galvanised Heart’s Cry in a desperate late rally up the inside.
For Japan, Lincoln was next home in fourth place, while Lord Derby’s filly Ouija Board held on gamely for fifth spot under Kieren Fallon, having looked to have a winning chance in the closing stages before tiring in the final 100 yards. Sunrise Pegasus for Japan filled sixth spot a length and a half further back.
Afterwards a happy Dettori admitted he was not certain that he had won. “My gut feeling when I went past the post was that I had won, but the numbers usually come up here pretty quick, and when they didn’t, I started to doubt and to sweat, and I felt like it was about 20 minutes before I knew I was there.”
“ I was confident before the race, as the horse was fresh and he was so well going into the race when I rode him this week. He sometimes breaks a little slowly, and I was concerned not to get too far behind. I got a good position behind Ouija Board and Bago, who were key horses in the race, but I didn’t know where Zenno Rob Roy was. In the straight my horse fought really well to first see off the challenge of Zenno Rob Roy, and then to fight again when the second horse came at him.
“ It means a huge amount to me to win this race for Luca Cumani. He started me off, and we had eight great years together. He moulded me and taught me what to do and say. The fact that I am here today talking to you is due to him”
French challenger Bago on his final career start ran a creditable race to finish eighth beaten five lengths or so, despite being struck into, and losing a near hind shoe in the race.
In a race run at a furious pace, there were no other real hard luck stories. US challenges Better Talk Now and King’s Drama were 12th and 16th, while Warrsan was a never dangerous 13th for Clive Britain and jockey Jamie Spencer.
Alkaased missed intended runs in the Arc and Breeders’ Cup, and but for that might well be ahead in the WRC rankings following his Japan Cup success. As the final leg of the WRC unfolds in Hong Kong, can local hero Vengeance of Rain add to his first leg triumph in the AP QE II Cup in April and secure the WRC crown with a victory in the Hong Kong Cup in two weeks time?
MCDYNAMO SETTLES CHAMPIONSHIP SCORE IN COLONIAL CUP
CAMDEN, S.C. - Finding one more ounce of energy inside the last fence, Michael Moran's McDynamo edged away from Hirapour to win Saturday's $150,000 Colonial Cup Steeplechase (Gr. I) at Springdale Racecourse, USA.
Trained by Sanna Hendriks, McDynamo went immediately to the front for jockey Jody Petty and used his standout jumping to repel challenges for the race's first two miles.
Hirapour's stablemate Numitas tried to make it a race early and faltered after seven fences. Free Admission ranged into contention down the backside the final time, but also gave way. Erin Go Bragh ranged up briefly.
Finally, Hirapour arrived. The stretch runner lost ground with a jumping mistake on the backstretch, but was still able to claw to McDynamo's hip in the stretch. There he stayed.
McDynamo scored by 1 1/2 lengths over Hirapour (Matt McCarron) with Erin Go Bragh (Zach Miller) third in 5:14 2/5.
The final time was nowhere near Hirapour's 2004 course record of 5m 4.6s, but this race wasn’t about the time it took. It was about the matchup. McDynamo, the 2003 Eclipse champion and race winner, vs. Hirapour, the 2004 Eclipse champion and race winner.
Before Saturday, they had split four races including a pair of Grade I races this year.
McDynamo duplicated his wire-to-wire run in the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (Gr. I) last month in a powerful effort.
“McDynamo is just so honest and up that stretch he did not stop trying," said Petty. “He knew Hirapour was coming up and he knew he didn’t want to get beaten. McDynamo wanted it as much as I did, and I really wanted it.”
The Eclipse vote will decide the champion, but McDynamo finished strongly with two Grade I wins (matching Hirapour's total), edged his rival in total earnings $265,425 to $255,025 and won the season series 3-2. Not that it takes anything away from Hirapour.
“They are two really special horses,” said Hendriks. “I thought about halfway between the wire and the last fence he was going to get us and then our horse just dug in again and had enough to fight him off. They both tried their tails off.”
Petty wrapped up his first 2005 National Steeplechase Association jockey championship on the day, and paid tribute to his horse’s stout jumping as the difference maker.
“At the third or fourth fence, someone tried to come to me and I could feel them there,” said Petty. “When we landed, they were nowhere around. I don't know too many horses who can run and jump like that.”
Bred in Kentucky by Nathan Fox, Richard Fox and Richard Kaster, McDynamo was an $80,000 Keeneland Sales yearling purchase. Now 8, the son of Dynaformer won for the 11th time over jumps and boosted his steeplechase bankroll to $833,104. Only Lonesome Glory's $1.3 million stands above McDynamo on the NSA's career earnings list.
NOTES: Petty finished with 19 wins to claim his first jockey title while two-time defending champion McCarron, who came into the day just one win behind, settled for five seconds in as many rides . . . Other 2005 champions are Sanna Hendriks (trainer), Augustin Stable (owner), Miles Ahead (timber horse), Guelph (novice hurdler and filly/mare hurdler) and Ginz (3-year-old hurdler).