Foreign-bred stock once again captured the fall Emperor's Cup, Japan's most prestigious race and one long preserved as an exclusive showcase for the country's breeders. Marking a foreign-bred's third win in a row since the race was opened to foreign stock three years ago was the American-born Symboli Kris S. The 3-year-old, as the race's youngest member, bested a field of 18 for a three-quarter length victory over 6-year-old Narita Top Road (Soccer Boy--Floral Magic, by Affirmed) Oct. 27 at Nakayama Racecourse.
Nippon Derby runnerup Symboli Kris S. (Kris S.--Tee Kay, by Gold Meridian) passed on the 3-year-old classic Kikkasho for a chance at the Emperor's Cup (Jpn.,I) and, teamed with Japan's most senior rider, Yukio Okabe, the pair proved a winning one. Okabe, just four days shy of his 54th birthday, notched his sixth Emperor's Cup win. Trainer Kazuo Fujisawa collected his second.
Race third choice Symboli Kris S. remained midpack to the bend taking the final turn three off the rail. "We were blocked in front, which probably worked to our advantage in the end,'' Okabe said later. ``I had a lot of horse as we went into the stretch and I just waited for the way to open. When it did he shot forward.''
Symboli Kris S. gained the lead at the 150-meter mark and held off a late charge by second choice Narita Top Road, third in the '01 Japan Cup. Narita Top Road's bid took him past Sunrise Pegasus (Sunday Silence--Higashi Brian, by Brian's Time) mere strides before the finish, bumping the 4-year-old into third place by a neck. Air Shakur finished a length and a quarter later in fourth place.
Okabe, usually coolness personified, was unable to hide his excitement at the big win. ''He was very forward today, more than usual. And the break was excellent. When the gate opened he was out in a dash, like a sprint. I thought, 'Wow!' ''
On hand for the classic win was Yoko Wada, 72, who gave Okabe a teary hug as he exited the weight room. Over the years, Wada and her husband had been a part of some of the highpoints in Japanese racing, fielding two of the country's most famed racehorses, Speed Symboli, the first Japan-based horse to take on the Arc, and Symboli Rudolf, who captured the country's triple crown in 1984. ''I really hadn't expected to win today but when I saw him coming down the stretch, I knew we had it,'' Wada said with joyful pride. It was a dream come true for the family, whose horses had captured the spring version of the Emperor's Cup twice, but never the autumn.
Son Takahiro Wada, who bred the dark bay colt at his farm in Kentucky, said, ``His sire, Kris S., died earlier this year. I'd wanted to try to spread the bloodline here in Japan and this win is helping to realize that dream.'' Connections indicated they would aim the colt for this year's Japan Cup.
Symboli Kris S. improved his record to 5 wins in 9 starts with a winning time of 1:58.5. His total earnings, including the 132 million yen for the Emperor's Cup win, now top 342 million yen. The colt became the second 3-year-old to win the race since their participation was allowed from 1991.
Over 93,000 fans turned out for the fall classic on a beautiful clear fall day with over 28.6 billion yen wagered on the Emperor's Cup alone.