Kane Hekili beat back the late charges of favored Vermilion and Meisho Tokon to win the $3 million Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) by a head in the first running of the event at Hanshin Racecourse Dec. 7. American hopes Frost Giant and Tin Cup Chalice finished 12th and 13th, respectively.
It was the second Japan Cup Dirt victory for Kane Hekili, who won the race in 2005 by a nose.
Mast Track, trained by Bobby Frankel, was scratched from the race due to shoulder lameness, the Japan Racing Association reported. However, Frankel, also the breeder and owner of the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner , said the horse was taken out because of quarter cracks.
Casino Drive, the Japanese trained horse who won the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) and most recently had run 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), came home sixth.
Kane Hekili, a 6-year-old horse by Fuji Kiseki out of the Deputy Minister mare Life Out There, was ridden to victory by Christophe Lemaire. Kane Hekili was making just his second start since going to the sidelines in June 2006 due to an injury.
Tin Cup Chalice, a winner of six of seven starts in the U.S., led the first half-mile under Edgar Prado as Kane Hekili settled in behind the leaders. Success Brocken moved up along the inside to take the lead at the race's midpoint before breaking away from Tin Cup Chalice at the head of the straight. Kane Hekili advanced between them and several others rallied on the outside, including the defending champion Vermilion and the outsider Meisho Tokon. At the 200-meter mark Kane Hekili took the lead while coming under a severe challenge from Vermilion and Meisho Tokon. He prevailed in all-out effort in the final 100 yards by a head over Meisho Tokon. Vermilion, who rallied from the rear of the pack, was a neck farther back in third.
After being run for the previous eight years at Tokyo as part of the Japan Cup festival, the Japan Cup Dirt was moved to Hanshin for the first time this year, and the distance shortened from 2,100 meters to 1,800 meters, or about 1 1/8 miles. Attendance was 48,766. The winning time was 1:49.2
Kane Hekili, bred by Northern Farm, has won nine of 16 career starts. He is trained by Katsuhiko Sumii for owner by Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co.