Japanese-trained horses swept the top three positions in the Japan Racing Association's two major group I international races, the Japan Cup and Japan Cup Dirt, both run at Tokyo Racecourse on Nov. 28 under sunny skies.
Yutake Take guided Time Paradox to an 11-1 upset over Admire Don in the $2.2 million Japan Cup Dirt, with Gene Crisis third and American-trained Total Impact fourth, beaten five lengths. Favorite Zenno Rob Roy and French jockey Olivier Peslier delighted the crowd of 119,362 by easily winning the $4.3 million Japan Cup by three lengths going 1 1/2 miles on turf (2,400 meters). Cosmo Bulk was second, with Delta Blues third and French-trained Policy Maker fourth. The winners both were bred in Japan by the Yoshida brothers' Shiraoi Farm, with Time Paradox racing for the Yoshidas' Shadai Race Horse racing club and Zenno Rob Roy carrying the colors of Shinobu Oosako.
The JRA, marking its 50th anniversary as the governing body of racing in Japan, held both fixtures on the same program for the first time since the Japan Cup Dirt's inception in 2000. That 1 5/16-mile dirt race (2,100 meters) previously was held on Saturday, with the Japan Cup on Sunday.
Take was riding Time Paradox for only the second time, finishing third aboard the 6-year-old son of Brian's Time in his previous start, the JBC Classic, on Nov. 3. Winner of that race was Admire Don, who like Time Paradox is trained by Hiroyoshi Matsuda. Admire Don also finished second as the favorite in last year's Japan Cup Dirt, when the Doug O'Neill-trained Fleet Street Dancer recorded a stunning upset at odds of nearly 50-1.
Another Shadai runner, Lohengrin, set the pace in the Japan Cup Dirt, with Time Paradox saving ground throughout while in mid-pack. Mike Smith had Total Impact in a contending position, two or three paths off the rail, and within a few lengths of the pacesetter. When set down for the long stretch drive, Total Impact moved to the lead briefly, but Take had him measured, taking the advantage in the final quarter-mile and winning by 2 1/2 lengths. Admire Don got up late to be second, a length ahead of Gene Crisis, an American-bred 3-year-old colt by Subordination who ran well in his graded stakes debut, finishing 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Total Impact. They were followed by Top of World, Utopia, Koolinger, Hard Crystal, Snark Rayearth, Eagle Café, Homan Bell Win, Shirokita God Run, Lohengrin, Nike a Delight, Omidron, and Vortex, who was distanced. Trainer Gay Kelleway reported that Vortex had pulled a muscle in his hind quarters midway through the race but that the injury was not serious.
Time of the Japan Cup Dirt was 2:08.70 on a fast track. The stakes record of 2:05.90 was set by Kurofune in 2001.
"I felt I was in the perfect spot and I moved when I wanted to," Smith said of Total Impact. "The other horse was just better today."
Time Paradox picked up nearly $1.3 million for the win. It was his 12th victory in 30 career starts.
Zenno Rob Roy gave Japan's leading trainer, Kazuo Fujisawa his first Japan Cup victory after eight previous misses, including third-place finishes the last two years with Japanese Horse of the Year Symboli Kris S.
Fujisawa-trained Magnaten set the pace with quick fractions of :47.60, 1:11.40 and 1:36.50 for the opening mile. Peslier improved his position aboard Zenno Rob Roy on the sweeping turn for home, and it was quickly apparent he had more left in his tank than any of his 15 rivals. No serious threats came from behind as Zenno Rob Roy won handily. Cosmo Bulk, who chased Magnaten from the outset, held second by a neck over Delta Blues. Policy Maker ran well to be a head back in fourth, and was followed by Narita Century, Phoenix Reach, Lune d'Or, Er Nova, Hishi Miracle, Heart's Cry, Powerscourt, Tosen Dandy, Higher Game, Magnaten, Warrsan, and Hookipa Wave.
Aidan O'Brien-trained Powerscourt and Clive Brittain-trained Warrsan were near the back of the back throughout and failed to exhibit a closing kick.
Time of the Japan Cup was 2:24.20. The New Zealand mare Horlicks set the stakes record of 2:22.20 in 1989. This was the 24th running of the Japan Cup.
Zenno Rob Roy was made the favorite based on his strong Tenno Sho victory last time out in what was his only previous win this year. He was highly regarded in last year's Japanese Triple Crown, winning a key prep race and finishing second in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby).
Zenno Rob Roy was produced from the Mining mare, Roamin Rachel, a Glencrest Farm-bred who won the 1994 Ballerina Handicap (gr. I). Roamin Rachel raced three times for trainer Edward Lehman and Dun Roamin Farm after selling for $22,000 as a yearling to Sal Debunda, then was purchased privately by a partnership headed by William S. Farish and she was subsequently trained by Shug McGaughey. Farish's Lane's End Farm sold Roamin Rachel in foal to Storm Cat for $750,000 at the 1998 Keeneland November sale, where she was purchased by Nobuo Tsunoda. Zenno Rob Roy was foaled in 2000, and Roamin Rachel's next foal, a colt by Sunday Silence, was sent to the United States to be sold at the Keeneland September yearling sale. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, he was withdrawn from the sale and returned to Japan.
Zenno Rob Roy, the 17-to-10 favorite in the Japan Cup, won for the sixth time in 14 starts. Fujisawa said Zenno Rob Roy will run next in the traditional year-end race, the Arima Kinen, where racing fans vote on who will be invited to compete.
The Tokyo Racecourse is in the third year of a five-year rebuilding project that should be completed by the 2006 running of the Japan Cup. Attendance of 119,362 was up 45% from last year. Handle for the day was approximately $382 million, $100 million of which was wagered on the Japan Cup Dirt and $219 million on the Japan Cup. The total wagered was 12.8% higher than last year's Japan Cup program. Next year, the JRA plans to return to the old format of holding the Japan Cup Dirt on Saturday and the Japan Cup on Sunday.