Big favorite Mikki Isle quickly recovered from a less than ideal start and led all the way to win the NHK Mile Cup (Jpn-I) for 3-year-olds by a neck May 11 at Tokyo Racecourse.
The son of Deep Impact scored over Tagano Burg after setting a tepid pace throughout. Kings of the Sun was only a nose back in third in a tight finish; less than a length separated the first six across the line.
Breaking from post 10 in the 18-horse field, 19-10 choice Mikki Isle was angled over to the rail to save ground and had a length advantage over Horai Akiko down the backstretch. He charged up the hill of the home straight in a strong drive, fighting off a stiff challenge from that rival. As the field threatened to swamp him in the closing stages, he dug down to prevail.
"Being sent off as heavy favorite, I'm relieved with the outcome," winning rider Suguru Hamanaka said. "Unusually, he was tense in the gate and didn't break as well, but once he spurted for the lead he was faster than the others. I knew the others were closing in fast, and prayed that he would hold on to his lead.
"This horse has incredible speed and character. I hope he will go on to enjoy a fantastic career."
Tagano Burg, the 17th choice at 114-1 odds, settled in midfield on the rail, with 12th choice Kings of the Sun racing to his outside and Rosa Gigantea relaxing at the back of the field.
In the run to the finish line, Tagano Burg moved out for clear running room with Kings of the Sun in close pursuit. Rosa Gigantea, angled wide on the turn, closed furiously from the outside.
A wide line of horses battling for the runner-up spot swallowed Horai Akiko in the final strides, and two photo finishes determined the places from second to fifth. Rosa Gigantea, who closed fastest in the final three furlongs, finished fourth, a nose ahead of Horai Akiko, who outfinished Shonan Achieve by a neck.
Mikki Isle was timed in 1:33.2 on turf rated as firm while earning a fifth consecutive win from six career starts. It was the bay colt's third victory from as many outings this season for Hidetaka Otonashi, who trains for Mizuki Noda. The only blemish on his record is a runner-up finish in his maiden debut last September at Hanshin.
The NHK Mile Cup was the third straight stakes win for Mikki Isle, who won the Nikkan Sports Sho Shinzan Kinen (Jpn-III) Jan. 12 in his stakes bow and followed up in Arlington Cup (Jpn-III) March 1 at Hanshin.
Mikki Isle was bred in Japan by Northern Farm out of the winning Rock of Gibraltar mare Star Isle. His second dam, Isle de France, was a graded/group III winner in the United States and France and is a half sister to Japanese champion older mare Diamond Biko, both produced by U.S. multiple grade I winner Stella Madrid.