Gold Ship Repeats in Takarazuka Kinen
Photo: Naoji Inada
Gold Ship takes the Takarazuka Kinen again.
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Gold Ship overcame a tardy start and scored an unprecedented second straight win in the Takarazuka Kinen (Jpn-I) June 29 at Hanshin racecourse. 
 
The odds-odd favorite, Gold Ship stalked pacesetter Verxina from fifth early and to the outside of Gentildonna for most of the race. He hit the front 200 meters out and cruised to a three-length victory. Star mare Gentildonna, making her first start since winning the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) March 29, lacked the necessary response in the stretch and finished a lackluster ninth as the third favorite.
 
Gold Ship comfortably held back Curren Mirotic, who raced in third early and doggedly chased the winner through the final 200 meters to take second. Two-time Victoria Mile (Jpn-I) victress Verxina held on for third, 1 1/4 lengths back. 
 
Slow out of the gate from post 11 in the 12-horse field, Gold Ship lost a couple lengths at the start but made a swift outside run into a tracking position as Verxina clipped along at the front in a moderate tempo. Overtaken by sixth-place finisher Fame Game entering the stretch and subsequently by the winner and runner-up,
 
Gold Ship was timed in 2:13.09 for 2,200 meters (about 1 3/8 miles) on firm turf. 
 
A homebred for owner Eiichi Kobayashi and trained by Naosuke Sugai, the 5-year-old son of Stay Gold scored a fifth win at the top level and his 11th victory overall from 19 career starts. With the win, he earned an automatic starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) later this year at Santa Anita Park as the Takarazuka Kinen is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win & You're In" series. He also earned a starting spot in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf but bypassed the race.
 
"The horse ran a good race to claim the victory," said winning rider Norihiro Yokoyama. "He didn't break well as expected, but I was able to guide him to a good position thanks to the wide draw. The track condition was a little soft (because of the rain), so I wasn't sure if he would respond, but he didn't seem to care at all. 
 
"He's a clever horse and whether he performs well or not depends on his mood. So I'm relieved that he lived up to the expectations of many fans."
 
Win Variation, the second choice, raced wide at the back of the field and angled out into the stretch before finishing seventh. 
  
Gold Ship was champion 3-year-old male of 2012 after winning five of six starts, including a pair of classics. He is out of Japanese group III-placed Point Flag, by Mejiro McQueen.
 
The field for the Takarazuka Kinen, the final group I race of the spring season, is selected by race fans who vote for runners from all distances. Gold Ship topped the voting this year, followed by recent Tenno Sho (Spring) (Jpn-I) runner-up Win Variation in second and Gentildonna in third.

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