Japan's first group I race of the year was won in fine style by Copano Rickey, who pulled off a massive upset with his half-length triumph over Hokko Tarumae in the $1.9 million February Stakes Feb. 23 at Tokyo Racecourse.
Copano Rickey was the longest shot in the 16-horse field at 272-1 odds for the 1,600-meter (about one-mile) dirt event. The 4-year-old Gold Allure colt broke alertly from post 13 and took up a tracking position from second, about a length back, as A Top Shin spurted to the front and laid down an easy tempo on the rail.
Spent from setting the pace, A Shin Top weakened as Copano Rickey capitalized to take the lead 400 meters out. The upstart found another gear when called upon and powered into command. Group I winner and second choice Hokko Tarumae was in hot pursuit but failed to reel in the runaway winner.
Hokko Tarumae finished 1 3/4 lengths clear of Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) victor Belshazzar
, the 5-2 favorite who was Japan's champion dirt horse of 2013. Belshazzar unleashed a belated rally from well back in the final 200 meters to take third.
With Hironobu Tanabe riding for trainer Akira Murayama, Copano Rickey was timed in 1:36 flat.
Copano Rickey has competed exclusively on dirt since making his career bow as a 2-year-old in December 2012. He broke his maiden in his second start and earned his first stakes victory last May when romping to a six-length triumph in the 2013 Hyogo Championship.
The February Stakes was the group I debut for Copano Rickey. His win provided 13-year veteran Tanabe with a breakthrough at the top level and the rider was appreciative.
"The long stretch felt especially long today," he said." (With this field) we just went and gave what he had—we ended up without being challenged and he responded well. I want to thank him for giving me my first group I title."
Most often forwardly placed, Hokko Tarumae was positioned mid-pack in the February and had a wide trip most of the way from post 15. Entering with two group wins in his most recent starts, including the Tokyo Daishoten (Jpn-I) to cap 2013, he advanced wide around the final turn and rallied smartly but the winner was too tough.
The son of King Kamehameha will proceed as planned to Dubai, where he is to bid for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 29.
Copano Rickey has won five on nine career starts for owner Sachiaki Kobayashi. He was bred in Japan by Yanagawa Bokujo and is out of the winning Timber Country mare Copano Nikita.
Sire Gold Allure, a 15-year-old son of Sunday Silence, stands at Shadai Stallion Station in Hokkaido.