By Bob Kieckhefer
Japan's top sprinter, Lord Kanaloa, swept by pacesetting local hope Cerise Cherry in the final 100 meters in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) Dec. 9 and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths at Sha Tin Racecourse.
Cerise Cherry held second by a short head over another local, Captain Sweet, in a race Hong Kong runners have dominated for a decade.
With Yasunari Iwata up, Lord Kanaloa was always prominent among the 12 starters. He kicked on easily when prompted at midstretch and Cerise Cherry, while offering no resistance to the winner, battled to save second.
Last year's winner, Lucky Nine, was saddled with the outside post position—a tough assignment in this race—and did well to rally to a fifth-place finish. The other Japanese hope, Curren Chan, settled for seventh and Australian star sprinter Sea Siren finished ninth.
The 1,200 meters on good turf was timed in 1:08.50.
Lord Kanaloa, a 4-year-old colt by King Kamehameha, had been racing well at the top level all year in Japan, culminating in a victory over Curren Chan in the Sprinters Stakes (Jpn-I) at Nakayama in their last start. He now has eight wins, four seconds and one third from 13 starts.
"There is no other sprinter who could win in this race," Iwata said through a translator, adding he believes the colt could compete anywhere in the world. "He is a very talented sprinter, so yes," he said in answer to the question.
Trainer Takayuka Yasuda said he believes Lord Kanaloa will be "a pioneer for Japanese sprinters" in Hong Kong. Japan has had significant success in other Hong Kong International Races but has produced steady futility in the Sprint.
Hong Kong runners have won the race in nine of the last 10 years and often have swept the top placings. Sunday, the next five finishers after Lord Kanaloa were locals.