Nihonpiro Ours scored his first win at the group I level with a dominant performance in the Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) at Hanshin Racecourse Dec. 2.
Sent off the sixth choice in the 16-horse field, Nihonpiro Ours, a homebred of Hyakutaro Kobayashi, raced in fourth early behind a fast pace and was well within himself as he coasted to a 3 1/2-length win over Wonder Acute. He set a stakes record of 1:48.80 for the 1,800-meter (1 1/8-mile) race.
Roman Legend, the 2-to-1 favorite bidding to extend a six-race win streak and add a first group I win to his record, raced in midfield early, about eight lengths behind Espoir City, and exerted a strong late charge to finish fourth.
Ninth to Transcend in last year's edition of the race in his only other start in a group I event, Nihonpiro Ours covered the distance 0.1 seconds faster than the record time established by Transcend in 2010.
In seeking an unprecedented third consecutive win in the race, Transcend faded to finish last after pressing pacesetter and 6-to-1 second choice Espoir City, the 2009 winner, along with Hokko Tarumae.
Espoir City could not sustain his front-running efforts and tired to finish 10th. As Espoir City faded at the top of the stretch, Hokko Tarumae took control with Nihonpiro Ours in pursuit on the outside. With an easy acceleration under Manabu Sakai, Nihonpiro Ours struck the front 200 meters out and cruised unthreatened across the finish line.
Wonder Acute, who tracked the early pace from fifth, emerged behind the two leaders in the stretch with a determined rally and caught Hokko Tarumae in the final strides for second. Roman Legend was two lengths farther back in fourth.
A consistent performer throughout his career, 5-year-old Nihonpiro Ours improved to three wins and two seconds from seven starts this season. He entered the Japan Cup Dirt after finishing second, a neck behind Roman Legend in the Miyako Stakes (Jpn-III) Nov. 4 at Kyoto. He was third to Espoir City in last year’s Miyako before an unplaced finish in the Japan Cup Dirt.
Nihonpiro Ours has three previous wins in listed stakes, including two this season. With his breakthrough group win in the Japan Cup Dirt, he boosted his overall record to 10 wins, six seconds, and three thirds from 22 career starts.
Trainer Yuki Ohashi said patient handling led to Nihonpiro Our's victory.
"We took ample time to improve his form, and our efforts have at last been rewarded," Ohashi said, adding that he was pleased with the way the race unfolded.
"The race development was just perfect. The jockey waited to make a bid, which was later than usual, and this is when I was sure that our horse was going to win the race."
Nihonpiro Ours is by Lex Stud’s White Muzzle, a European group I winner whose top offspring include Japan's 2007 champion 3-year-old male. Asakusa Kings. The dark bay or brown horse is out of the Admire Vega mare Nihonpillow Lupinus and is the only black-type performer under his first three dams.