Transcend pulls away to win the 2011 Japan Cup Dirt.

Transcend pulls away to win the 2011 Japan Cup Dirt.

Japan Racing Association

Transcend Repeats in Japan Cup Dirt

Son of Wild Rush wins showdown with Espoir City; Murtagh takes Super Jockey title.

Favored Transcend successfully defended his title in the $3.4 million Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) Dec. 4, winning a showdown with 2009 victor Espoir City at Hanshin Racecourse.

Transcend, ridden from the widest stall in the 16-horse field by Shinji Fujita, got the lead on the opening turn of the 1,800-meter course (about 1 1/8 miles) and drove home convincingly to register a two-length victory over Wonder Acute, who nosed out Espoir City with a late charge for the runner-up spot. American-bred mare La Verita finished a half-length farther back in fourth.

Also on the Hanshin program, Ireland's John Murtagh rallied on the second day of Japan's 2011 World Super Jockey Series to win the four-race competition from 14 other international riders. Murtagh, with 48 points, defeated Japan's Hiroto Yoshihara (42) and Norihiro Yokoyama (35). America's John Velazquez, with a second on the first day and a third-place finish in the finale, was tied for fourth with Japan's Yasunari Iwata. Ramon Dominguez, also representing the U.S., finished eighth.

Transcend, trained by Takayuki Yasuda for owner Koji Maeda, added the Japan Cup Dirt title to wins in the Mile Championship Nambu Hai (Jpn-I) and the February Stakes (Jpn-I) this year, as well as a runner-up finish in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March. Transcend has 10 career wins in 19 races, including four grade I victories.

“To be honest, I did have some doubts after drawing stall number 16," said Yasua. "Fujita insisted that he should take the lead and with full confidence in him, I let him do what he thought best. After he took the lead, the pace was perfect and our horse showed a strong performance. He has improved remarkably this season."

Yasuda said the plan is to return Transcend to competition in 2012.

"We will kick off the next season in the February Stakes and will challenge the Dubai World Cup once again,” he said.

The 5-year-old bay son of Wild Rush out of the Tony Bin mare Cinema Scope was clocked in 1:50.6 over standard conditions. The time was 1.7 seconds off the Hanshin course stakes record of 1:48.9 he established last year.

Espoir City, a two-time Japanese Racing Association champion as the nation's top dirt horse and a Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) contestant in 2010 (finishing 10th), challenged Transcend on the final turn. But Transcend repelled that threat and steadily pulled away from Espoir City and La Verita in the stretch.

“I’m happy we were able to defend the title," Fujita said. "After pressing the pace in our two recent starts, I thought it would be best to send him up front again, so I never hesitated to take the lead even though we were breaking from the widest stall. He deserves to cap off the season with a big win like this.”

Wonder Acute, who stumbled at the start, threaded his way through traffic from near the rear of the field. He finished well to snatch second from Espoir City at the wire.

Murtagh, competing in the World Super Jockeys Series for the sixth time, won the Golden Whip Trophy with second favorite Asuka Kurichan. The Irish champion, third in last year's event, also did well with less favored mounts in his other three races, finishing third, fifth, and seventh. Yoshihara won with both of his mounts Dec. 3 but was well beaten in his two subsequent races.

"After Hiroto won the first two on the first day, I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy," Murtagh said. "I was able to see a lot of my friends in Japan again on this visit and I had a lot of fun, so I’m very grateful to have been able to come here. You have great races here in Japan and I would certainly love to come back here again to participate next year."