Erin Court wins the Japanese Oaks.

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Erin Court wins the Japanese Oaks.
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Kate Hunter

Erin Court Springs Surprise in Japanese Oaks

Durandal filly holds on by a neck in first group I try May 22 at Tokyo Racecourse.

Making her first start in a group I event, Erin Court held off a pair of strong challenges to win the $2.3 million Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks, at rainy Tokyo Racecourse May 22.

Erin Court proved best in the field of 18 Japanese-bred 3-year-old fillies by a neck over Pure Brise, with Whale Capture a nose back in third. Marcellina, the race favorite after winning the Oka Sho (Jpn-I), or Japanese One Thousand Guineas, in April, rallied belatedly for fourth, beaten by 2 3/4 lengths.

Ridden to victory by veteran Hiroki Goto, who claimed his first Classic victory in 44 tries, seventh choice Erin Court completed the 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) in 2:25.7 on turf rated firm. It was the third consecutive win this season for Erin Court, who has four lifetime victories in nine starts.

Kazuhide Sasada trains the winning daughter of Durandal--Erin Birc (Bluebird) for owner Teruya Yoshida. Shadai Farm bred the dark bay or brown filly.

Pure Brise was uncontested on the lead after taking over from Rice Terrace on the first turn. Marcellina, the first group I winner for the legendary Deep Impact, was held back well off the pace while second choice Whale Capture also traveled near the rear. Erin Court was positioned in mid-division just off the rails along the backstretch.

The field began to close the gap leaving the final bend but Pure Brise dug in when challenged turning for home. Erin Court worked her way out for room and pursued the persistent Pure Brise, finally catching the leader several strides out. Whale Capture, while meeting traffic on her way out for a clear path, exhibited a powerful late charge along the outside to just miss Pure Brise.