Vermilion On Target; World Cup Next
Photo: John Crofts
Vermilion winning the Japan Dirt Cup (JPN-I).
Favored Vermilion, Japan’s champion dirt horse last year, dominated the field in his debut for 2008 with a 1 3/4-length win in the February Stakes (Jpn-I) at Tokyo racecourse Feb. 24 before a crowd of 53,029.

The 6-year-old El Condor Pasa horse earned his fourth consecutive victory. It was announced after the race that Vermilion would head to Nad al Sheba next for his second try in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 29.

Vermilion's only blemish in 2007 was a fourth-place behind the victorious Invasor in the World Cup.  He captured four of his five starts last season for trainer Sei Ishizaka and earned more than $3.6 million for owners Sunday Racing Co.

“Vermilion will head to Dubai for his second attempt on the Dubai World Cup," said Shunsuke Yoshida, director of the Sunday Racing syndicate. "I believe that the horse is superior to what he was 12 months ago.”

Leading Japanese jockey Yutaka Take pushed the 2-1 pick Vermilion along in the early stages of the 1,600-meter February Stakes and they settled mid-pack on the outside of the field from barrier 15. Victory, making his first start on dirt, set the pace and the 6-year-old mare Daring Heart sat second. Vermilion was positioned closest of the favorites to the lead, with Yasunari Iwata on second choice Wild Wonder following him all the way.

As the field reached the straight, Daring Heart went past Victory to take the lead, but Vermilion and Wild Wonder rallied on the outside and quickly hit the front. At one stage Wild Wonder edged past Vermilion, but when Take showed the favorite the whip, the dark bay responded well to gradually pull away from Wild Wonder. The 8-year-old Blue Concorde charged late to grab second. Blue Concorde was making ground on Vermilion toward the wire but ran out of time. Blue Concorde wound up second and Wild Wonder held on for the show spot. The winning time was 1:35.30 on a fast track.

Vermilion, out of the Sunday Silence mare Scarlet Lady, was bred by Northern Farm. He won the Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) Nov. 24 and followed that up with a four-length triumph in the Tokyo Daishoten one month later at Ohi Racecourse. He has won 11 of 22 lifetime starts.

Field Rouge, the third favorite in the field of 16, was pulled up soon after the start by jockey Norihiro Yokoyama and was reported to have sustained a left shoulder injury.

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