A 4-year-old colt by End Sweep, Admire Moon won for Darley Japan Farm and trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda, who both captured their first Japan Cup title. It was the third Grade I victory this year for Admire Moon, and his 10th victory in 17 career starts.
Pop Rock was second, part of a three-way photo finish. Betting favorite Meisho Samson was a neck back in third, one-length better than Vodka, who was part of the trio of horses that chased the winner in the stretch. The top six finishers in the field of 18 were all bred in Japan.
Admire Moon was bred by Northern Farm, who also bred Vermilion, the winner of the Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) one day earlier. The winner earned more than $2.1-million for the race, pushing his career total over $10-million.
Despite his previous success, Admire Moon went off as the fifth betting choice, at odds of 11-1. It may have because of his sixth place effort in his most recent start, a race won by Meisho Samson.
“I am greatly honored to be able to win this prestigious Group I race,” Matsuda said. “He had come off an unlikely defeat in his last start but we just carried towards his next start and he responded well.
“After making a good start and rating in a good position in a pace that was neither fast nor slow, I thought he may have made his move at the stretch too early, because he was often beaten in such cases. However, he held on well until the very end this time.”
Jockey Yasunari Iwata kept Admire Moon towards the rail in the early part of the 1 ½-mile event, settling in fifth position during the backstretch. They made their move along the inside around the final turn, taking over from pacesetter Chosan. Admire Moon was game throughout the length of the stretch, even after tiring in the final yards.
“I am so overwhelmed I can’t think of what to say,” Iwata said. “We never really settled in but he ran on strongly until the very end. As most jockeys avoid the inside track, I took advantage of the opening and was able to save ground, which worked perfectly for us.”
Admire Moon, who has won five of his first six starts, is out of the Sunday Silence mare My Katies. Sunday Silence is also the broodmare sire of Vermilion, winner of the Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn I). He is likely to be retired to stud for Shiekh Mohammed, who bought him in June.
The final time was 2:24.70.