International traveler Admire Moon earned his first group I victory on Japanese soil Sunday when he defeated an outstanding field in the 48th Takarazuka Kinen by a half-length before 63,580 at rainy Hanshin Race Course.
The win was the second grade I victory for Admire Moon after winning the Dubai Duty Free in March. The victory was also the first JRA grade I for jockey Yasunari Iwata. Admire Moon is a 4-year-old colt by End Sweep out of the Sunday Silence mare My Katies. He is trained by Hiroyoshi Matsuda, is owned by Riichi Kondo and was bred by Northern Racing – an arm of the Shadai empire.
The race was run at breakneck speed with evergreen 8-year-old Lohengrin surprising many by leading the field early while the expected pacesetter Admire Main pushed him all the way. The first 1,000 meters of the race was run in 57.9 seconds which allowed horses at the back of the field to finish strongly.
As the leaders began to drop out at the 800-meter mark of the about 1 3/8-mile distance, several began to make their challenge. At the top of the straight last year’s Japanese Racing Association champion 3-year-old filly Kawakami Princess grabbed to the lead. Last year’s JRA champion 3-year-old colt Meisho Samson quickly moved to challenge her, however, and gradually began to pull away.
The 3-year-old filly Vodka was sent out favored by the Japanese punters after rewriting history in winning the Japanese Derby (Jpn-I) at her previous start, and she looked to have every chance when she made ground along the inside in the straight. But at the 200-meter mark she had come to the end of her run. Meisho Samson was in front, but Iwata had patiently ridden Admire Moon at the back of the field and when he asked him for his effort in the straight it was clear he would be difficult to beat.
Meisho Samson fought back when Admire Moon strode up beside him, but in the end Admire Moon proved too strong, and at the line Admire Moon was a half-length length clear to claim first prize. Meisho Samson held on for second, and the always consistent Pop Rock finished on solidly for third, another two lengths away.
Admire Fuji and Fast Tateyama were next, followed by Kawakami Princess, who may have made her run too early and tired at the end to eventually finish 6th. Vodka finished in eighth place. Four-time grade I winner Daiwa Major had gone into the race losing 16kgs from his win in the Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) last start, and that may have told with him eventually finished well back in 12th place.
The final time was 2:12.4 on good going.