Dubai Next for February Stakes Hero Kane Hekili

(from the Japan Racing Association)
Favored Kane Hekili, the Japan Racing Association Dirt Horse of the Year in 2005, proved too strong for his rivals in Sunday's February Stakes (Jpn-I) held at Fuchu racecourse in Tokyo in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 people.

Ridden patiently by champion jockey Yutaka Take in his final race before heading overseas to compete in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), the 4-year-old Kane Hekili sat midfield in the early stages of the 1600-meter dirt event as last year's victor, Meisho Bowler, and Tosho Gear set a fast pace. The front-runners had a break of around five lengths at the midway point, but tired quickly upon entering the straight.

The first two horses to pass the leaders and hit the front at the top of the long Fuchu straight were Seeking the Dia (second favorite and runner up in the 2005 Japan Cup Dirt) and Utopia. But they ended up fighting for the places as Kane Hekili swept past them with 200 meters to go. Kane Hekili pulled away to eventually win comfortably by three lengths. Seeking the Dia finished second by a head over Utopia.

Take, who had promised to win the race on the way to Dubai, waved his whip in celebration as he eased Kane Hekili past the winning post. The time for the race was 1:34.9, just 0.2 seconds outside the record set last year by Meisho Bowler.

Take and winning trainer Katsuhiko Sumii had also combined earlier in the day to win the Hyacinth Stakes with the promising Flamme de Passion, who is also heading to Dubai for the UAE Derby (UAE-II).

Other horses that were given chances by the Japanese punters were Blue Concorde and Vermilion, and they finished 4th and 5th respectively.