Sweep Tosho Triumphs in Japan's QE II Cup

(from Japan Association of International Racing release)
Sweep Tosho capped a remarkable year with a grade I victory on Sunday, catching Osumi Haruka at the wire to win the 30th Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup.

The fillies and mares event drew a turnout of 69,728 on a cloudy day at Kyoto Racecourse. Sweep Tosho beat the pacesetter by half a length in a time of 2:12.5 over 2,200 meters. It was her second grade I title of the year after the Takarazuka Kinen in early summer.

It was the first QEII win for jockey Kenichi Ikezoe, and the second for trainer Akio Tsurudome.

"It's a load off my shoulders," said the 26-year-old Ikezoe, who nailed the victory in the final strides aboard the second favorite. "This was her third race of the fall, and she was in the best shape yet."

"Her form hadn't improved that much since her last run, but she was a lot calmer today," Tsurudome said. "She did a good job of coming out of a jam. She was incredible. I thought we were going to have to settle for second place."

The 4-year-old Sweep Tosho dethroned two-time defending champion Admire Groove, who crossed the finish line third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the Shinji Kawashima-ridden Osumi Haruka, runner-up in the race for the second consecutive year.

Four-year-old Yamanin Sucre, running for the first time in more than a year, produced a valiant effort, finishing fourth. Favorite Air Messiah, winner of this year's Shuka Sho, the last jewel in the filly's triple crown, came in fifth.

Jockey Yutaka Take's bid to win the race for the fifth consecutive year aboard Air Messiah came up short.

Britain's 5-year-old Summitville, the lone foreign entry in the full field of 18, was a disappointing 16th.

Kawashima had given Osumi Haruka a lead of seven lengths heading into the flat final straight, but as it turns out, he needed more insurance to hold off Sweep Tosho, who was coming off a fifth-place finish in the autumn Emperor's Cup just a couple of weeks ago.

"For a moment, I thought I had it, but we were up against the wrong horse today," Kawashima said. "(Sweep Tosho) hasn't been competing against the boys for nothing. You have to hand it to her. We lost fair and square today. But it's still a tough loss."

The chief concern for the Sweep Tosho camp was not the competition on this day. The touchy End Sweep filly had refused to warm up on the track before the Emperor's Cup, and needed the help of the stewards to reach the gates.

"I was worried about her getting on the track," said Ikezoe. "But everything went smoothly today."

"We were all laughing upstairs because I was so excited just to see her make it to the gate without any trouble," said Tsurudome, whose horse will head to the pastures until next year. "It's what I was worried about the most."