Japan capped the first half of the year with the Takarazuka Memorial (Jpn-I) June 23 at Hanshin. The Takarazuka is the last group I until fall, and one of two races in Japan in which entrants are partially selected by fan ballot. This year's event lost considerable crowd appeal when appearances by two eagerly awaited headliners--2001 Horse of the Year Jungle Pocket and four-time grade I winner Eishin Preston--failed to come to plan. An injury forced Jungle Pocket to bow out, while connections of Eishin Preston decided a rest was in the books until fall. As a result, top billing in the field of 12 went to Dantsu Flame, who had placed second in the first two legs of Japan's Triple Crown last year, but had thus far failed, in five tries, to make the winner's circle of a grade I. The sixth try was lucky. Lohengrin, the only 3-year-old in the race, took the lead from the gate, followed by Tokai Point and race second choice, two-time grade I winner Air Shakur, with Kent Desormeaux up. Dantsu Flame found his rhythm running relaxed in fourth position. Just into the final bend, Desormeaux moved early to take the lead in a decision that may have cost him the race, while Shinji Fujita sat tight atop Dantsu Flame. Turning wide into the straight, Dantsu Flame surged forward to within two lengths at the furlong mark. As Tokai Point faded, Tsurumaru Boy, who had remained one off the rear, powered impressively down the stretch to line up with Dantsu Flame with 50 meters to go. Dantsu Flame rose to the challenge with yet another power surge that put him over the line in first, a neck ahead of Tsurumaru Boy with Lohengrin in third 11Ž4 lengths back. Air Shakur held on for fourth.
Dantsu Flame (Brian's Time--Inter Pyrenees, by Sanquirico) was bred at Nobuoka Farm in Hokkaido's Urakawa and is trained by the Ritto-base Kenji Yamauchi. The 4-year-old colt improved his record to five wins in 14 starts. He is owned by Tetsuji Yamamoto. Dantsu Flame clocked 2:12.90 for 10 furlongs.