American-bred Kurofune romps home first in the Japan Cup Dirt.

American-bred Kurofune romps home first in the Japan Cup Dirt.

Bill Selwyn

Kurofune Romps to Victory in Japan Cup Dirt; Lido Palace Eighth

American-bred Kurofune showed on Saturday why some Japanese racing fans are calling him a "superhorse," as the 3-year-old gray colt by French Deputy galloped to an impressive seven-length victory in the second running of the $2-million Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) at Tokyo race course.

Ridden by Yutaka Take, Kurofune raced in mid-pack in the early stages of the 2,100-meter race (approximately 1 5/16 miles). As the field approached the far turn, Kurofune made a spectacular move, racing toward the lead and passing an American contingent led by multiple grade I winner Lido Palace. In a flash, Kurofune opened a daylight lead and won easily in track record time of 2:05.9. The previous record was set in last year's Japan Cup Dirt by Wing Arrow, who closed well to finish second in this year's running.

Wing Arrow was followed by Miracle Opera, Nobo True, Preeminence, Regent Bluff, and World Cleek, giving Japanese-trained runners the first seven finishing positions. Lido Palace was eighth, beaten 11 3/4 lengths, and followed by Generous Rosi, another American runner. The third U.S.-based horse, Dig for It, finished 11th in the field of 16.

Kurofune was sent off the odds-on favorite on the basis of a powerful triumph in the Musashino Stakes (Jpn-III) at one mile in his first dirt attempt. He won that race by nine lengths, setting another track, but there was some question about whether or not he could get the longer distance of the Japan Cup Dirt. After his devastating victory on Saturday, that is not an issue.

Trained by Kunihide Matsuda, a one-time racing journalist in Japan, Kurofune is owned by Makoto Kaneko and Katsumi Yoshida. Bred in Kentucky by Nick Lotz, Kurofune was purchased by Yoshida for $430,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Calder 2-year-olds in training sale from Niall Brennan Stables after being bought for $70,000 from Eaton Sales, agent, at the Keeneland September yearling sale.

Last December, the Yoshidas were so impressed by the early development of Kurofune, they purchased French Deputy from Three Chimneys Farm to stand at their Shadai Farm in Hokkaido. French Deputy had just two crops to race at the time.

Jerry Bailey said Lido Palace had no excuse for his eighth-place finish as the second betting choice. The Chilean-bred colt raced in fifth in the early going, but was unable to keep up with Kurofune as he made his winning move. "He was going so easy," Bailey said of Kurofune. "He passed me without any effort, and my horse had no fight in him when the gray horse came to him."

Trainer Robert Frankel conceded the fever that knocked Lido Palace out of training for nearly a week in late October might have made a difference. "He wasn't as tight as I would like to have had him," Frankel said. "It's tough coming over here and taking on their horses, and the winner is a very good horse. They should send him to the U.S. and see how he does."

That apparently is in the long-range plans for Kurofune. He will be pointed for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March and then for the Breeders' Cup Classic in the fall.