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Monday, April 16, 2001

Agnes Tachyon claims first leg of Triple Crown

Staff writer

FUNABASHI, Chiba Pref. -- Overwhelming race favorite Agnes Tachyon captured the Japanese Triple Crown's first leg with a 11/2-length victory in the Satsukisho on Sunday at Nakayama Race Course.

Agnes Tachyon remained unbeaten as he bested the all-male field of 18 in the 3-year-old classic, a 2,000-meter turf event worth 97 million yen to the winner. It was only the fourth start for the handsome chestnut colt, who has already claimed three graded wins and over 222 million yen in earnings just two days past his third birthday.

Third-pick Dantsu Flame finished second, holding his ground against a heated challenge by second-choice Jungle Pocket, who finished a further half-length back.

Agnes Tachyon (Sunday Silence-Agnes Flower, by Royal Ski) brought momentary cries of alarm from the crowd as he balked entering the gate, broke for a smooth start and advanced quickly to within striking distance of the front, an uncharacteristic position that again elicited worried murmurs from the stands.

Pulled by front-runner Sure Happiness, the field spread out long into the backstretch with Agnes Tachyon holding tight to fifth position and contender Jungle Pocket (Tony Bin-Dance Charmer, by Nureyev) moving up slowly on the outside.

There was a moment of alarm as the field turned for home and Born King at the rear of the pack pulled up sharply, nearly falling as he suffered his second interference of the race. The incident later resulted in a 16-minute delay in deciding the outcome.

Unaffected out front, Agnes Tachyon gained the lead with 200 meters to go. Jungle Pocket looked like a hopeful, briefly flirting with second position before being forced back by the steady advance of Dantsu Flame (Brian's Time-Inter Pyrenee, by Sanquirico). Agnes Tachyon, however, was never in danger, as veteran jockey Hiroshi Kawachi guided him across the finish line.

"I was a bit worried today as he wasn't quite at his best," Kawachi said after the race. "I thought we'd be OK if we got a position toward the front. We had some rough spots early on but we got through it all right and we'll try our best in the (Japan) Derby," added Kawachi, who was unusually subdued after a classic win.

The 46-year-old Kawachi won the Derby last year aboard Tachyon's older brother, Agnes Flight.

Agnes Tachyon, bred at Shadai Farm on the northern island of Hokkaido, is owned by Takao Watanabe and trained by Hiroyuki Nagahama.

Fair skies and warm temperatures brought over 89,000 fans to the Nakayama track. The second leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Japan Derby, will be held May 27 at Tokyo Race Course.

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