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Monday, April 30, 2001

T.M. Opera O wins third straight Emperor's Cup


Staff writer

KYOTO -- Back in form, T.M. Opera O again ran like the champion he is, winning his third consecutive Emperor's Cup on Sunday by a half-length over Irish-bred Meisho Doto. The crowd was behind the 5-year-old chestnut, pushing him to the fore at the betting window as the odds-on favorite despite a disappointing fourth-place finish in his last race, the April 1 Hanshin Cup (G2). This time there was no holding him back. Easily flipping up a gear in the stretch, T.M. Opera O pulled to the front with 300 meters left in the 3,200-meter marathon and resumed his spot in the winner's circle. His winning time was 3 minutes 16.2 seconds.

Second-choice Narita Top Road (Soccer Boy -- Floral Magic, by Affirmed), who had held off a challenge for nearly 300 meters, was finally caught by third-pick Meisho Doto (Bigstone -- Princess Reema, by Affirmed) three strides before the wire to finish a half-length behind in third.

Maquereau ended in fourth place, a length and a half behind Narita Top Road.

The win was sweet for T.M. Opera O (Opera House -- Once Wed, by Blushing Groom), who grabbed his seventh top-level Grade 1 race. It was a feat that put him alongside racing hero Symboli Rudolf, who took the Japanese triple crown in 1984. For T.M. Opera O's top rival, however, it again meant bitter defeat. Meisho Doto has taken on a Grade 1 lineup five times, but has never won. Each time he has finished in second-place to T.M. Opera O.

The perpetual second-best, however, was given a nod of respect from Opera O trainer Ichizo Iwamoto.

"That Meisho Doto can really run," he said after admitting he had a few anxious moments watching the field round toward home. "Still, I know (Opera O's) the kind of horse that can really draw on his strength and I knew he was in the condition to do that today."



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