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Monday, May 21, 2001

Desormeaux first foreign rider to win a Japan classic

Staff writer

American Kent Desormeaux, aboard Lady Pastel, made racing history Sunday in the Oaks by becoming the first foreign jockey to win a Japanese classic.

Lady Pastel beat Rosebud by a neck, with race-favorite T.M. Ocean finishing third, 21/2 lengths back in the 62nd running of the Oaks at Tokyo Racecourse.

Desormeaux treated the crowd of more than 100,000 to a thrilling show of exemplary riding. Bringing Lady Pastel up slowly on the rail from the rear of an 18-filly field, he rounded into the straight far from the front. But he cleared the traffic at the top of the slope and pulled home with a hands-and-heels driving finish. "I had lots of horse," Desormeaux said of Lady Pastel in the stretch. "I was very excited that I could go from behind the pack to right behind the leaders."

The stands were peppered with cries from fans as the 31-year-old jockey stepped to the winner's podium.

Desormeaux, who notched the Kentucky Derby on Real Quiet in 1999 and Japanese-owned Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, opted this year to ride in Japan on a three-month license instead of going for a Kentucky treble.

"What a tradeoff," he said Sunday. "The Derby for the Oaks!"

Desormeaux is set to ride this Sunday at Tokyo in the Japan Derby, which is being opened to foreign-bred horses for the first time in its 68-year history.

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