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Monday, Oct. 22, 2001

Manhattan Cafe captures Kikkasho

Staff writer

KYOTO -- Japan's triple crown wrapped up with a surprise ending as dark horses captured the top two spots in the 3,000-meter Kikkasho on Sunday. Stunned fans sent waves of murmured disbelief through the stands as sixth pick Manhattan Cafe crossed the line a half length ahead of 11th choice Meiner Despot. More stunning than their moves, perhaps, were the lackluster ones of the rest of the 15-strong field of 3-year-olds, including Derby winner Jungle Pocket and runnerup Dantsu Flame.

An excruciatingly slow pace wreaked havoc among the ranks, preventing colt after colt from finding his rhythm at a distance all were running for the first time. The literally dark, jet black Manhattan Cafe, however, managed to relax and, in the stretch, still had reserves as the rest of the field tired. Manhattan Cafe snatched the win from Meiner Despot less than two strides before the finish, just as Meiner Despot looked about to claim the turf marathon wire to wire.

Air Eminem, third at the betting windows, followed Meiner Despot home three-quarters of a length later in third place, with race favorite Jungle Pocket turning in a fourth-place performance. Second choice Dantsu Flame, despite being paired with ace jockey Yutaka Take, who'd flown in from France for the race, and having shown good acceleration in the straight, was unable to cut the distance and ended in fifth place.

Manhattan Cafe trainer Futoshi Kojima claimed he had sensed victory early. "He was relaxed at the start and at the turn and it was then I thought he may be able to win it. The others, as I'd thought, weren't coping well with the slow pace. This is what I'd been counting on," Kojima said.

Rider Masayoshi Ebina said he had been a little less sure of victory. "I wasn't calling it to the end," he said. "There were too many strong horses in the field." Riding in to dismount, Ebina reached down and threw his arms around Manhattan Cafe's neck in, what was for Ebina, a highly unusual display of emotion. "I was just so grateful to him. This is a race I know I'll never forget." It was the first win of the Kikkasho for both jockey and trainer.

The Sunday Silence-sired Manhattan Cafe is owned by Kiyoshi Nishikawa and was bred at Shadai Farm in Hokkaido's Chitose. Manhattan Cafe improved his record to 4 wins in 8 outings with the classic victory. His total accumulated prize money now tops 205 million yen.

The victory in the Kikkasho was worth 112 million yen.

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