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Sunday, Nov. 25, 2001

Kurofune outclasses field by seven lengths

Staff writer

The home team sent the foreign competition packing as it swept the top seven places in the second running of the Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo Racecourse on Saturday. Favorite Kurofune continued to rewrite the books as he led the field of 16 over the wire by seven lengths in a record time of 2 minutes, 5.9 seconds.

Last year's champion Wing Arrow finished second, with Miracle Opera in third place half a length further back.

Out of the gate characteristically slowly but smoothly, the American-born gray had no difficulty keeping abreast of the quick pace. Kurofune cleared the initial turn without losing his rhythm and settled in to an outside stalking position down the backstretch.

Buoyed by Kurofune's nine-length record win in his last outing, a mile race at Tokyo, Japan ace Yutaka Take moved earlier than usual, eliciting a roar from the stands packed with over 90,000 spectators. Down the backstretch, Kurofune slipped steadily forward through the ranks reaching third-positioned Lido Palace by the bend. Before the final turn, the race was his as he gained the top and just kept going, widening his lead.

"He commanded the race from the start," said American rider Gary Stevens, voicing an opinion heard across the board. Stevens, Jerry Bailey, Olivier Peslier, riders who've seen and ridden the best of the best, all agreed: Kurofune has what it takes to take on the world.

Indeed, this win in the Japanese invitational further strengthened owner Makoto Kaneko's resolve to take his prize runner to next year's Dubai World Cup, the world's richest race.

"He's the best I've had in this race," said Take. "I think he's going to get even better."

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