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Monday, Nov. 26, 2001

Jungle Pocket takes Japan Cup

Japan-trained horses sweep the top positions

Staff writer

Japan-trained horses monopolized the scene yet again as they swept the top spots in the Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday, the second day of the year's biggest international racing event here. It was the fourth-straight Japan Cup victory for the home team, a first in the event's 21-year history.

Leading the sweep of the 2,400-meter turf race by a nose was Nippon Derby winner Jungle Pocket, who became not only the first native-bred 3-year-old to notch the Grade 1 race but did so competing against some of the best Japanese horses currently racing, including runnerup T.M. Opera O, Horse of the Year in 2000 and winner of last year's Japan Cup. The big names rolled across the finish line like movie star credits, with Narita Top Road in third place 3 1/2 lengths later, followed by Stay Gold in fourth place and Meisho Doto in fifth. Jungle Pocket's winning time was 2 minutes 23.8 seconds.

Helping to retain some of the race's international flavor was the winning jockey, French ace Olivier Peslier. Having secured the ride after winning the favor of owner Yomoji Saito, Peslier returned the honor with an aggressive ride that put Jungle Pocket ahead of all but T.M. Opera O with 200 meters left in the race. From there the two dueled down the long Tokyo stretch to the cheers of over 115,000 fans until Jungle Pocket succeeded in passing the seven-time G1 winner with but two strides to go.

It was the second day of disappointing performances from the foreign crowd, with not a glimpse of the seven entrants until Irish-bred Golan representing England crossed the line in sixth place. Hong Kong's Indigenous was next with a seventh-place finish. White Heart and With Anticipation from the U.S. followed, with America's Cagney in 12th, Germany's Paolini in 13th and Timboroa from the U.S. home last in the 15-strong field.

The outstanding performances by Japanese horses in both the Japan Cup on Sunday and the Japan Cup Dirt the previous day served to further boost the confidence of Japanese owners and horsemen that Japan horses are more than able to take on the foreign competition. Like yesterday's winner of the Japan Cup Dirt, Kurofune, Jungle Pocket is also expected to compete on foreign turf next year.

Jungle Pocket, bred at Northern Farm in Hokkaido, gave both trainer Sakae Watanabe and Peslier their first wins of the Japan Cup. The Tony Bin-sired Jungle Pocket is now 5 for 9, with just shy of 600 million yen in earnings. The Japan Cup win alone was worth 250 million yen.

Also on Sunday at Tokyo, the German-based Proudwings easily bested the field in the international Capital Stakes by half-a-length. Ridden by Yutaka Take, the German-bred 5-year-old took home 24 million yen for the win. Proudwings is trained by Ralf Suerland and owned by Hyperion Breeding.

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