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Monday, Dec. 24, 2001

Manhattan Cafe wins Arima Memorial

Staff writer

FUNABASHI, Chiba Pref. -- Manhattan Cafe and American Boss turned the tables on top picks T.M. Opera O and Meisho Doto as they wrapped up the Arima Memorial race Sunday with a 1-2 finish that capped the Japanese racing year with a decidely un-Japanese ring.

The winning pair rang uncommonly well at the payoff windows -- 48,650 yen on a 100 yen wager, the biggest return in the Arima's 46-year history.

Third choice Manhattan Cafe, winner of this year's classic Kikkasho (Japanese St. Leger) bested the field of 13 in the 2,500-meter Grade 1 event at Nakayama Racecourse by a length and a quarter, with longshot American Boss nudging the Queen Elizabeth Commemorative champ To the Victory by a neck for second.

To the Victory, with Yutaka Take up, took the lead from the gate, with American Boss and Shinko Calido following closely. Second pick Meisho Doto settled into fourth position with a close shadow by overwhelming favorite T.M. Opera O on his outside.

Masayoshi Ebina, on Manhattan Cafe, chose to keep a close watch on the top picks from a rail position midfield.

"I wanted to get behind them," Ebina explained later. "But I ended up further back than I wanted to be when they failed to move."

Ebina decided to make his move from three off the rear as he entered the turn, bringing Manhattan Cafe wide and open for a clear run. The black colt responded with spectacular acceleration, shooting forward and clear of all but three horses by the top of the straight. A strong close under Ebina's constant urging put him at the front with five strides to go and in for the win.

The strong finish in the Arima helped put to rest doubts as to whether Manhattan Cafe was but a shooting star that had taken advantage of the slow pace to win the October Kikkasho.

"He has greatly improved since then," Ebina said. "We thought he wouldn't be ready till next year, but he responded unexpectedly well to a lot of hard training in the meantime. He's a very strong horse and I think the sky's the limit with him. We have a lot to look forward to. Just leave next year to us."

It was a disappointing last run for both Meisho Doto and archrival T.M. Opera O. The pair, both pinned for retirement, could only manage fourth and fifth-place, respectively. T.M. Opera O, whose outstanding record brought him the Horse of the Year title in 2000, failed to notch a record-setting eighth Grade 1 win but will retire from the track with over 2.29 billion yen in earnings.

Manhattan Cafe clocked 2 minutes 33.1 seconds for the win, with a 33.9-second spurt over the final 600 meters. With Sunday's win, worth 180 million yen, the Shadai Farm-bred Manhattan Cafe (Sunday Silence-Subtle Change, by Law Society) increased his earnings to over 388 million yen for owner Kiyoshi Nishikawa.

The 3-year-old late debutante gave both rider Masayoshi Ebina and trainer Futoshi Kojima their first wins of the Arima and improved his own record to five wins in nine starts.

Turnover on the Arima alone amounted to 51 billion yen with attendance at Nakayama topping 116,000.

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