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Monday, April 21, 2003

Neo Universe captures Satsukisho

Staff writer

FUNABASHI, Chiba. Pref. -- Italian rider Mirco Demuro clinched a classic win on Easter Sunday aboard the favorite in the Satsukisho, as Neo Universe nudged second pick Sakura President by a head.

Eishin Champ finished a far third 3 1/2 lengths later, followed by Run to the Freeze in fourth place. The winner clocked 2:01.2 over the 2,000 meters of firm turf.

The Japanese 2,000 Guineas ended as a thrilling match race that saw Neo Universe and Sakura President go neck and neck from the 200-meter mark as they surged ahead of the others.

Sakura President took the lead for a brief moment before losing it to Neo Universe, and failed to regain it despite a well-fought battle to the end.

"He was a very hard horse to beat," said Demuro, 24, of the runnerup. "Around the bend I had given up hope of winning when I found myself blocked in. But, suddenly the door opened and I could go."

The overjoyed Demuro, who leaves for Italy on Monday and a chance at the Italian 2,000 Guineas, said the Easter victory was "the best present from God for me today."

Neo Universe, by Sunday Silence, out of Pointed Path, by Kris, was bred at Shadai Farm in Hokkaido. The colt is trained by Tsutomu Setoguchi, who also trains third-place finisher Eishin Champ.

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