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Monday, May 21, 2007

American-born filly wins Oaks

Staff writer

Robe Decollete on Sunday became the first foreign-bred filly to win the Oaks as she picked off the favorite in the final stride, besting a field of 18 in the classic's 68th running at Tokyo Race Course. Bella Rheia finished second before a crowd of more than 100,000, with Love Caerna and Minty Air placing third and fourth place, respectively.

The American-born, Cozzene-sired Robe Decollete, who had placed fourth in the Okasho, edged Bella Rheia by a nose after gaining a clear run from the 400 mark, where jockey Yuichi Fukunaga brought her sharply out. Shinichiro Akiyama had held Bella Rheia in about fifth position about three widths from the rail, then chose to move to the top at the 400.

Fukunaga said the initial traffic jam they had encountered "worked to our favor in the end," leaving Robe Decollete with legs to spare. Gate practice as well, no doubt, helped. "Her poor start in the Okasho cost us the race," said Fukunaga, "but today she broke well and was able to show her stuff." Japan's top race for 3-year-old fillies, like the other classics, held foreign participants at bay till as late as 2003, after which it opened to a possible two entrants.

Gradually the number of possibles was increased, with six allowed to run this year. Robe Decollete, however, was the only foreign-bred able to acquire the earnings needed this year. The gray filly is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Color of Gold and was bred by Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams.

She is owned by Koji Maeda and stands at 3-for-8 with more than 189.6 million yen in earnings. The Oaks win was worth 97 million yen. Robe Decollete's time over 2,400 meters of fast turf was 2 minutes, 25.3 seconds. The winning return on the No. 2 ticket was 1,170 yen yen for a 100 yen wager. The exacta paid 4,590 yen, the trifecta 2-7-12 returned 57,000 yen. Okasho winner Daiwa Scarlet was sidelined for the Oaks by a cold. Runnerup Vodka will take on the boys in the Nippon Derby next Sunday.

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