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Monday, Nov. 26, 2007

Admire Moon ends career by winning Japan Cup crown

Staff writer

Admire Moon avenged his Emperor's Cup loss late last month with victory in the Japan Cup Sunday. Topping a field of 18, including four runners from overseas, Darley Japan's newly acquired treasure capped a bright career with a win by a head over Pop Rock, with race favorite Meisho Samson finishing in third a neck later ahead of second pick Vodka and Delta Blues.

In a near repeat of Saturday's Japan Cup Dirt, local horses swept the board, with England's Papal Bull besting the foreign contenders with a seventh-place finish. America's Artiste Royal just made the prize money in eighth place, while Germany's Saddex finished in 11th place and the U.K.'s Halicarnassus second from the last in 17th.

The win came with a sigh of relief to Admire Moon's connections as a sure boost to his new career as stud from next spring. In fact, were it not for his "shocking" loss in the Oct. 28 fall Emperor's Cup, the 4-year-old colt would not even have run in the Japan Cup at all.

"We didn't want to end on a sixth-place finish, but we were very concerned that Admire Moon, whom we thought to be a 2,000-meter specialist, could perhaps not go the distance of the Japan Cup," said Chikara Takahashi, chief representative of Darley Japan Farm, under whose name the horse is registered. "We wanted to go out with a performance that would have an impact on breeders. He answered our prayers and I take my hat off to him."

Trainer Hiroshi Matsuda, who dismissed the loss last time out with a shoulder-shrugging "That's racing. Anything can happen," had said before the race that the horse "just had to run he was so ready."

Matsuda said he was concerned that jockey Yasunari Iwata, who won the Melbourne Cup aboard Delta Blues last year, had moved too early. Admire Moon hit the top with over 200 meters to go, but battled on ahead of Pop Rock for the win. "The horse has a tendency to stop after he gets in front," said Matsuda. "This time he really held on well."

Iwata came to the news conference saying he was still "in a total daze" following the win. "I haven't even been able to notch a G2 or G3 at Tokyo and now I've just landed a G1," he said shaking his head in disbelief.

The race fifth choice Admire Moon made the jump well, but became very keen when Pop Rock and Cosmo Bulk came up from behind.

"He was fighting all the way and it was tough for me from start to finish," Iwata said. "All I can say is he was very strong." The 33-year-old jockey managed to hold the colt in fifth position two off the rail.

"Everyone always battles for position on the outside, but I decided to stick to an inside course," Iwata explained. Iwata is currently in second place among Japan's riders for wins, over 130 this year.

Iwata, asked to compare the Melbourne Cup win with the Japan Cup win, said everything had been a blur on his trip to Australia, his first time overseas. "Today, I was confident my horse had what it took to win. Still, though the straight seemed long in the Melbourne Cup, the Tokyo straight seemed much, much longer."

Admire Moon clocked 2 minutes 24.7 seconds over the 2,400 meters of fast turf.

The bay colt, by End Sweep out of the Sunday Silence mare My Katies, ends his racing career with a 10 for 17 record. His total earnings total nearly ¥1.19 billion.

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