Admire Moon wins $4.4M Japan Cup


Admire Moon showed unexpected grit in the deep stretch as he held off the late charges of three proven stayers to land the spoils before a crowd of 103,545 at Tokyo on Sunday in the 1 1/2-mile $4.4 million Japan Cup, as American hopeful Artiste Royal faded throught the stretch to finish eighth.

Conventional wisdom had it that Admire Moon was not supposed to stay a mile and a half. Although the Hiroyoshi Matsuda-trained son of End Sweep had won twice at the graded level going 1 3/8 miles, he had finished 6 lengths behind the hot 4-5 Japan Cup favorite Meisho Samson last time when sixth in the 1 1/4-mile Autumn Tenno Sho. Given a superb ride by Yasunari Iwata, he saved ground throughout from the four post, led at the eighth-pole and held on to defeat Pop Rock by a head with Meisho Samson third and the fast closing Vodka, the filly who had won this year's Japanese Derby, fourth, another length behind. The time for the 1 1/2 miles on firm ground was 2:24.70.

"I am so overwhelmed I can't think of what to say," a nonplussed Iwata said. "Admire Moon broke well but was quite keen after Pop Rock rushed by him early. We never really settled but he ran on very strongly til the very end. As most of the jockeys avoided the inside, I took advantage of the opening and was able to save ground."

Admire Moon had caught the eye of Sheikh Mohammed when he won the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba on March 31 for his then owner Riichi Kondo. After he won the 1 3/8-mile Takarazuka Kinen on June 24, Admire Moon became one of the many purchases of top class horses in training the ruler of Dubai has made of late. Admire Moon ran in Sheikh Mohammed's maroon-and-white colors on Sunday and will now be retired to stud at Darley Japan Farm Co. Ltd. in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island and the home of all of that country's major stud farms.

Joe Talamo had the Neil Drysdale-trained Artiste Royal in seventh place until midway around the final turn when the 36.20-1 shot threw down a brief challenge. The Danehill 6-year-old failed to stay, however, and crossed the line 5-3/4 lengths behind Admire Moon, who retires with ten victories from 17 career starts for earnings of $10,214,618. Four-time Garde 1 winner Meisho Samson will attempt to redeem himself in the 1 9/16-mile Arima Kinen at Nakayama on Dec. 23.

The influence of Sunday Silence in Japan continues unabated despite the death of the great stallion in 2002. His status as a broodmare sire increased in the Japan Cup as he sired the dams of both Admire Moon and Pop Rock, the only two horses in the 18-runner field who could make that claim.