Shonan Pandora, a four-year-old daughter of champion sire Deep Impact, stepped up to 2400m for the first time and kept the Japan Cup at home for the tenth year in a row with a narrow win – the first in the race for trainer Tomokazu Takano and jockey Kenichi Ikezoe – over Ryan Moore’s mount Last Impact and hot favourite Lovely Day in Tokyo on Sunday.
The seventh filly to win Japan’s biggest international race, Shonan Pandora had never won outside Grade 2 company, but she came good with a sustained run that took her past Last Impact in the last 50 metres, after Moore had appeared likely to take the spoils when he headed Lovely Day 150 metres from the line.
There were two necks between the first three, as the European four-strong party failed to figure prominently at any stage with Trip To Paris finishing towards the rear after sitting way off the pace early on. Grand Prix de Paris winner and Arc fifth Erupt, chasing a sizeable bonus, came out best in sixth.
Moore already has an adoring following in Japan courtesy of five top-flight successes, the most recent of which came on Maurice in The Mile Championship last Sunday, but he agonisingly failed to add to his 2013 Japan Cup victory on Gentildonna.
“He ran a very brave race, and it’s a shame for his trainer Mr Matsuda, who’s retiring at the end of the season, that he couldn’t have just held on,” the rider said.
Shonan squeezes through
There was no hanging around as the gates opened to a crescendo of noise from the huge crowds as Curren Mirotic blasted off in front, setting a furious pace that had the field well strung out.
Swinging for home Shonan Pandora was scrubbed along and caught in a pocket as the trailblazer’s lead came under threat from all angles with Lovely Day looking a big danger 400 metres out.
The favourite took over the lead shortly after but Moore, who took Last Impact to the far rail, found top gear and held the lead in the final strides before the winner, who followed Lovely Day through when the gap appeared, conjured a late burst to snatch the spoils.
Paris stays in training
The first 15 horses were covered by a fraction over four and a half lengths with the Ed Dunlop-trained Trip To Paris finishing in 14th.
“He got a long way back early on, which was surprising from his draw in stall two, but it looks like this was one race too many,” said the trainer.
“He didn’t have the same sparkle as he showed in Melbourne. He’ll have a holiday now, but stays in training.”