Frankie Dettori and Alkaased just held on after a desperately tight finish and a stewards' inquiry to win the Japan Cup at Fuchu racecourse in Tokyo yesterday by a nose from local hope Heart's Cry.
Alkaased, trained by Luca Cumani, was the first British-trained winner of the £2.34m event since Pilsudski (Sir Michael Stoute) in 1997. The much improved five-year-old entire, bought for just 42,000gns two years ago, won in a time of two minutes 22.1 seconds to break the previous record for the mile and a half event set by Australian-trained Horlicks to give Dettori his third success in the race following Singspiel in 1996 and Falbrav (2002) in front of a crowd of over 95,000.
As Dettori had already ridden two winners over the weekend at the course Alkaased started at only 9.6-1 on the pari-mutuel while the Japanese-trained hot favourite Zenno Rob Roy, who was trying to become the first horse to win back-to-back Japan Cups, finished a length and a half in third.
Dettori tracked Ouija Board and Bago in mid-division and then hit the front a furlong out, but was soon challenged by Christophe Lemaire and Heart's Cry, who then drifted across Ouija Board. Dettori had been confident since he arrived in Japan and said: "My one concern is that he is a slow starter, but I was able to get a nice lead round behind Bago and was more or less where I'd aimed to be at the top of the stretch. He can be lazy, but he's a very tenacious horse. Today he was really tough and dug deep.
"It was an absolutely great race, very exciting and nerve-wracking. Luca's done a great job keeping the horse fresh all year and deserved the result. It means a huge amount to me to win this for Luca Cumani. He started me off and we had eight great years together."
Cumani will consult with owner Mike Charlton whether to run Alkaased in Hong Kong on 11 December and said: "We targeted four international races for him but had to miss out on the Arc and Breeders' Cup for annoying reasons. He's given it his all here and as far as I'm concerned it makes sense to go for the Hong Kong Vase if he's ok."
Of the other British challengers, Ouija Board (Ed Dunlop) finished fifth, Warrsan (Clive Brittain) was 13th while Arc winner Bago came in eighth after being struck into.
Dunlop said: "Kieren (Fallon) thought it possibly came too soon for her after the Breeders' Cup, but Hong Kong is still the plan."