Racing: Deep Impact rewards loyalty of Japan's fans

Deep Impact, whose attempt to find stardom on the world stage ended in disappointment and disgrace in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe eight weeks ago, rediscovered the winning touch on more familiar ground yesterday.

To the delight of a massive crowd in Tokyo, Deep Impact produced a powerful finish to win the Japan Cup by two lengths from Dream Passport. Ouija Board again carried the flag for Britain with distinction with a close third.

Victory vindicated the decision by Deep Impact's trainer, Yasuo Ikee, to sidestep the Emperor Cup, while re-establishing the credentials of the four-year-old, a national hero in Japan.

More than 21 million people watched Deep Impact's Arc challenge on Japanese television, while his travelling fans swamped the pari-mutuel at Longchamp with so much cash that the horse, a 9-4 chance with British bookmakers, started at 1-2 with the French tote.

In France, his regular jockey, Yutaka Take, surprisingly ditched his usual hold-up tactics and had Deep Impact in front more than two furlongs from home before being run into third by Rail Link and Pride.

The disappointment was compounded when Deep Impact tested positive for the banned substance Ipratropium, which is found in a nasal spray. It meant automatic disqualification.

Yesterday, Take returned to his favoured tactics and settled the colt behind Ouija Board and Frankie Dettori. When Deep Impact was unleashed with three furlongs to travel he responded readily to power past the leaders and win handsomely.

The colt will have his swansong on 24 December at Nakayama in the Arima Kinen, the only race he has lost in Japan, before retiring to stud. He has been syndicated at a value of £23m.

As a son of the 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence, who died of laminitis in 2002 at the age of 16 after a highly successful career at stud in Japan, Deep Impact is sure to be in great demand.

Ouija Board lost nothing in defeat and ran a much better race than 12 months ago when she was beaten about the same distance into fifth by Alkaased.

Lord Derby's five-year-old will now try to repeat last year's victory in next month's 12-furlong Hong Kong Vase at the international meeting before she retires to her owner's Stanley House Stud in Newmarket.

The stud's manager, Peter Stanley, Lord Derby's younger brother, has been itching to add her name to his list of broodmares for some time, but he may have to wait a little longer if a groundswell of opposition gains pace. Lord Derby is being urged by several well-respected professionals to give Ouija Board one more year on the racetrack, a course of action that, it is believed, would not displease her trainer, Ed Dunlop.

One leading trainer said: "I have told Lord Derby that if she was mine I would let her race again next year. She will only be six and there is plenty of time for breeding.

"This season she has been better than ever, while it is a certainty that whatever she does at stud, she will never throw one better than herself, so he might as well enjoy her racing as long as possible."

One horse definitely not retiring to stud just yet is the Godolphin-owned Discreet Cat, who continued his rise by making it six out of six in the Grade One Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, New York, on Saturday.

Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said: "It was a top-notch effort giving weight to talented horses and he will now go back to Dubai and target the World Cup or Godolphin Mile. Next year will be the real test as every race will be at the highest level."

In Wales the trainer Evan Williams was yesterday basking in the glory of State Of Play's impressive victory in Saturday's 50th running of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury and looking ahead to a possible tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. State Of Play has some improving to do to reach those heights, but more will be known about him when he runs in the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup at Haydock in February. Williams has ruled out both the Welsh National and King George VI Chase.

Paul Nicholls, meanwhile, continues his march towards another trainer's title. Denman, tipped for chasing's front rank, maintained his rise with an efficient rather than spectacular win at Newbury yesterday, while Star De Mohaison, who sidestepped the Hennessy, runs at Sandown on Friday.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Billy Bray (Folkestone 2.00)

NB: Sir Jimmy Shand (Folkestone 1.30)

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