Japan’s tumultuous week ended in triumph when Admire Rakti won Saturday’s $3 million Group 1 Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup (2400m).
Eight years after Delta Blues and Pop Rock provided a famous quinella for Japan in the Melbourne Cup, the Tomoyuki Umeda-trained seven-year-old gave Japan its first win in the Spring Racing Carnival’s other big staying handicap.
With Australian jockey Zac Purton in the saddle, Admire Rakti, the 58kg topweight, scored from four-year-old mares Rising Romance and Lucia Valentina in front of a crowd of 32,294.
The victory came less than 36 hours after the winner’s compatriot, Bande, was a shock scratching after failing an examination by Racing Victoria’s vets.
Umeda, through an interpreter, explained how excited he was to win the Caulfield Cup.
“I’m so happy and crying,” he said.
“A Japanese horse has never won this race before so I’m honoured to win this race.
“I think the horse likes Australia.”
Admire Rakti unleashed a strong finish, despite racing wide through, to score a strong win. He settled midfield and although three-wide, Purton had cover for most of the race and hooked into the clear entering the straight.
Specked from $13 to start $11, he finished powerfully to wear down Rising Romance ($12), who benefited from a rails-hugging ride by James McDonald and looked the winner at the 200m.
Lucia Valentina, heavily backed from $4.80 to start the $4 favourite, also finished strongly to grab third placing.
“I thought I was on the right horse for this race, he ran a 1-1/2-length fourth in a Japan Cup, which is good enough to win this race any day of the week,” Purton said
“For me it was just getting the right run in the race and luckily enough I did get that.
“I was three-wide, but I had cover and the Japanese horses like to race like that. So I put myself there instead of going back down towards the fence because I wanted to give him that room. He appreciated that and he won well.”
Admire Rakti became just the fourth horse to carry 58kg to victory in the Caulfield Cup since the metric system was introduced more than 40 years ago, joining Ming Dynasty (1980), Northerly (2002) and another international, 2012 winner Dunaden.
The victory was Admire Rakti’s seventh, from 27 starts, and the $1,750,000 first prizemoney lifted his earnings beyond $5 million.
He is now the $4.20 favourite for the $6 million Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) on 4 November.