A barnstorming finish from Admire Rakti has created history for Japan in the $3 million Caulfield Cup.
With Hong Kong-based Australian Zac Purton riding, Admire Rakti ($11) rushed down the centre of the track to grab New Zealand mare Rising Romance ($12) to score by a long neck and give Japan its first win in the world’s richest 2400-metre handicap.
Favourite Lucia Valentina ($4) tracked the winner but was forced widest into the home straight and ran on gallantly to finish another half length away third.
The Tomoyuki Umeda-trained horse reinforced the strength of Japanese stayers in world racing and his win came eight years after Japanese duo Delta Blues and Pop Rock ran the quinella in the Melbourne Cup.
Japanese horses to place in the Caulfield Cup have been Eye Popper in 2005 and Delta Blues in his Melbourne Cup year.
“A Japanese horse has never won this race, so I’m so honoured to win this race,” Umeda said, speaking through an interpreter.
In claiming one of Australia’s best races, Admire Rakti has also stamped himself as having undeniable claims for the Melbourne Cup.
He is the new favourite for Flemington on November 4.
“This time everything goes well, so hopefully this luck keeps going until the Melbourne Cup,” the trainer said.
Purton has climbed to the top of the tree in Hong Kong racing with his first premiership last season and Saturday’s win was one of his biggest moments on home soil.
“I thought I was on the right horse for this race,” Purton said.
“He ran a half-length fourth in the Japan Cup, it’s good enough to win this race any day of the week.
“For me it was just getting the right run in the race, and fortunately I did get that.”
After settling midfield with a three-wide trail, Purton had Admire Rakti into the clear from the top of the straight but with topweight of 58kg the horse still had plenty of work to do as Rising Romance kicked away.
James McDonald had ridden a near-perfect race on Rising Romance, crossing from a wide draw on the Donna Logan-trained mare to find the front early before securing a trail.
He was “gobsmacked” to be beaten, adding merit to the performance of Admire Rakti.
“I couldn’t believe something ran past me,” McDonald said.
“Full credit to my horse, she wasn’t stopping.”
Admire Rakti was due to be one of two Japanese runners in the Caulfield Cup but Bande was withdrawn on race eve because of a tendon problem.
Kerrin McEvoy said Lucia Valentina was game in defeat after settling back in the field.
“She still hit the line strongly but the winner was just a bit too sharp inside that last furlong and a half,” he said.