TOKYO - Odds-on favourite Gentildonna, with three-time British flat-racing champion jockey Ryan Moore in the saddle, became the first back-to-back winner of the Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday.
The four-year-old filly, winless in her three previous starts this year, stayed in third or fourth position until the last corner before breaking off to win the 2,400-metre turf race in a photo finish, bagging $2.5 million in prize money.
She beat another Japanese filly Denim and Ruby, jockeyed by Japanese Suguru Hamanaka, by a nose. Tosen Jordan of Japan finished third by a neck in the 33rd running of Japan's richest race with a total purse of $5.2 million.
Gentildonna, Japan's reigning horse of the year, clocked 2 minutes 26.1 seconds in a slow race paced by third choice Eishin Flash, who faded to finish 10th. Second pick and four-time Grade 1 champion Gold Ship slumped to 15th.
There were four foreign entries with France's Dunaden and Uncoiled fifth and eighth. Two Irish entries, Simenon and Joshua Tree, finished 13th and last in a field of 17 respectively.
"I was very lucky to be asked to ride her," Moore said after his first race with Gentildonna. "She's a very special filly."
Moore, 30, the British flat-racing champion jockey in 2006, 2008 and 2009, said Gentildonna wanted to be "out front a little bit early".
"She's very tough and fought very well," he added.
Although Gentildonna, last year's triple crown winner, had not won any race this year, she was "always in the first two or three", Moore said.
"She's obviously a very straightforward filly," said Moore after capturing his third Grade 1 title on Japanese soil.
Gentildonna, now 8-for-13, took her earnings to more than 1.1 billion yen ($13.75 million).
That makes her the third most successful female horse of all time in Japan behind Buena Vista (1.73 billion yen) and Vodka (1.69 billion yen).