Making his third appearance in the race formerly known as the G1 Japan Cup Dirt and having finished third on each of his two prior attempts at Hanshin Racecourse, Hokko Tarumae (Jpn) (King Kamehameha - Madam Cherokee, by Cherokee Run) finally got over the hump with a narrow, yet comfortable and sentimental, victory in the G1 Champions Cup Sunday at Chukyo Racecourse.
Away well from the middle of the gate, the 5-year-old was able to secure a smooth stalking position from second as Kurino Star O (Jpn) (Admire Moon) established a moderate tempo. Sandwiched between the pacesetter at the rail and third favorite Roman Legend (Jpn) (Special Week) with a little more than 400 meters to travel, Hokko Tarumae repelled the bid of the latter entering the final furlong and never looked in serious danger as longshot Namura Victor (Jpn) (Zenno Rob Roy) found his best stride too late. Copano Rickey (Jpn) (Gold Allure), favored at 2-1 off his last-out victory in the JBC Classic at Morioka Racecourse November 3, never factored in 12th, while American raider Imperative (USA) (Bernardini), upset winner of the GII Charles Town Classic this past April, was checked in traffic after breaking from the inside and "didn’t want to race anymore," reported jockey Kent Desormeaux after his 15th-place finish in the field of 16.
Winner of the GI Kawasaki Kinen January 29, Hokko Tarumae was the half-length runner-up to Copano Rickey in the G1 February Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse February 23. Given a shot in the G1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan March 29, he trailed in behind the victorious African Story (GB) (Pivotal), but returned sick with colitis. He was subsequently spelled and returned with a useful fourth, beaten five lengths, in the aforementioned JBC Classic, despite an interruped preparation. The win was especially sweet, as the entire’s owner, Koichi Yabe, passed away just last month.
"I have no words to express how happy, relieved and moved I am," commented winning trainer Katsuichi Nishiura. "After falling ill at Dubai, he was able to return to health by the summer for training, but sustained a muscle ache in his hip two months prior to the JBC Classic. He was treated with acupuncture and I had to be really careful with his training. He barely made it in time to make his start in the JBC Classic."
Nishiura indicated Hokko Tarumae would follow the same schedule over the following months as he did last season, with a return to the World Cup very much in the cards.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News/JBIS (p)