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Race favorite Fine Needle proves himself best sprinter in Sprinters Stakes

Takamatsunomiya Kinen champion Fine Needle captured this year’s Sprinters Stakes to become the fifth horse in history to claim both JRA-G1 sprint races in the same year—the first since Lord Kanaloa in 2013. The Admire Moon horse was 12th in last year’s Sprinters Stakes after claiming the Centaur Stakes but demonstrated a very  prosperous five-year-old campaign with four wins out of five starts—he was fourth in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize in Hong Kong in his first overseas endeavor. 

This is the first G1 win since the Takamatsunomiya Kinen for both trainer Yoshitada Takahashi and jockey Yuga Kawada, second overall for Takahashi and 12th for Kawada.

With a huge typhoon closing in, the race broke in the rain on a track condition rated good. Once in a Moon gunned for the lead and set the pace. Fine Needle broke from a middle stall and was settled in mid-field and three-wide.

Shifting farther out in the last turn to avoid traffic, the five-year-old bay unleashed his trademark turn of foot all the way to the wire while picking off his rivals one by one and finally catching Love Kampf in the final strides to win by a neck.

Sent off 11th favorite, Love Kampf broke sharply and chased the pace in second. Hitting the straight still in second and two-wide, the three-year-old filly took over the lead from the pacesetter while shaking off second favorite Nac Venus 100 meters out and dug in gamely but was pinned by the winner at the wire.

Favored 13th, Rhein Spirit saved ground in third to fourth, struggled for room behind the battling front runners in the stretch, but broke through chasing Love Kampf in the final 50 meters, stretching his neck in front of Daimei Princess to grab third.

Lucky Bubbles broke smoothly under Brett Prebble and was tracking the eventual winner in mid-division and three wide but suddenly broke away from the field approaching the final turn and pulled up with a ruptured suspensory ligament in his left foreleg. 

“We were going smoothly and following the winner and felt I was going to have every conceivable chance then I heard something pop which wasn’t a nice thing to hear,” commented Brett Prebble. 

THE 52ND SPRINTERS STAKES (G1)

3-year-old & up, 1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs), turf, right-handed
Sunday, September 30, 2018 Nakayama Racecourse 11th Race Post time: 15:40
Total prize money: ¥ 238,600,000 (about US$ 2,170,000 <US$1=¥110>)
3-y-o: 55kg (about 121 lbs), 4-y-o & up: 57kg (about 126 lbs),
2kg allowance for Fillies & Mares, 2kg allowance for Southern Hemisphere-bred born in 2015 

1. Fine Needle (JPN), bay, horse, 5-year-old
Admire Moon / Needlecraft (Mark of Esteem)
Owner: Godolphin Breeder: Darley Japan K. K
Trainer: Yoshitada Takahashi Jockey: Yuga Kawada
27 Starts, 10 Wins
Added money: ¥ 113,360,000 Career earnings: ¥ 491,413,600
Principal race performances: ’18 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1, 1,200m) 1st
 ’17&’18 Centaur Stakes (G2, 1,200m) 1st
 ’18 Silk Road Stakes (G3, 1,200m) 1st

2. Love Kampf (JPN), dark bay or brown, filly, 3-year-old
Shonan Kampf / Love Heart (Meiner Love)
Owner: Yoichi Masuda Breeder: Yoichi Masuda
Trainer: Naoyuki Morita Jockey: Ryuji Wada

3. Rhein Spirit (JPN), dark bay or brown, horse, 7-year-old
Swept Overboard / Ribbon Stripe (Tony Bin)
Owner: Shigemasa Osawa Breeder: Fujiwara Breeding Stud
Trainer: Masahiro Matsunaga Jockey: Yutaka Take

Other Horses:
4th: (6) Daimei Princess—saved ground in mid-field, found opening in mid-stretch, dug in strongly last 100m
5th: (10) Let’s Go Donki—moderate break, sat 4th from last, closed in well with fastest stretch drive
6th: (3) Once in a Moon—led by more than 2 lengths early, still led entering stretch, caught with less than 200
meter to go
7th: (12) Nac Venus—chased leaders in 3rd position, tired from early efforts and outrun in the lasts 150 meters
8th: (7) Campbell Junior—rated off pace in mid-pack, advanced approaching turn but wide, no threat
9th: (2) Hiruno Devaro—saved ground in mid-pack, unable to quicken at the stretch
10th: (16) Red Falx—little to show while racing wide throughout
11th: (13) Teehaff—needed urging from the start, raced along the rails but failed to reach contention
12th: (11) Seiun Kosei—sat in 5th, sustained bid, weakened in last 100m
13th: (15) Moonquake—trailed in rear, turned wide, unable to reach contention
14th: (5) Ares Barows—traveled in mid-group, never fired at stretch
15th: (4) Snow Dragon—hugged rails in mid-division, dropped back at stretch
Fractional time (sec./furlong): 11.7 - 10.3 - 11.0 - 11.3 - 11.5 - 12.5
 Last 4 furlongs: 46.3 Last 3 furlongs: 35.3
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