Sungrazer battles hard for Sapporo Kinen victory

Sapporo: Sapporo Kinen | Grade 2 | 1m2f | turf | 3yo+ 

Sungrazer, (Hidekazu Asami/Yuichi Fukunaga) who was settled on the inside in midfield off a strong tempo set by Maltese Apogee, emerged out of the pack to land the richest Grade 2 in Japan.

The four-year-old was able to hold the late lunge of 2016 Japanese Derby winner and favourite Makahiki by a nose, with Mozu Katchan, who surged home on the far outside, a further head back in third. 

A son of Deep Impact out of Deputy Minister's mare Mantis Hunt, Sungrazer had been racing at a mile and two starts ago won the Grade 2 Yomimuri Milers Cup at Kyoto, beating Mozu Ascot.

The tables were turned in the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo with Mozu Ascot prevailing while Sungrazer could manage only fifth. That result in June prompted connections to up him in distance.

Winning jockey Fukunaga said: "The only concern was the distance. I thought that there was no way [he would lose] if the distance wasn't too far for him. 

"I couldn't find the way to go through [the pack] and the horses on the outside were finishing so powerfully but I found a gap. He held on well." 

The rider of Makahiki, Christophe Lemaire, said of the runner-up: "He was relaxed in the race but he was tired because it was a tough race after a long break."