Kitasan Black wires Japan Cup under pitch-perfect Take

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

November 27th, 2016

Best known for his hard-fought nailbiters, front runner Kitasan Black assumed a new dominance in Sunday’s Japan Cup (G1). Under an impeccable ride by Yutaka Take, who rationed out his speed in just the right way throughout the circuit, the 5-2 favorite strode away from his pursuers by 2 1/2 lengths.

The home team was once again unassailable on the Tokyo turf, with Germany’s Iquitos the first foreigner across the wire in seventh. Compatriot Nightflower was 12th, and France’s Erupt a mystifying 14th, putting his bid for the December 11 Hong Kong Vase (G1) in doubt.

What’s not in doubt is the superiority of Kitasan Black on this day, thereby propelling him onto the world stage. Dubai World Cup night, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), are now on the table for a horse whose signature wins have previously come over further. The photo-finish winner of last year’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) (G1) and the two-mile Tenno Sho Spring (G1) proved that he could put his rivals emphatically to the sword, and do so at the classic distance of 1 1/2 miles.

Breaking alertly from the rail, Kitasan Black controlled proceedings at every stage. Take was more concerned with modulating the tempo to suit himself, not trying to open up, so the pursuing pack remained close behind. At the top of the stretch, he didn’t have much of a cushion, and prime contenders Real Steel and Gold Actor were among several in position to threaten.

For a few strides, it appeared that Kitasan Black would be embroiled in another protracted battle. But Take hadn’t even asked him yet. Once he drove him on, Kitasan Black found several more gears to leave them all in the dust. Sounds of Earth and Cheval Grand rallied well to grab second and third, respectively, without ever offering a serious challenge to the winner.

Gold Actor checked in a one-paced fourth. Real Steel, given every possible chance by jockey Ryan Moore, validated pre-existing stamina concerns and tired to fifth. Rainbow Line flashed home belatedly for sixth, and Iquitos likewise made smart progress for seventh. The biggest flops were Dee Majesty, always well back en route to finishing 13th, and Erupt, who was perfectly placed in the early going before giving way tamely.

Kitasan Black clocked 2:25.80 on the firm turf, handing Take his fourth Japan Cup and advancing his own sterling record to 13-8-1-3. His lone unplaced effort was a forgettable 14th in last year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1). Among the leading members of his generation at three, the Hisashi Shimizu trainee captured a pair of Grade 2 classic trials in addition to the St Leger, and placed third in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1) and in the Arima Kinen (G1) versus elders. As a four-year-old this season, Kitasan Black resumed with a neck second in the Sankei Osaka Hai (G2) before valiantly holding on by a whisker in the May 1 Tenno Sho Spring. He was a near-miss third in the June 26 Takarazuka Kinen (G1), went on summer break, and prepped with a victory in the October 10 Kyoto Daishoten (G2).

By Deep Impact’s full brother Black Tide, Kitasan Black was produced by the Sakura Bakushin O mare Sugar Heart, who is also responsible for Grade 2-placed Shonan Bach. Kitasan Black’s third dam, Tizly, produced Grade 1-placed Cee’s Tizzy (sire of Hall of Famer Tiznow). Tizly is in turn a daughter of multiple Grade 1 star *Tizna, a Chilean import lending even more cosmopolitan flair to Kitasan Black’s pedigree.

Speaking of flair, the post-race ceremonies had an added energy thanks to Kitasan Black’s owner, the singer Saburo Kitajima, whose nom de course is Ono Shoji. Fans expected him to oblige with a tune, and Kitajima didn’t disappoint – but only after getting them to clap to the beat. Just like Kitasan Black, who called his own tune.

Quotes from Japan Racing Association

Winning owner Saburo Kitajima: “I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to own a horse like Kitasan Black who has brought me such joy and hope and making my dreams come true by winning this race in my first challenge. It’s such a great joy to experience a victory like this—the first time in my 57 years as a horse owner—and this is all thanks to my trainer, Mr. Shimizu and Yutaka (Take) to whom I have absolute confidence. My brothers, my whole family, were with me today to share the triumph—tears in our eyes.

“I was especially moved by the big crowd that gathered to witness the race today and sang along with me, my song ‘Matsuri (Festival)’ which I sang in appreciation after the award presentation ceremony.

“Since I know that the fans will be expecting him to run in the Arima Kinen (December 25), although I would have to discuss the possibility according to his condition with my trainer, the year-end race is, of course, under consideration and I expect Take (‘I won’t take no for an answer’) to ride him in that event.”

Winning rider Yutaka Take: “I felt that the colt was in great condition coming into the race. Since none of the other horses were disputing for the lead I was able to have him comfortable and in good rhythm during the early part of the trip and 61 seconds or so in the first 1,000 meters worked out to be just fine considering the distance of the race as well as the track condition. So, entering the stretch, I had plenty of horse left under me and I was concentrating on reserving his best strides until the last 300 meters. He stretched incredibly well and I felt him really strong as he pulled away to a comfortable margin. Kitasan Black has become a big part of my career and it would be great if I could partner him in big races next year.”

Winning trainer Hisashi Shimizu: “Kitasan Black was in good condition coming into this race and he certainly showed the outcome in the best form today. I am also happy to have proved he is also capable over 2,400 meters at Tokyo Racecourse where he experienced his only big defeat (14th in the Tokyo Yushun). 

“I let Take make his decision as far as racing tactics and, watching the colt racing comfortably in front, I knew that he had plenty left in the tank coming into the stretch so I was saying to myself ‘he’s OK, he’s OK’ — but in fact I don’t even remember the words I was yelling as the finish line drew near.

“As far as I know, there have been no talks about retiring the colt, so assume he will stay in training next season. Overseas challenges such as the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe are certainly of great interest, although this also will have to be discussed.”


Kitasan Black photo by Tomoya Moriuchi/