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Gold Ship flirts with stakes record in Kikuka Sho

Gold Ship, sent off heavy favorite with the absence of archrival Deep Brillante, lived up to expectations with his second classic victory in Sunday's Grade 1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) at Kyoto. Trained by Naosuke Sugai and ridden by Hiroyuki Uchida, the gray son of Stay Gold covered about 1 7/8 miles on firm turf in 3:02.9, just missing the stakes record of 3:02.7 established by Song of Wind in 2006.

The winner of the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) on April 15, Gold Ship suffered his only defeat of the season when fifth in the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby). He thus took the first and third legs of the Triple Crown, and becomes the eighth horse to accomplish the Satsuki-Kikuka Sho double. The last was Air Shakur in 2000.

B B Japan bounced out of the gate for the early lead and allowed to set a solid pace as the lone leader before quickly fading coming into the last turn. Gold Ship was unhurried once out of the gate and reserved well off the pace second from last for the opening half, then steadily advanced going uphill nearing the final turn.

Gold Ship drew even with the tiring leader and Mount Shasta, who also surged for a brief lead from mid-division, coming into the straight. While Mount Shasta was unable to sustain his lead and gave way early in the stretch, Gold Ship continued on strongly as Sky Dignity, who was also rated behind early and tracked the winner as soon as the gray made headway with about five furlongs to go, came charging behind.

The Satsuki Sho winner proved invincible in this year's 18-horse field and maintained a comfortable margin to claim a 1 3/4-length victory. Sky Dignity, ridden by Ioriz Mendizabal, although no match for the winner, bested the rest by two lengths while Yuki Soldier, also coming from behind, gave an impressive late spurt to out-nod Veiled Impact for third place.

Gold Ship, who was coming off a sharp prep win in the Grade 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai, now boasts a 9-6-2-0 mark.

It was the second Kikuka Sho title for Uchida, who had ridden Oken Bruce Lee to victory in 2008. The two-time JRA Award winner (Best Jockey in Races Won), who transferred to JRA from NAR racing circle, now has a total of seven JRA Grade 1 victories. Sugai claimed his second top-level title, both with Gold Ship, and sixth graded victory overall.

Gold Ship is bred on the potent Stay Gold/Mejiro McQueen cross, the same cross responsible for last year's Japanese Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year, Orfevre.

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