Top Japanese jockey Yasunari Iwata, perhaps unintentionally, threw out a snub to Australia's Black Caviar after Lord Kanaloa took the HK$16.2 million Group One Takamatsunomiya Kinen as expected yesterday at Chukyo racecourse in Nagoya.
Lord Kanaloa, winner of the 2012 Hong Kong Sprint as well as Japan's second Group One dash, the Sprinters Stakes, at the back end of last year, was long odds-on to win the second leg of the Global Sprint Challenge (GSC) after having stretched successfully to 1,400m last time in his Group Three prep race.
Despite a moderate getaway, he travelled comfortably for Iwata, wide in midfield but with plenty of cover, then surprised no-one, least of all Iwata, in taking his earnings past US$5 million when the jockey let him down inside the final 250m.
"I think he is the strongest sprinter in the world, so I thought he should not be beaten against domestic rivals like this," said Iwata, reiterating the opinion he had expressed at Sha Tin in December.
But that view might not make him as welcome back in Australia where he won the Melbourne Cup in 2006. The victory in record time was Lord Kanaloa's third Group One win, dwarfed by Black Caviar's 14 Group Ones, but such is the state of Japanese stake money that he is rapidly closing on the prize-money tally she has built up over almost four years.
In last year's Takamatsunomiya Kinen, Lord Kanaloa met with one of his rare defeats, finishing third to now-retired mare Curren Chan, but that was not a defeat for trainer Takayuki Yasuda, who is firmly entrenched as his country's master trainer of short-course horses.
Japan has just two Group One sprints per year and Yasuda has now won the past four of them, as he also trained Curren Chan, and his other runner yesterday, the admirable Dasher Go Go, once again finished close up despite a torrid wide run.
The home-ground GSC win, sets up Lord Kanaloa to win a US$ 1 million series bonus if connections are willing to travel him during this year with the aim of winning two more legs in foreign countries.
His next Group One option at home will not be until the Sprinters Stakes, while Lord Kanaloa has already shown he can handle the trip to Sha Tin.