Al Ain surprised his rivals to claim the first leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Grade One Satsuki Sho (2,000m) at Nakayama on Sunday.

The field contained 11 graded winners, the most in the history of the race, but it was the 21-1 shot who prevailed.

Al Ain settled fifth in transit for jockey Kohei Matsuyama, before the rider picked through a needle-eye opening with 200m to go and unleashing his strong finishing burst to beat stablemate Persian Knight by a neck.

Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee collected his 17th Grade One victory in Japan, while it was his second victory in the Satsuki Sho after winning with Orfevre in 2011.

Most of the field now heads to the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, 2,400m) on May 28.

On Saturday, Oju Chosan defended his title in one of the richest steeplechases in the world, the Nakayama Grand Jump (4,100m).

The hot favourite justified that status with a dominant performance, becoming just the second horse to win the race more than once after star Australian jumper Karasi, who won it three times in a row between 2005-07.

Down in Sydney and technically, it was the final day of the Autumn carnival (we say technically because the rescheduled Sydney Cup will be held on Saturday) with two Group Ones, the All Aged Stakes and Champagne Stakes.

Mike Moroney’s four-year-old Tivaci cemented his stallion credentials by landing that crucial victory at the top level in the All Aged Stakes (1,400m).

Star jockey Damien Oliver settled him at the tail of the field, before running over the top of his rivals to beat Le Romain and Jungle Edge.

The Paul Perry-trained The Mission led all-the-way in the Champagne Stakes, jockey Damian Lane rating the colt well to come away for a comfortable win in the 1,600m race for two-year-olds.

And finally, spare a thought for the caller at Fairyhouse on Monday, when 13 of the 28 runners in the Irish Grand National wore the same silks.

Gigginstown House Stud, owned by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, saddled up a huge team for the feature jumps race with all wearing different coloured caps.

Funnily enough, the best they could manage was fourth, with Our Duke prevailing for trainer Jessica Harrington.

Comments0Comments