Faithful Son and Luso offer little threat to El Condor Pasa; JAPAN CUP STAYS AT HOME.
American-bred El Condor Pasa, a 5-1 winner whose owner, Takashi Watanabe, has a horse in training in Britain, scored by a comfortable two and a half lengths from gallant Air Groove, runner-up to Pilsudski last year, with half a length back to third-placed Special Week, the 2.3-1 favourite.
Eclipse Stakes runner-up Faithful Son, given every chance by Frankie Dettori and poised to challenge inside the final two furlongs, failed to run on and finished seventh, while Luso, trapped wide from his outside barrier, never struck a blow and finished a worrying four lengths last.
Faithful Son, tucked away on the rails in the early running as a 14.5- 1 shot, covered virtually no extra ground and Dettori shifted him out to challenge with a furlong and a half to run.
A gap appeared and Faithful Son was presented with a chance to figure in the finish, but he simply did not run on and plodded to the line. He still earned pounds 63,839 in participation incentive money.
Dettori said: "There's nothing to take away from the winner, but Faithful Son didn't respond as he has in the past. It's easy to say that he's had a pretty tough time lately and that's probably what it was."
Trainer Clive Brittain had said before the race to blame him if Luso did not run up to expectations, and he was left shaking his head when his globetrotting hero faded out of it. The firm ground was in his favour but the draw was not, and it was impossible for Mick Kinane to find cover.
"It was always going to be hard for him and he didn't enjoy this at all," said Kinane.
The best of the overseas finishers were the North American challengers, Canadian Horse of the Year Chief Bearhart, who finished fourth, and the mare Maxzene, kept specially in training by her Japanese owner so she could run in the biggest race in the calendar. She finished fifth.
German duo Caitano and Ungaro ran eighth and 11th respectively, with the latter fading quickly amid reports of a temperature that rose late in his preparation.
Front-running Silent Hunter cut out a fast pace with Ungaro lying up as El Condor Pasa, a Kingmambo colt ridden by 29-year-old Masayoshi Ebina, slotted in just behind the leading trio, travelling easily.
Ebina eased El Condor Pasa out towards the middle of the track for a clear run soon after the field straightened and the three-year-old took it up readily.
The winning rider, who has lived in the shadow of local hero Yutaka Take, punched the air in delight as he returned to a rapturous reception from local fans and a first prize of pounds 926,876.
The five-year-old mare Air Groove ran a tremendous race in second, while Chief Bearhart's trainer, Mark Frostad, had no complaints about fourth.
"It's never easy to take on local horses on their own ground and the standard of Japanese racing and horses is very high. I'm proud of Chief Bearhart," said Frostad.
Winning trainer Yoshi Ninomiya operates with a stable of only 10 horses and greeted his star runner with unrestrained delight.
He said: "Of course this is the best day of my life. We've won the Japan Cup and my horse is a hero. I never worried about the distance and he has a huge heart. It's a wonderful occasion."
Officials of the Hong Kong Jockey Club will check today with Clive Brittain, Andreas Schutz and Harald Blume to see if Luso, Caitano and Ungaro will now travel on to Hong Kong for their International Vase commitment in two weeks' time at Sha Tin.