Unplaced in three starts since taking the February S. (G1), Katsumi Yoshida’s Gold Dream returned to top form in the hands of British ace Ryan Moore in Sunday’s $1.8 million Champions Cup (G1) at Chukyo. The 12-1 outsider delivered a ferocious late charge to deny 7-2 favorite T M Jinsoku and Copano Rickey in a three-way finish, presumably clinching the title of Japanese champion dirt horse.
Gold Dream and Copano Rickey, also overlooked at 12-1, were turning in the performances expected from them in past editions of this race formerly known as the Japan Cup Dirt. Copano Rickey had flopped as the favorite in both 2014 (12th) and 2015 (seventh). Bettors tread more cautiously in the 2016 running, when Copano Rickey went off as the 5-1 third choice and flamed out in 13th. Gold Dream finished just one spot ahead of him, disappointing as the second choice at 9-2.
At least Gold Dream was just a sophomore last year, trying older horses in his Grade 1 debut, and making a brief run before faltering. The son of Gold Allure had been ultra-consistent until then, winning the 2016 Hyacinth (now a points race on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby) and Unicorn (G3) and placing in the Musashino (G3), Japan Dirt Derby, and Hyogo Championship.
When Gold Dream kicked off 2017 by taking Japan’s marquee early-season dirt race, the February over Tokyo’s metric mile, he signaled his arrival on the main stage. He next tried the international arena in the Dubai World Cup (G1), but found it all beyond him and checked in virtually eased in last. Resuming in the June 28 Teio Sho, again at about 1 1/4 miles, Gold Dream was a well-beaten seventh. He cut back in distance for the October 9 Mile Championship Nambu Hai and fared better when rallying for fifth to Copano Rickey.
Trainer Osamu Hirata believed that Gold Dream was back in his February-winning shape going into the Champions Cup. He also wanted a “good start,” but things didn’t begin auspiciously as the four-year-old was away a beat slow, and raced well back in the pack.
Meanwhile, Copano Rickey set up shop on the front end, stalked by T M Jinsoku, and the two leaders appeared to have the run of the race through steady fractions. Copano Rickey was going so well into the homestretch that he threatened to pull off the upset, digging in stubbornly to resist T M Jinsoku’s challenge.
Then Gold Dream, who still had a mountain to climb upon straightening, sprang to life for new rider Moore. The only closer to make a dent on the pace factors, he rolled in deep stretch to collar them both.
T M Jinsoku was finally winning his battle with Copano Rickey, only to be mugged in the final strides. The favorite was a neck up on the longtime leader, with the stalking K T Brave in fourth. Awardee, Lani’s half-brother, reported home fifth. Concluding the order of finish were Mitsuba; Kafuji Take; King’s Guard, who closed from last to clock the fastest final 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :35.1, shading Gold Dream’s :35.2; Nonkono Yume; Glanzend; defending champion Sound True, never involved from his usual deep-closing position; Rose Princedom; Molto Bene; Meisho Sumitomo; and London Town.
Apollo Kentucky was scratched with an ill-timed lameness in his right fore. Trainer Kenji Yamauchi expects it to be a minor ailment that shouldn’t affect his title defense in the December 29 Tokyo Daishoten (G1) at Ohi.
“He must have hit his leg after the exercise,” Yamauchi said. “It’s really too bad because he was in good form and the draw was good. He’ll be OK in two to three days so we should be able to race him in the Tokyo Daishoten without any problem.”
Gold Dream equaled Sound True’s time of 1:50.10 for about 1 1/8 miles, a stakes record since the race was moved to Chukyo in 2014. He also completed a rare double: only Wing Arrow (2000) and Transcend (2011) have captured the February and Japan Cup Dirt (the Champions Cup predecessor) in the same season.
“It was a pleasure to ride the horse,” Moore said. “He was a Grade 1 winner already and he showed his class. He’s won both the two main Grade 1 races on dirt in Japan so he’s rightly a champion.
“He had a lovely run. He was a little bit upset in the stall but he landed in a good spot, the race was very smooth for him and he showed good acceleration at the end. He’s a very talented horse.
“It’s a hard thing to do (to win both the February and Champions Cup in the same year) and hopefully, he can improve and win some more.”
Gold Dream has compiled a record of 13-6-2-1, and given the longevity of Japan’s stars, he promises to keep adding to his trophy haul. Out of the stakes-placed French Deputy mare Mon Vert, he traces to the influential matron *Rough Shod II. His fifth dam is Special, the dam of Nureyev and second dam of Sadler’s Wells. This is the branch of the family descending from Special’s multiple Grade 2-winning daughter Number, dam of Group 1 winner Jade Robbery and ancestress of 2007 Met Mile (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero Corinthian.
Because Gold Dream’s sire, Gold Allure, is out of a Nureyev mare, Gold Dream sports a 4×5 duplication of Special, an example of the Rasmussen Factor of inbreeding to a superior female.