By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan: The first G1 of the new turf season produced a wild four-horse finish on Sunday and the first G1 disqualification for nearly a decade as front-running Mozu Superflare (Hidetaka Otonashi/Fuma Matsuwaka) claimed first prize in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen.
The official verdict was a nose from last year’s Oka Sho winner Gran Alegria, who charged down the stretch out wide in front of the empty stands at Chukyo.
However, the 32-1 victory came courtesy of the stewards as first past the post had been an even bigger longshot in 63-1 chance Kurino Gaudi, who after a long inquiry was demoted to fourth after shutting off the luckless Diatonic, who was eventually placed third.
The amended outcome marked the first time since Buena Vista was demoted in the 2010 Japan Cup that a Japanese G1 event had resulted in a horse being taken down after passing the post in front.
Mozu Superflare is a five-year-old US-bred daughter of champion dirt sprinter Speightstown. “To be honest, I thought that we had lost when we crossed the wire,” said jockey Fuma Matsuwaka, who was enjoying his first G1 success.
“She broke well as I hoped she would and was able to race in her own rhythm,” he added. “With the sun coming out in the afternoon, the ground was not as bad as we had anticipated, which I think worked in her favour.
“I am very happy to win my first Grade 1 but feel so sad there are no spectators at the racecourse because I feel spectators are so important and precious. But I am happy that we are at least able to continue racing.”
There was more than one disappointing effort in a 1,200-metre (6f) race worth a total of nearly 254 million yen (£1.89m) as favourite Tower Of London was never seen with a chance in the Godolphin blue, fading after finding clear water wide in the straight to finish 12th – only two places behind well-fancied Danon Smash in a freakish-looking contest on yielding ground.