TOKYO -- Japan's Legacy World grabbed the lead and held off a fierce challenge from American thoroughbred Kotashaan Sunday to win the 13th Japan Cup at the Tokyo Race Course.
The upset victory in the world's richest horse race with a total of $3.5 million at stake earned $1.24 million for the 4-year-old gelding with jockey Hiroshi Kawachi in the saddle.
It took Legacy World 2:24.4 to complete the 2,400 meters in brilliant sunshine, one-and-one-half lengths ahead of the 5-year-old American Kotashaan, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf with an incredible six wins in nine starts this season.
Trainer Hideyuki Mori said the possibility of an overseas campaign for Legacy World, who finished the Japan Cup fourth last year, 'will be considered.'
'The horse was very lightly raced,' Mori said. 'Legacy World was therefore a fresh horse, specially prepared for the Japan Cup. This was his target.'
Japan's Mejiro Palmer jumped into a quick lead, followed by Legacy World. Top favorite Kotashan was right on the heels of the front- runners.
Legacy World was up with the pace all the way to the cheers of 179, 619 spectators. On a fast track in brilliant sunshine, Legacy World was second on the final turn and accelerated in the straight to take the lead with 180 meters to go.
Bred in Japan, Legacy World, owned by jeweler Hisao Tajima, had earned $2.5 million in prize money within the country before Sunday's race. It was the fifth attempt at victory for 38-year-old Kawachi, who beamed as the crowd shouted, 'Legacy! Legacy!'
'I was secretly confident the big chance was today,' Kawachi said, despite the 11.5 to 1 odds.
Twelve years after its first running, the Japan Cup has become one of the world's premier races. A strong field of nine foreign entries challenged seven top Japanese horses.
The race was granted Grade 1 status by Britain's Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers last year.
The Japan Racing Association announced two more races will be open to foreign horses starting next year and 12 will be open by the end of the 1990s. The Japanese-owned Kotashaan, ridden by jockey Kent Desormeaux, was thought to be exceptionally well-suited for the fast Tokyo track.
Horses represent countries where they are trained.
Kotashaan, feared by both American and European trainers before the race, overcame Japanese-owned Winning Ticket, victor in this year's Japan Derby, for the $500,000 second place while Winning Ticket garnered $310,000 in third.
The disapointment of the race was the performance of the much fancied British 3-year-old White Muzzle, who started second favorite and ended up a badly beaten thirteenth much to the despair of the small but vocal British contingent at the track.
Trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam brought White Muzzle to Japan Nov. 13, allowing the colt to adjust to the change in surroundings and have sufficient training time before the race.
German entry Platini emerged fourth for $190,000 while American Star of Cozzene, a 5-year-old dark bay who notched wins in this year's Arlington Million, Man O'War Stakes and Caesars International, managed fifth for $120,000.
The results continued the dreadful record of favorites in the Japan Cup, with only one of all the past runnings of the race delivering the goods.
Betting turnover for the 11 races at Sunday's meet came to $439 million.