11/26/2007 12:00AM

Admire Moon gets the distance

EmailAdmire Moon showed unexpected grit in deep stretch as he held off the late charges of three proven stayers to land the spoils before a crowd of 103,545 at Tokyo on Sunday in the $4.4 million Japan Cup. American hopeful Artiste Royal faded through the stretch to finish eighth in the 1 1/2-mile race.

Conventional wisdom had it that Admire Moon was not supposed to stay 1 1/2 miles. Although the Hiroyoshi Matsuda-trained son of End Sweep had won twice at the graded level going 1 3/8 miles, he had finished six lengths behind the hot 4-5 Japan Cup favorite Meisho Samson last time when sixth in the 1 1/4-mile Autumn Tenno Sho. Given a superb ride by Yasunari Iwata, Admire Moon saved ground throughout from post 4, led at the eighth pole, and held on to defeat Pop Rock by a head with Meisho Samson third. The fast-closing Vodka, the filly who had won this year's Japanese Derby, was fourth, another length behind. The time for the 1 1/2 miles on firm ground was 2:24.70.

"I am so overwhelmed I can't think of what to say," Iwata said. "Admire Moon broke well but was quite keen after Pop Rock rushed by him early. We never really settled, but he ran on very strongly till the very end."

Admire Moon had caught the eye of Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum when he won the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba on March 31 for then-owner Riichi Kondo. After he won the 1 3/8-mile Takarazuka Kinen on June 24, Admire Moon became one of Maktoum's many recent purchases of top-class horses in training. Admire Moon ran in Sheikh Mohammed's maroon-and-white colors on Sunday and will now be retired to stud at Darley Japan Farm Co. Ltd. in Hokkaido.

Joe Talamo had the Neil Drysdale-trained Artiste Royal in seventh place until midway around the final turn when the 36-1 shot threw down a brief challenge. He failed to stay, however, and crossed the line 5 3/4 lengths behind Admire Moon, who retires with 10 victories from 17 career starts for earnings of $10,214,618. Four-time Grade 1 winner Meisho Samson will attempt to redeem himself in the 1 9/16-mile Arima Kinen at Nakayama on Dec. 23.

The influence of Sunday Silence in Japan continues unabated despite the death of the great stallion in 2002. His status as a broodmare sire increased in the Japan Cup as he sired the dams of both Admire Moon and Pop Rock, the only two horses in the 18-runner field who could make that claim.