03/31/2007 12:00AM

Admire Moon wins Duty Free for Japan


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The Japanese won their first World Cup races in 2006, and led by Admire Moon they dominated the $5 million Dubai Duty Free this year while American horses flopped for the second straight turf race Saturday night.

Admire Moon, a 4-year-old by the former American sire End Sweep bred in Japan and owned by Riichi Kondo, missed winning the prestigious Hong Kong Cup by inches in December, but he left little to doubt in the Duty Free, moving strongly to the lead in midstretch to score a solid half-length win over the Irish-bred Linngari, with Daiwa Major, another Japanese horse, several more lengths back in third. Americans, as was the case in the Sheema Classic, had no impact on the race: English Channel finished 12th, Breeders' Cup turf winner Miesque's Approval was 14th, and Lava Man finished last of 16 after prompting the early pace of Irridescence and actually taking the lead at the top of the stretch.

"He's just such a good horse," said jockey Corey Nakatani. "For him to run like that, it's hard to take."

English Channel failed even to show his customary speed, and never got involved in the race.

"He never gave me any indication he was going to do any running," said jockey John Velazquez. "He got in the gate and fell asleep."

Japan's star rider Yutaka Take said Admire Moon, who won his first Group 1 race, has tended to shy from the whip, but on this night, when it counted most, he ran straight and true. His time for 1,777 meters, or about 8.89 furlongs, was an excellent 1:47.94.

Golden Shaheen: Americans rule

American horses, as has so often been the case, dominated the Grade 1, $2 million Golden Shaheen, with Kelly's Landing holding off Friendly Island to win the six-furlong straight-course sprint by a half-length. Salaam Dubai finished third, followed by two more Americans, Harvard Avenue and the pacesetting Bishop Court Hill.

Kelly's Landing, bred and owned by Summerplace Farm, is the first horse trainer Eddie Kenneally ever has started in Dubai, and jockey Frankie Dettori won the Golden Shaheen for the first time. He did so by skimming the rail - the best part of the Nad Al Sheba track during sprint races all winter long - taking the lead from Bishop Court Hill in the final furlong, then holding off Friendly Island, who broke a step slowly, raced in mid-pack, and staged a steady late rally.

Kelly's Landing paid $20.80 in the U.S. and combined with Friendly Island for a $72.80 exacta.

Kelly's Landing's form has been in and out, and he was 10th last fall in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but Kenneally believed the Golden Shaheen would suit Kelly's Landing, who is unusually large.

"He's a very big horse, but he's very coordinated," Kenneally said. "I thought he'd like the straightaway. I thought he'd improve."

Friendly Island, jockey Garrett Gomez said, "wasn't really reaching out for me," but still came close to giving Todd Pletcher his first Dubai win.

Thor's Echo, the BC Sprint champion, turned in his second disappointing performance since being privately purchased and sent to Dubai, finishing a nonthreatening sixth.

Godolphin Mile: First World Cup wins

Spring at Last trained up to the $1omillion Godolphin Mile like a horse ready for a top race, and then went out and delivered one in the night's first Thoroughbred contest.

Caught wide while dueling for the early lead, Spring at Last made the lead partway through the long Nad Al Sheba stretch, and had plenty left to hold off Parole Board, winning by 2 3/4 lengths for trainer Doug O'Neill, who won his first race on a World Cup program.

The victory also was the first in a World Cup race for jockey Garrett Gomez, who had two seconds and a third in 2006. Gomez said the Mile didn't unfold as he'd planned, and that Spring at Last won despite his trip.

"I was afraid he was doing too much early," Gomez said. "I wanted to get him back some, but I couldn't. He was good enough to overcome it."

Spring at Last, who was timed in 1:36.16 and paid $9 in the U.S., won his first stakes, having been second in both the Malibu and the Strub at Santa Anita.