05/23/2004 12:00AM

Daiwa El Cielo upsets Japanese Oaks


TOKYO, Japan - Daiwa El Cielo surprised 86,498 disbelieving racegoers at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday as she upset the heavily favored Dance In The Mood in the $2 million Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks.

The victory of the Sunday Silence filly, who held off a late challenge by Sweep Tosho to win the 1 1/2-mile fillies classic by three quarters of a length, proved to be a massive reversal of form as the previously undefeated Dance In The Mood had beaten her into sixth place in the Japanese 1000 Guineas on April 11.

Prior to that Daiwa El Cielo had won the one-mile Grade 3 Queen Cup on Feb. 21, but on Sunday rider Yushio Fukunaga reverted to the front running style that had resulted in her maiden victory on Dec. 28. Dance In The Mood, sent off at 2-5, threatened briefly approaching the furlong pole but ran out of gas and lost third on the line to Yamanin Alabaster. She was beaten a total of 3-3/4 lengths.

Trainer Kunihide Matsuda had hoped that Daiwa El Cielo, who had never before been beyond a mile, would handle the extra four furlongs, and the plan to put her on the front from the start was part of the effort to get her to stay. She stretched her rivals out entering the 2-1/2-furlong stretch, quickening nicely to record a time of 2:27.20 on good ground.

Dance In The Mood, like the winner by Sunday Silence, is out of the Japanese Oaks winner Dance Partner, but she clearly failed to stay the distance and might even have lost third in the stewards room if she had managed to hold her place late. While making her move, she lugged in bumping Yamanin Alabaster only to flatten out soon thereafter, but on this day, there was no catching Daiwa El Cielo.