03/29/2014 1:27PM

Dubai Duty Free: Just A Way sizzles

Dubai Racing Club photo
Just A Way, ridden by Yuichi Fukunaga, wins the Dubai Duty Free by 6 1/4 lengths Saturday.

Six months and three starts ago, the Japanese-bred and campaigned 5-year-old horse Just A Way was a two-time winner whose peak success had come at the Group 3 level. But something transformed the horse last fall, and on Saturday night at Meydan Racecourse, he delivered a dazzling performance in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free.

Making a slingshot move from the back of the pack while racing on the outside, Just A Way roared to the lead in upper stretch of the Duty Free and went on to a 6 1/4-length victory over the previously unbeaten South African horse Vercingetorix. His time for about 1 1/8 miles on good going was a shocking 1:45.52, more than two seconds faster than the course record established by Sajjhaa in the 2013 Duty Free.

Vercingetorix ran what would have been a winning race under many circumstances, and he was well clear of third-place Dank while no match for the winner. Dank, who had only Trade Storm beaten in the early going, and Just A Way, third-last during the early and middle stages, both rallied from well behind the pacesetting Tokei Halo, another Japanese horse.

Just A Way, by the Sunday Silence stallion Hearts Cry, suddenly improved his form by many lengths in the Group 1 Tenno Sho last fall, beating the elite mare Gentildonna by four lengths in a spectacular performance. He returned from a winter break with a sharp Group 2 win on March 2 before delivering his amazing performance in the Duty Free. Just A Way paid $8.60 in North American betting on the race. Yuichi Fukunaga rode the winner for trainer Naosuke Sugai and owner Akatsuki Yamatoya.

While Dank, the winner of last year’s Beverly D. Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, ran quite well in her 2014 debut, The Fugue, who was favored in North American betting, never got involved and finished near the back of the 13-horse field.