11/23/2002 1:00AM

Eagle Cafi takes flight in Japan

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Frankie Dettori rode an inspired race on Eagle Cafi ($19.80-1) to capture the Grade 1, $2.05 million Japan Cup Dirt at Nakayama racecourse in Tokyo on Saturday. Reba's Gold and Abreeze, the two United States shippers, finished ninth and 12th, respectively.

Eagle Cafi, trained in Japan by Futoshi Kojima, delivered a late run up the rail under Dettori to beat

124-1 outsider Regent Bluff by one length. The 6-5 favorite Admire Don finished third, making for a 1-2-3 Japanese finish.

Abreeze was prominent from the start and took the lead in the backstretch until four furlongs out. He was still in a good position chasing the leader entering the stretch but tired in the final two furlongs.

Following the race Abreeze's jockey Richard Migliore said, "He was challenged for the lead early, but that wasn't the problem. I let him go on down the back, but when the others came after him he didn't respond. Usually he digs deep, but this time he didn't. I hope there's nothing wrong with the horse."

Reba's Gold disputed the pace early but was soon restrained to race just off the pace on the outside of the field. Jockey David Flores made a forward move turning for home but couldn't sustain the run and faded in the stretch.

Game show host Alex Trebek, owner of Reba's Gold, said, "That was disappointing. David Flores said the horse was never handling the track." Flores added: "The course was too sandy and deep."

Afterward an elated Dettori said, "I am one lucky so and so. I had a perfect trip. He did not get so far behind as he normally does. On the turn I was tracking the favorite and I thought I'd take a gamble as I'm on a longshot, and I couldn't go round them. I prayed for the gap to come, and when it did the horse did the rest."