12/03/2001 12:00AM

Espinoza can't hold lead in Japan


Victor Espinoza came within a race of winning the World Super Jockeys Series at Hanshin Racecourse in Japan this weekend.

Espinoza took a narrow lead into the fourth and final race of the two-day event on Sunday, but lost the championship when he finished ninth aboard Set Play as the victorious Katsuya Samejima recorded his second victory in succession on Marubutsu Global. Samejima outpointed Epsinoza, 56-51, for the title.

Espinoza had led the competition on Saturday night with a victory aboard the 14-1 Zenno Spirit and a second with the 22-1 King Fidelia. He maintained his lead in Sunday's first race with a third on Ragione as Samejima won aboard Dragon Max.

Edgar Prado, whose best efforts were a fourth and a fifth, finished tied for sixth in the competition. Espinoza was also out of luck in Sunday's Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies as he finished 17th aborad Chivas Biko. Olivier Peslier rode the 16-1 Tamuro Cherry to a nose victory over Gokai.