02/22/2010 1:00AM

Espoir City, Buena Vista earn Dubai trips


Espoir City and Buena Vista punched their tickets to Dubai with winning performances in Japan this weekend. Espoir City routed a very good field in taking the $2 million, Grade 1 February Stakes at Tokyo on Sunday, earning a trip to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup. On Saturday, the 4-year-old filly Buena Vista broke a three-race losing streak, beating males in the Grade 2, $1.35 million Kyoto Kinen to secure a place in the Dubai Sheema Classic.

In winning for the fifth time in a row, the 7-10 Espoir City trounced a high-class field going a mile on dirt to confirm his reputation as Japan's best horse on that surface. The winner last time out on Dec. 6 of the 1 1/8-mile Japan Cup Dirt, he tracked the early pace of Japanese sprint champion Laurel Guerreiro, took the lead under Tetsuzo Sato at the quarter pole, and went clear to defeat Testa Matta by 2 1/2 lengths. Last year's winner, the 5-1 Success Brocken, was third, another 3 1/2 lengths behind as Laurel Guerreiro faded to seventh. The winning time for the mile on fast ground was 1:34.90.

"He's much stronger than last year," when he finished fourth in the February, said trainer Akio Adachi, "and he knows how to race now. He can act like a kid away from the track, but he knows how to switch it on and off. I think he's getting stronger and stronger."

Ladbrokes cut Espoir City to 10-1 co-fourth choice for the Dubai World Cup - in which this 5-year-old son of Gold Allure will make his first start on a synthetic surface - along with Richard's Kid and Gitano Hernando, who will have his World Cup prep on Saturday in the Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield Park. Ladbrokes eased Gio Ponti out to 6-1 co-favoritism with Vision d'Etat after Gio Ponti managed only second in his World Cup prep at Tampa Bay on Saturday. Twice Over is their 8-1 third favorite for the world's richest race.

The winner last year of both the Japanese 1000 Guineas and the Japanese Oaks, Buena Vista rallied from third as the 1-2 favorite to lead late under Norihiro Yokoyama in the Kyoto Kinen, defeating Jaguar Mail by a half-length with 5-2 second choice Dream Journey, last year's Japanese champion older horse, third, another 1 1/2 lengths back. A daughter of the Sunday Silence stallion Special Week and trained by Hiroyoshi Matsuda, Buena Vista covered the 1 3/8 miles on firm ground in 2:14.40 and should be a prime player in the 1 1/2-mile Sheema Classic on March 27.