12/01/2011 2:56PM

Hanshin: Transcend likely favored in Japan Cup Dirt defense

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Transcend, second in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March, is expected to be favored in a defense of his title in Sunday’s $3.5 million Japan Cup Dirt at Hanshin Racecourse in Osaka.

Espoir City, the 2009 Japan Cup Dirt winner, may be Transcend’s biggest threat in the field of 16 horses, all of whom are based in Japan.

Transcend will be ridden by Shinji Fujita for trainer Takayuki Yasuda, and breaks from the outside. The Japan Cup Dirt is run over about 1 1/8 miles on a right-handed track.

“He’s shown no sign of fatigue since his last start,” Yasuda said.

Since the Dubai World Cup, Transcend has started twice, winning the Grade 1 Mile Championship Nambu Hai on the infield dirt track at Tokyo Racecourse on Oct. 10 and finishing second in the Grade 1 JBC Classic on dirt at Ohi Racecourse, a minor track in Tokyo, on Nov. 3. Transcend was beaten about a neck by Smart Falcon in the JBC Classic, which was run over 1 1/4 miles.

In the Japan Cup Dirt, Transcend faces 12 other horses who have won stakes in their last five starts, including the 4-year-old Miracle Legend, who has won three consecutive stakes at the smaller tracks Nigata and Ohi. Miracle Legend will be ridden by jockey Yasunari Iwata, who won the Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse last Sunday on Buena Vista.

The race drew the first three finishers of the Miyako Stakes at Kyoto on Nov. 6 – Espoir City, Tosho Freak, and Nihonpiro Ours. Espoir City, a 6-year-old, was 10th behind Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Espoir City ended a three-race losing streak in the Miyako Stakes, which was run over about 1 1/8 miles.