11/07/2006 1:00AM

Japanese 1-2 in Melbourne Cup

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Delta Blues and Pop Rock gave Japanese trainer Katsuhiko Sumii a historic one-two finish in the $3.8 million Melbourne Cup Handicap on Tuesday in front of 106,691 aghast Australian onlookers at Flemington Racecourse.

The Japanese duo dueled through the last 100 yards of the two-mile Group 1 contest, with the 16-1 Delta Blues, who was never worse than third, holding on for the win by a short head under Yasunari Iwata despite being carried left by the Damien Oliver-ridden Pop Rock, the 5-1 co-favorite. It was 4 1/2 lengths back to third-place Maybe Better.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Ascot Gold Cup winner, Yeats, finished seventh, and Tawqeet, co-favored off his recent Caulfield Cup victory, was 19th in the field of 23. The winning time on good ground was 3:21.42.

Sumii, who trained Cesario to win both the Japanese and American Oaks as well as Kane Hekili to win the Japan Cup Dirt last year, had prepared both of his horses in the Oct. 21 Caulfield Cup, in which Delta Blues was third and Pop Rock seventh. That single prep off mutual four-month layoffs had them fit as fiddles for the Melbourne Cup.

A son of the Sunday Silence stallion Dance in the Dark, Delta Blues is a resolute stayer who had won the 1 7/8-mile Japanese St. Leger in 2004 and the 2 1/4-mile Stayers Stakes at Nakayama last December. By Arc winner Helissio, Pop Rock had won the 1 9/16-mile Meguro Kinen in his most recent start in Japan on May 28.

With the single prep race under his belt, Delta Blues was succeeding on foreign soil where both Heart's Cry and Deep Impact had failed earlier this year off four-month layoffs. Heart's Cry had finished a length third in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, while Deep Impact had been three-quarters of a length third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.