11/30/2008 12:00AM

Screen Hero topples three derby winners


Screen Hero scored a 40-1 surprise in the $5 million Japan Cup in Tokyo on Sunday, defeating three Japanese Derby winners as well as three British challengers. Marsh Side, the lone American horse scheduled to race, was scratched after suffering a relapse of the fever that had caused him to miss a week of training after his arrival in Japan.

An unheralded son of the Silver Hawk stallion Grass Wonder, himself a two-time winner of the Arima Kinen, Screen Hero overcame a wide draw from 16 to settle in sixth under his Italian rider, Mirco Demuro, with 2007 Japanese Derby winner Vodka closer than usual in third behind a relatively slow pace. This year's Japanese Derby winner Deep Sky and 2006 Derby winner Meisho Samson were both well-positioned in midpack. Screen Hero rallied to lead at the sixteenth pole and held off 2-1 favorite Deep Sky by a half-length for the victory with the 5-2 Vodka plugging on for third, three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up. Last year's Arima Kinen winner, Matsurida Gogh, was fourth, with Japanese St. Leger winner Oken Bruce Lee fifth and Meisho Samson sixth, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner. The time for the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf was 2:25.50.

The unthreatening British raiders were led home by Purple Moon in ninth with Sixties Icon 13th and Papal Bull 14th. Of Marsh Side, trainer Neil Drysdale said: "He looked fine on Friday, but before going to the track on Saturday morning, something was wrong. After his workout he started to cough. I foound out he had a fever and decided to scratch him."

Trained by Yuichi Shikato, the 4-year-old Screen Hero was sidelined for 11 months before returning to action in August, and since then he had won 2 of 4 starts with a pair of seconds. The winner of the 1 9/16-mile Grade 2 Copa Republica Argentina at Tokyo just three weeks ago, Screen Hero earned a big victory for Japan's leading owner, Teruyo Yoshida, who bred him at his Shadai Farm in Hokkaido.

Shikato, who has only had his own training yard since March, inherited Screen Hero from the retired Susumu Yano.

"He was turned over to me coming off a recovery from a bone fracture," Shikato said. "He's a horse that puts in a performance depending on the standard of his opponents, so I knew that if he faced the best field, he would upgrade his performance accordingly."

Shikato thinks that Screen Hero can stay farther than 1 1/2 miles, a suggestion that he may go in the 1 9/16-mile Arima Kinen at Nakayama on Dec. 28 after a consultation with owner Yoshida.