02/25/2008 12:00AM

Vermilion earns World Cup trip; Admire Aura, Viva Pataca also win

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Vermilion, Admire Aura, and Viva Pataca all booked passage to Dubai with big-race victories in Japan and Hong Kong over the weekend, serving notice that the Far East is in a strong position to defend the two World Cup Night titles it took last year with Vengeance of Rain and Admire Moon.

Vermilion's victory at 7-5 in the Grade 1, $1.71 million February Stakes at Tokyo on Sunday sets him up for a second shot at the Dubai World Cup. Ridden by Yutaka Take, Vermilion came from a wide seventh place in the 16-runner field to lead just inside the quarter pole, defeating Blue Concorde by 1 3/4 lengths, with Wild Wonder third. The time for the mile on a fast dirt track was 1:35.30.

This was the fourth straight win for Vermilion, a son of El Condor Pasa trained by Sei Ishizaka, since his fourth-place finish in last year's World Cup.

"I believe that the horse is superior to what he was 12 months ago," said winning owner Shunsuke Yoshida of Sunday Racing Co., Ltd.

After winning the Grade 2, $1.15 million Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen on Saturday, Admire Aura will attempt to duplicate the victory of his former stablemate Admire Moon in the Dubai Duty Free. The favored 2.30-1 Admire Aura was a 1 1/4-length winner over Admire Fuji. Admire Aura, a 4-year-old son of the Sunday Silence stallion Agnes Tachyon, covered the 1 3/8- miles on a firm turf course in 2:13.60.

At Sha Tin on Sunday, Viva Pataca overwhelmed his seven rivals in the $1 million Hong Kong Gold Cup, cruising to a 2 3/4-length victory over Floral Pegasus, with Bullish Luck a head back in third. The 1-2 favorite, Viva Pataca covered the 1 1/4 miles under Darren Beadman in 2:03.90 on a good turf course.