03/26/2011 3:23PM

World Cup exacta goes to Japan; Victoire Pisa's early move breaks race open

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Frankie Dettori already had won two races on Dubai World Cup night, but it was another Italian rider virtually unknown in the U.S., Mirco Demuro, who got the big one. And that was no conventional ride Demuro put on Victoire Pisa.

Last away and last into the first turn, Demuro steered out as the horses hit the backstretch, and whoosh – there Victoire Pisa went, passing 12 foes in a furlong. Unconventional but successful, as Victoire Pisa beat pacesetting Transcend to win the $10 million World Cup by a half-length.

So there was the Italian angle. But the World Cup result, Victoire Pisa over Transcend, put the country of Japan in the news for something other than a grave occurrence. A Japanese horse never had won the World Cup, but tonight they ran one-two. A rich horserace in the Arabian desert isn’t going to salve the wounds of an epic natural disaster and its aftermath, but top racehorses have mass followings in Japan, and the Japanese here in Dubai burst with emotion Saturday night.

“Japan is going through a very tough time,” winning trainer Katsuhiko Sumii said through a translator. “I thought the whole country was backing me up.”

Victoire Pisa paid $36.60 in the United States, and was a worthy winner of a roughly run race, with Fly Down, who was cut off badly in the first turn, getting the worst of things. The winner’s trouble came earlier.

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Seven times first in 12 starts, and seeking his third straight victory after finishing eighth in the Arc d’Triomphe last fall, Victoire Pisa got his World Cup run underway by banging his head on the gate at the break. Demuro, a 32-year-old who has been riding three months a year in Japan for nine years, said Victoire Pisa was rocking back when the gate was sprung. After hitting metal, Victoire Pisa could see all his rivals.

But not for long. Demuro said Victoire Pisa merely was running along at his typical cruising speed, and that the horse’s normal pace carried him past most of the field after Demuro angled him outside. That seems reasonable. Transcend had made an easy lead from the start, his head turned to the side as he mildly resisted restraint through an opening 400 meters in a glacial 26.78 seconds. The 800-meter split was no faster, just 53.18: No wonder the closers would make no impact. Monterosso kicked home nicely for third, but fourth-place Cape Blanco had raced close to the lead. Gio Ponti got rank down the backstretch after Victoire Pisa whizzed past. He rallied wide and briefly looked to have a chance in the stretch, but could make no late ground.

“Just like last year, they were sprinting home,” said jockey Ramon Dominguez.

Twice Over, considered the race favorite, raced mid-pack and had no rally, checking in ninth.

“It was a messy race,” said his jockey, Tom Queally.

And a slow one, too. Winning time for the 2,000 meters, or about 1 1/4 miles, was 2:05.94, more than two seconds slower than last year’s World Cup. Sumii, the trainer, said Victoire Pisa’s early move made him “nervous.” Turned out that Demuro, the other Italian, knew what he was doing.