Sakai, a respectable Japanese jockey, has never had the chance to shine in the major events during 15 years in the saddle.
After entering the Japan Cup Dirt he knew this first Group 1 race could not slip through his fingers.
“The first time that I rode Nihonpiro, I knew he could impose himself on the big races. The whole training team did everything they could to prepare for D-Day. All I did was try to get the best out of him,” Manabu said.
The Japanese jockey managed just that from the moment he emerged from stall 14, matching the pace set by Hokko Tarumae.
The son of White Muzzle took the lead at 200 metres, putting in a formidable burst of acceleration.
“I was able to get the horse into a good position at the front, holding off the competitors. The rest is down to the horse, who held the distance to the prize with impressive power”, added Manabu.
Nihonpiro Ours’s finish stunned the stopwatch with a time of 1:48.8 - a 10th of a second faster than Transcend in 2010, making it the best time in history over this mythical 1,800 metres.
Nihonpiro Ours claimed the trophy, coming in ahead of Wonder Acute and Roman Legend. Christophe-Patrice Lemaire, riding the neglected mare Grape Brandy, finished an unexpected fifth.