Grand Win By Irish Jumper
Irish jumper Blackstairmountain has claimed a famous success for trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh in the Nakayama Grand Jump, the world's richest steeplechase.
The eight-year-old was well beaten on his Tokyo debut when only ninth in the traditional lead-up, the Pegasus Jump, but he stepped up markedly on that form to land the $A1.3 million event as the only foreign runner.
Walsh was happy to sit in mid-division in the early stages of the race, steering a wide course before allowing Blackstairmountain to work his way into contention.
He had half a length to spare at the line, becoming the first European-trained winner of the race after prior wins by jumpers from New Zealand and Australia.
Mullins said he had had the Grand Jump in his sights for some time.
"I gave the Nakayama Grand Jump consideration around 10 years ago," Mullins said.
"I had two good jumpers, Florida Pearl and Alexander Banquet that were invited but when I came out to check out on the conditions here, I decided it wouldn't suit both horses and withdrew the entry.
"I thought it would suit what we call a "summer horse" and it took me a few years to find a horse good enough.
"I had my doubts after Blackstairmountain's performance in the Pegasus but Ruby Walsh was more positive.
"I am thrilled and if the horse's condition is fit to come again I would be quite eager to do so."
Champion New Zealand jumper St. Steven won the race in 2002 while Australian star Karasi claimed an incredible three wins from 2005 to 2007.
Blackstairmountain was the first overseas horse to contest the race in four years.
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Race favorite Kitasan Black topped the 17-horse field of first-class international runners in this year’s Japan Cup by a comfortable 2-1/2-length margin, marking his sixth grade-race and third G1 victory after his 2015 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) and 2016 Tenno Sho (Spring) triumphs.