TOYOAKE, Japan (Kyodo) -- Third-favorite Mr Melody picked up his maiden Grade 1 victory on Sunday at the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, the first top-tier turf race of the season.
Ridden by Japanese jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, the 4-year-old American-born colt maintained a steady pace out of the second stall at Nagoya's Chukyo Racecourse, then sprinted ahead of the 18-horse pack to cross the line first in 1 minute, 7.3 seconds.
"I was able to race how I wanted," said Fukunaga, who won the 1,200-meter race for a third time.
"The horse worked hard in the end. He's a horse with good sense, I think I'll keep riding him on short distances."
Trainer Hideaki Fujiwara said he was happy to win his first G1 race and has high expectations for his colt in terms of both ability and pedigree.
"Left turn, good riding ground, inside stall -- these were conditions that allowed this horse to show his power the most," Fujiwara said. "We'll look at going overseas in the future as well."
Twelfth-favorite and 2017 winner Seiun Kosei had been in front but ran out of gas in the final stretch, finishing second a half-length behind Mr Melody. Seventeenth-pick Shonan Anthem finished third a further head behind.
Danon Smash, the race favorite, finished fourth in 1:07.5. The favorite has won just three times in the last 10 runnings of the race for 4-year-olds and up.
Second-favorite Mozu Superflare, another American-born horse ridden by veteran jockey Yutaka Take, finished 15th. Take earned his 76th G1 victory on Inti at last month's February Stakes.
Frenchman Christophe Lemaire rode Logi Cry to 8th, while Italian Mirco Demuro crossed in 16th on Daimei Princess.
In her second G1 ride, Nanako Fujita steered 10th-favorite Snow Dragon to a disappointing 17th place.
Fujita became the first female Japan Racing Association jockey to compete in a Grade 1 race at last month's February Stakes, where she finished fifth aboard Copano Kicking.