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Almond Eye wins spring Oaks for filly classic double

Kyodo

No. 1 favorite Almond Eye flashed into the lead coming down the home stretch to score a comfortable two-length victory Sunday in the spring version of the Japanese Oaks at Tokyo Racecourse.

With the victory, Almond Eye, who won last month’s Oka-sho for her first Grade One title, became the 14th horse in Japan to win a second filly classic. The last horse to complete the feat was Gentildonna in 2012.

Almond Eye waited to mount a challenge from outside until the final 200 meters, with jockey Christophe Lemaire knifing his way between horses and overtaking Lily Noble with the finish line in sight. The winning time was 2 minutes, 23.8 seconds.

Fourth pick Lily Noble finished second and No. 2 favorite Lucky Lilac took third, a further 1¾ lengths behind.

On his 39th birthday, Lemaire became the sixth jockey to complete an Oaks double after his victory atop Soul Stirring last spring.

“We got a good early position and we were relaxed throughout the race,” Lemaire said.

“In the final stretch she produced a very good run as she increased her speed. It was a perfect race. I feel like she can win the 2,000 meter race (Shuka-sho in October). She’s one special filly,” he said.

For trainer Sakae Kunieda, it was his first victory in eight years and second overall.

The winner of the 2,400-meter turf race for three-year-old fillies, the second filly classic of the year, earned ¥110 million in prize money.