FUNABASHI, CHIBA PREF. – Lys Gracieux stole the show from fan-favorite Almond Eye on Sunday by winning the 64th running of the Arima Kinen in a stellar finish to her successful career.
The retiring 5-year-old mare, ridden by Australian jockey Damian Lane, pulled around the pack in the final stretch of the 2,500-meter turf race at Nakayama Racecourse and crossed the line in front by five lengths in 2 minutes, 30.5 seconds.
“Obviously I went into the race thinking Almond Eye would be hard to beat, but I just had so much confidence in this horse,” said Lane, who had 37 wins over 123 rides in Japan before the race.
“She had really good speed, just like everyone knew there would be. I found a lovely spot back on the rail … and things opened up for me and she just did the rest.”
Third-pick Saturnalia, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, finished second in 2:31.3, while fourth-favorite World Premiere, piloted by Yutaka Take, took third a further neck behind.
Almond Eye, who bested runner-up Lys Gracieux by more than 15,000 votes in the field drawn partially from fan ballots, lifted the crowd while making a run on the inside after the final turn but faded behind and settled for ninth.
Lys Gracieux, sired by 2005 Arima Kinen winner Heart’s Cry, won Japan’s top money prize of ¥300 million ($2.7 million) for capturing the second-to-last G1 race of the year in Japan and ends with 19 top-3 finishes over 22 starts.
Lane, who along with trainer Yoshito Yahagi won the Arima Kinen for the first time, has steered the mare to victory in her last three races, including the Takarazuka Kinen in June and W.S. Cox Plate in Melbourne, Australia, in October.
“The way she improved out of the Takarazuka Kinen into the Cox Plate, and Mr. Yahagi telling she improved again, I just knew she was going to run a big race,” Lane said.