Second pick Lys Gracieux claimed this year’s Arima Kinen following the Takarazuka Kinen in spring to become the 14th horse and the first mare to dominate both Grand Prix races (10th horse to win both races in the same year). The Heart’s Cry mare, who registered her first G1 title in last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup, will be retiring with a remarkable achievement of scoring three consecutive G1 wins—Takarazuka Kinen in June, Australia’s prestigious Cox Plate in October and the Arima Kinen. Trainer Yoshito Yahagi marked his eighth JRA-G1 victory since the Takarazuka Kinen and jockey Damian Lane, who was riding under a one-day short-term license, scored his third JRA-G1 win following the Victoria Mile in May with Normcore and the Takarazuka Kinen in June with this mare.
Five-year-old Lys Gracieux broke smoothly from stall six and hugged the rails around 10-11th from the front while eyeing race favorite Almond Eye traveling on the outside. Jockey Damian Lane steered his mount to the outside rounding the last corner and urged her to go at the top of the stretch, to which the Heart’s Cry mare responded willingly, taking the front 200 meters out and flying past the cheering crowds while leaving the field behind for a five-length victory.
“Obviously, I went into the race thinking Almond Eye would be hard to beat but I just had so much confidence in this horse, the way she improved out of the Takarazuka Kinen into the Cox Plate and Yahagi-san said she’s improved again. I just knew she was going to run a big race. It was a really good pace and I found a lovely spot back in the rail. I didn’t know what sort of track I was going to get but a space opened up and she did the rest,” commented jockey Damian Lane.
Third favorite Saturnalia traveled wide toward the rear, around fourth from last. The Lord Kanaloa colt improved position while taking a wide trip through the last corners, surged out behind Lys Gracieux in the last 200 meters with a strong late kick and, though unable to keep up with the powerful speed of the winner, held off the strong challenge of World Premiere by a neck.
Fourth choice World Premiere trailed in the very rear through most of the trip, circled the widest around the last two corners and dislodged an impressive late charge that timed the second fastest last three furlongs to close in on the runner-up by a neck at the wire.
Odds-on-favorite Almond Eye traveled in mid-division, around ninth from the front, edged forward through the last corners and was among the front horses passing the 200-meter pole but weakened thereafter to finish ninth.
“She was physically fit and in good condition but she couldn’t keep her calm before the crowd in the first lap and lost her rhythm. She was unable to relax and was tired as it was a 2,500-meter race,” commented Christophe Lemaire.
4th: (5) Fierement—ran outside eventual winner around 10th, advanced after 3rd corner, rallied briefly with top 2 finishers, weakened in last 100m
5th: (11) Kiseki—broke poorly, hugged rails around 12th, turned wide, showed belated charge
6th: (16) Cheval Grand—saved ground 3rd from rear, angled out, improved position
7th: (8) Rey de Oro—was off slow, trailed in rear, circled wide, passed tired rivals
8th: (14) Velox—raced inside favorite around 8th, even paced
10th: (3) Etario—took economic trip in 5th, lacked needed kick at stretch
11th: (13) Al Ain—traveled in 4th, ran gamely until 200m marker, weakened thereafter
12th: (2) Suave Richard—settled around 6th, found little room at final corner, never fired
13th: (4) Stiffelio—tracked leader in 2nd or 3rd, led briefly at early stretch, fell back after 200m pole
14th: (15) Aerolithe—set fast pace, opened gap, ran out of steam at final corner
15th: (1) Scarlet Color—hugged rails around 7th, outrun after 3rd corner
16th: (12) Crocosmia—chased leader in 2nd or 3rd, faded after 3rd corner