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Posted 2018-11-25 10:58:26  
Triple-Crowned Filly Almond Eye Romps to Victory in Record Time in Japan Cup

This year’s triple crown winner and heavily favored Almond Eye became the second three-year-old filly after Gentildonna in 2012 to dominate the Japan cup. The remarkable starlet prevailed in front of the nearly 100,000 crowd under jockey Christophe Lemaire by a record-breaking 2:20.6, 1.5 seconds faster than the previous record set by Alkaased in 2005. After marking a second in her debut start, the Lord Kanaloa filly has been undefeated since, landing six consecutive victories including the fillies’ Triple Crown—Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1), Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1) and the Shuka Sho (G1). This is the first Japan Cup triumph and 15th JRA-G1 victory for trainer Sakae Kunieda while jockey Christophe Lemaire celebrates his second Japan Cup win—his first was with Vodka in 2009. Lemaire now owns 22 JRA-G1 trophies and renewed his own record of eight G1 titles won in the same year. The highly targeted heavy favorite Almond Eye broke from the inner-most stall, hugged the rails a few lengths from the frontrunner in second, steadily climbed the stretch hill and swooped past Kiseki at the furlong pole, pulling away easily to a 1-3/4-length victory. Breaking from stall eight, four-year-old Kiseki was rushed to the front before the initial turn, set the pace and extended his lead up to three lengths in the backstretch, kicked into gear in the homestretch but proved no match for the winner while driving home well holding off Suave Richard by 3-1/2 lengths for second. Second favorite Suave Richard was quickly steered to the rails from a wide stall, was a bit keen in the backstretch traveling in fifth behind Almond Eye, chased the leaders in the straight and gradually ran out of steam but withstood the hard-charging Cheval Grand to secure third by a neck. A bit fractious in the paddock, seventh favorite Thundering Blue broke from stall six, was unhurried as usual in the far rear of the field, entered the stretch last, made a tenacious effort but was unable to reach contention and passed his tiring rivals to finish 10th. “I thought the ground was too quick and he was a bit too tense before the race in the paddock. He did show his brilliance in the final stages, but it was a good experience and he will now be given a good rest and we’ll see how he does next season,” commented trainer David Menuisier after the race. “The horse lost his concentration because of the loud crowd. He stretched well in the end but the horses in front were just too fast,” said jockey Francis Berry. Sent off sixth favorite, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Capri was off slow, cruised third from the rear, showed a moderate turn of foot in early stretch but failed to reach contention behind the rapid pace and was 11th.

“The ground was quick and the pace too fast. The winner finishing at 2:20.6 was too good,” commented jockey Ryan Moore. [Other Horses] 4th: (9) Cheval Grand—raced in 8th, showed effort, advanced to 4th at 200m pole, finished a neck behind 3rd 5th: (5) Mikki Swallow—sat 2nd from rear, angled out, showed belated charge, fastest over last 3 furlongs 6th: (3) Satono Diamond—settled in 9th, ran gamely until 200m marker, even paced thereafter 7th: (2) Happy Grin—saved ground in 7th, switched to outside at early stretch, lacked needed kick 8th: (14) Win Tenderness—sat in 6th, ran willingly along rails until 300m out, weakened 9th: (4) Satono Crown—hugged rails in 11th, circled wide, passed tired rivals  12th: (10) Ganko—ran outside winner, gradually fell back 13th: (13) Noble Mars—chased leader in 2nd, faded after final corner 14th: (7) Sounds of Earth—traveled wide in 10th, no factor.

Trainer: Sakae Kunieda “I had every confidence in her potential and she was in great form coming into the race—she traveled smoothly to Tokyo yesterday and settled in nicely—and although she broke a little in air at the break, she was still able to secure a good position up front and into a nice flow. When I saw that the clock indicated 59.9 seconds at the 1,000- meter mark, I was already pretty sure that she could pull it off and win the race. The Japan Cup itself being recognized as an international event and having won this race gives her various options to choose from including an overseas challenge that will most certainly be expected of her, although details will have to be discussed with the owners.” Jockey: Christophe Lemaire “I am happy to have won the Japan Cup which is a big international race watched everywhere around the world, but personally I feel relieved to have won (with the race favorite) because I knew she had the potential to win but you never know what might happen in the 2,400 meters. Today I was a little bit anxious, but I think we saw the best Almond Eye in the race and it was a great show. I don’t really like the inside number one draw because it is very hard to make a plan and can depend on how you break—I didn’t want to put too much pressure on her out of the gate—it can also be pretty tricky because if you get locked inside a slow pace it can be a mess in the end and it is also difficult to stay back and move wide to the outside. (As a result) she broke well, and I saw that Kiseki was taking the lead which was good because Kiseki is a good horse and a leader with a good pace, so I had the best leader for Almond Eye and was happy with how the race went. By the first corner Almond Eye was already her usual self and well into the bridle and I really enjoyed being in the position of being on her back and by the backstretch, I nearly thought the race was over and ours. This is a very special filly as I keep telling the press in Japan that she is “Perfect” –her ability, temperament, she can adapt and race from any position, so if she has a chance to race overseas, I think she can race as well as she did today if not at least be competitive against the world’s best.”

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