where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2019-12-22 16:08:17  
Almond Eye smashed as Arima Kinen goes to Lys Gracieux

Japanese fan favourite Almond Eye suffered her second defeat as Cox Plate champion Lys Gracieux ended her career with a five-length victory under Australian Damian Lane in Sunday's ¥570,000,000 (A$7.5m) Grade 1 Arima Kinen (2500m) at Nakayama.

Lys Gracieux's galloping exhibition was matched by Lane's sublime ride, putting the mare to sleep midfield on the fence off a slick early pace carved out by Aerolithe, leading the field by at least eight lengths at midway.

Almond Eye ($1.50 favourite) raced three and four wide the trip, with cover and moved into the race approaching the home bend with intent. However there was little in reserve when rider Christophe Lemaire asked her to quicken.

As Almond Eye peaked on her effort and was being swamped, Lane switched Lys Gracieux ($6.70) away from the inside rail and into the clear widest of all with Lys Gracieux doing the rest, powering clear over the final 200 metres to score effortlessly ahead of Saturnalia ($7.80).

World Premiere ($13.40) was second last at the top of the straight and hit the line strongly for third with Fierement ($18.40) in fourth. Almond Eye faded into ninth position at the finish.

Both Lane and Lys Gracieux's trainer Yoshito Yahagi were participating in the Arima Kinen for the first time, a race where the make up of the field is determined by public vote – as per the All-Star Mile.

Lane gained special exemption from the JRA to ride Lys Gracieux in the Arima Kinen given he rode the daughter of Heart's Cry to victory in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen (2200m) at Hanshin on June 23 during a two-month riding contact in Japan, following by success at her next start in the G1 Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley on October 26.

Almond Eye attracted the highest number of votes – nearly 110,000 – with Lys Gracieux polling second. This was despite Almond Eye's connections originally intending to miss the race in favour of the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) two weeks earlier.

However Almond Eye was switched for the Arima Kinen eight days before the Hong Kong Cup due to an elevated temperature. Almond Eye's trainer Sakae Kunieda told Japanese media that the daughter of Lord Kanaloa only missed one day of work from the setback.

Almond Eye has raced nine times for seven wins with her effort in the Arima Kinen the first time she has finished outside the placings.

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