U. Carrot Farm's 5-year-old mare Lys Gracieux (JPN), the only female in the field, passed the favored Kiseki (JPN) in mid-stretch to win Sunday's 60th running of the 1 3/8-mile, US$2,826 million Takarazuka Kinen (G1) at Hanshin Racecourse by three lengths, and earned an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) through the international Breeders' Cup Challenge.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 86 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, California, Nov 1-2. As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for Lys Gracieux to start in the 1 1/2-mile Longines Turf. Breeders' Cup also will provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
Lys Gracieux, a dark bay or brown daughter of Heart's Cry (JPN) out of Liliside (FR) by American Post (GB), trained by Yoshito Yahagi and ridden by Australian Damian Lane, becomes the fourth filly/mare to claim the spring Grand-Prix since Marialite in 2016. Capturing her first G1 title in last year's 1 3/8-mile Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Kyoto in November, she was runner-up in both the following 1 ½-mile Hong Kong Vase (G1) at Sha Tin in December and the 1 ¼-mile Kinko Sho (G2) at Chukyo in March. She came into Sunday's race off a third in Hong Kong's 1 ¼-mile Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Sha Tin on April 28.
Before a crowd of 62,638, Lys Gracieux was quick out of the gate in the 12-horse field. She was rushed from the outermost draw and settled unusually toward the front to press the pace behind the 5-year-old Kiseki. Turning the last corner outside the frontrunner, still in second, she made bid immediately after entering the lane, dueled strongly with the race favorite until overtaking the front 200 meters out and shifted into higher gear to easily pull away for a clean victory.
“The horse turned out in perfect condition,” said Lane, who won his sixth group stake riding in JRA races under a short-term license between the end of April and this weekend. “I was very lucky to be able to board her today. She broke well and I thought I might as well use that to my advantage. I was very confident turning in that she had plenty left in the tank and I was worried that there were a lot of good horses chasing and I thought that they would challenge but she was just too strong.”
Lys Gracieux completed the 1 3/8 miles in 2:10.80 over a firm course.
Race favorite Kiseki, though breaking somewhat slowly from the innermost draw, took the front as usual to set the pace and continued to hold on well even after entering the homestretch. The son of Rulership, however, ran out of fuel in the last 200 meters while still managing to come in second. Sixth pick Suave Richard (JPN) traveled wide behind Lys Gracieux, around fourth from the front, and continued to chase the eventual winner until the wire, nailing Al Ain (JPN) along the way to finish two lengths behind Kiseki in third.
Lys Gracieux becomes the fourth horse to qualify for this year's Longines Breeders' Cup. The first three who have qualified are: Il Mercato (ARG), winner of the Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini (G1) at San Isidro in Argentina; George Washington (BRZ), winner of the Grande Premio Brasil (G1) at Gavea in Brazil and Crystal Ocean, who captured last Wednesday's Prince of Wales's Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot in England.
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