Gran Alegria Upsets Almond Eye In Yasuda Kinen, Earns Spot In Breeders’ Cup Mile

Sunday Racing Co.’s 4-year-old filly Gran Alegria (JPN), held off super mare Almond Eye (JPN), the odds-on favorite, to win Sunday’s one-mile, US$2.6 million Yasuda Kinen (G1) on turf at Tokyo Racecourse in Tokyo, Japan, by 2 ½ lengths. The victory earned her an automatic berth and fees paid into the $2-million TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.

The 5-year-old defending champion, Indy Champ (JPN), finished third, followed in fourth place  by the 5-year-old mare, Normcore (JPN), as female runners took three of the top four positions in the race.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which is scheduled to be held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on Nov. 6-7.

Gran Alegria, trained by Kazuo Fujisawa and ridden by Kenichi Ikezoe, becomes the third horse to earn an automatic berth into the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) this year, joining Vardy (SAF), who won the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (G1) at Kenilworth Racecourse in South Africa on Jan. 11, and Raging Bull (FR), who captured the Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in California on May 25.

As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for Gran Alegria to start in the TVG Mile, which will be run at 1 mile over the Keeneland turf course. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a minimum travel allowance of US$40,000 for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.

The 70th Yasuda Kinen, run without spectators, included 10 Group 1 winners among its 14 starters. The 12-1 Gran Alegria, by Deep Impact (JPN) out of 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Tapitsfly, broke well and sat well in hand in the middle of the field and smoothly shifted to an outer route to make her bid before the last turn. A clear path from the top of the lane made it easy for the filly to find her best stride approaching pacesetter Danon Smash (JPN), who wound up eighth. By the furlong pole, Gran Alegria was the leader, maintaining a powerful and unthreatened drive to the wire, and landing a convincing victory.

Gran Alegria, bred by Northern Farm, completed the mile in 1:31.6 over course listed as good.

“First of all, I must thank everyone at the stables who tuned her up so well,” said winning rider  Ikezoe. “I was focused on keeping her in good rhythm and in a good position which all worked out beautifully. She just gave her best with such a tenacious run down the stretch. I was afraid up to the line that we were going to be caught, especially by Almond Eye. I hurt myself when a chunk of grass hit my eye at the third corner, but it doesn’t hurt at all now!”

Gran Alegria improved her record to five wins in eight starts.  She won the 2019 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1) and came back in the fall to beat males in the 7-furlong Hanshin Cup (G2). In her only start his year, Gran Alegria finished third by a short head (moved up to second through disqualification) in the 6-furlong Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1) at Chukyo on March 29, also against males.

Almond Eye, seeking an eighth Group 1 win, missed her break. It was a problem similar to the incident in last year’s Yasuda Kinen when she was heavily bumped after the start and wound up finishing third. Unfortunately for Almond Eye, the bad luck carried over into this year’s race. Today, she traveled in fourth to fifth from the rear of the field on the heels of Indy Champ, and began displaying her trademark turn of foot in gaining on the eventual winner. However, she had too much ground to make up, but overtook Indy Champ in the final strides, and secured second.

“We had a poor break but I think we recovered well and made a smooth and strong bid turning for home with Gran Alegria in aim (target). She showed her good turn of foot but she could have done better. The winner was just so strong, it wasn’t our day,” jockey Christophe Lemaire said.

Indy Champ, the 7-1 second choice, who set a stakes-record time (1:30.9) winning last year’s race, stayed along the rail behind Gran Alegria and in front of Almond Eye. Indy Champ, who lost a hind shoe during the race, struggled for room in early stretch, chased the winner in second from the furlong marker but was caught in the last 50 meters to finish a half-length behind Almond Eye.

The post Gran Alegria Upsets Almond Eye In Yasuda Kinen, Earns Spot In Breeders’ Cup Mile appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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