Four-year-old Gran Alegria ran a strong and convincing race to win this year's Yasuda Kinen while holding off a group of dominating rivals which included not only 10 G1 winners, but the heavily favored Almond Eye, who was hoped to rewrite history in becoming the first Japanese horse to land eight G1 turf wins. The 2019 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1, 1,600m) winner and Best Three-Year-Old Filly showed a good runner-up effort in her first sprint challenge, this year's Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1, 1,200m), but sat out her scheduled Victoria Mile start three weeks earlier when she ran a fever. For trainer Kazuo Fujisawa this marks his third Yasuda Kinen title (1997 Taiki Blizzard, 1998 Taiki Shuttle) and his 30th JRA-G1 victory following his latest in last year's Sprinters Stakes with Tower of London. Jockey Kenichi Ikezoe, who has taken the reigns of Gran Alegria from her last start, celebrates his 26th JRA-G1 victory, his latest being the Mile Championship with Indy Champ last November.
In an empty Tokyo Racecourse, however, the determined and heated contenders broke on the backstretch with Gran Alegria settling well in hand in the middle of the field and smoothly shifting 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 and by the furlong pole, Gran Alegria was the sole leader, maintaining a powerful and unthreatened drive to the wire landing a convincing 2-1/2-length win.
"First of all, I must thank everyone at the stables who tuned her up so well. 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!" Kenichi Ikezoe commented happily.
Solid favorite Almond Eye missed her break, similar to the incident in last year's version where she was heavily bumped after the start and ended up finishing third. The five-year-old mare then traveled in fourth to fifth from the rear on the heels of Indy Champ, displayed her trademark turn of foot in gaining on the eventual winner but had too much ground to make up while tagging 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. She showed her good turn of foot but she could have done better. The winner was just so strong, it wasn't our day," commented jockey Christophe Lemaire.
Last year's champion and favored second, Indy Champ ran the rails behind Gran Alegria and in front of Almond Eye, 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 third from the runner-up.
Other Horses :
4th: (3) Normcore - hugged rails around 12th, angled out for clear path, responded well, 2nd fastest over last 3 furlongs but neck short for 3rd
5th: (8) Keiai Nautique - raced around 12th, circled wide, passed tired rivals
6th: (9) Admire Mars - tracked leaders around 3rd, checked 300m out, showed brief effort until 100m out
7th: (2) Danon Kingly - saved ground around 6th, angled out for stretch run, checked 300m out, even paced
8th: (14) Danon Smash - set pace, surrendered lead before 200m pole, showed tenacity but weakened in last 100m
9th: (7) Persian Knight - settled 3-wide around 9th near favorite, lacked needed kick at stretch
10th: (13) Vin de Garde - traveled around 6th, checked at 4th corner, showed little at stretch
11th: (10) Mr Melody - stalked leader in 2nd, ran gamely until 200m out, fell back due to early effort
12th: (12) Seiun Kosei - sat 3-wide around 3rd from wide draw, outrun after turning 4th corner
13th: (1) Danon Premium - took economic trip around 3rd, never fired and faded after 200m marker
14th: (4) Kluger - broke poorly, trailed in rear, unable to reach contention