Almond Eye Japan's HOTY For Second Time In Three Years

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Almond Eye | Horsephotos

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Silk Racing Co. Ltd.'s Almond Eye (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}), who was retired from racing following a second victory in the G1 Japan Cup last November, was named the recipient of the Horse of the Year award for the second time in the last three years Wednesday. She easily outpointed Triple Crown winners and unanimous champions Contrail (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) and Daring Tact (Jpn) (Epiphaneia {Jpn}), while champion sprinter/miler elect Gran Alegria (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) garnered a single vote for HOTY. Almond Eye, who was also the champion of her generation at three in 2018, was also named champion older filly or mare.

Programmed for a defence of her title in the G1 Dubai Turf last March, Almond Eye returned to Japan following the cancellation of the multi-million dollar race meeting in late March and instead made her 5-year-old debut in the G1 Victoria Mile, where–facing her own sex for the first time since completing the Fillies Triple Crown in the 2018 G1 Shuka Sho–she proved an easy winner, stopping the timer in 1:30.6. Runner-up to Gran Alegria in the G1 Yasuda Kinen in June, Almond Eye defeated champion older male Fierement (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) to win the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) for the second year in a row and handed Contrail his first career defeat when concluding her career victoriously in the Nov. 29 Japan Cup.

 

WATCH: Almond Eye wins the 2020 Japan Cup en route to HOTY honours

 

Gran Alegria put together a Horse of the Year-worthy campaign herself, defeating males in the G1 Sprinters' S. (1200m) in October, the strength of which was amplified when that race's runner-up Danon Smash (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) returned to land the G1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint. Gran Alegria closed a three-for-four season in the G1 Mile Championship, besting the classy Indy Champ (Jpn) (Stay Gold {Jpn}) with an irresistible late flourish. All but one of the 283 votes were cast for Gran Alegria (one was cast for Almond Eye).

Contrail was untouchable versus his age group, completing the Triple Crown with a hard-fought success in the G1 Kikuka Sho before finding only Almond Eye too strong in the Japan Cup. Fierement, whose retirement was announced Wednesday, made three trips to the post in 2020, winning the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) over 3000 metres in May and was last seen finishing a close third to 'Special Award' winner Chrono Genesis (Jpn) (Bago {Fr}) in the G1 Arima Kinen. Deep Impact's three champions for 2020 take his total to 21 in his illustrious career.

Daring Tact's campaign very much mirrored that of Contrail, as she was untouchable in the Filly Triple Crown series before finishing third in the Japan Cup.

Danon the Kid (Jpn) (Just a Way {Jpn}) and the white filly Sodashi (Jpn) (Kurofune) locked up the 2-year-old male and female divisions, respectively, with victories in the G1 Asahi Hai Futurity S. and G1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, while Chuwa Wizard (Jpn) (King Kamehameha {Jpn}) was given the nod as the country's top dirt horse following his win in the G1 Champions Cup last month.

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