Almond Eye Claims Second Japan Cup in Triple Crown Trifecta

Almond Eye | JRA/Horsephotos

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The 2020 G1 Japan Cup delivered on its billing as primarily a three-way battle between 2018 Fillies' Triple Crown Winner Almond Eye (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) and this year's undefeated pair of Triple Crown hero Contrail (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) and 2020 Fillies' Triple Crown victress Daring Tact (Jpn) (Epiphaneia {Jpn}). The 2400-metre contest went to Silk Racing's 2018 Horse of the Year duly saluting as the 6-5 favourite over second choice Contrail at 9-5. Daring Tact narrowly secured third place as the 5-2 third pick.

When the gates opened, Almond Eye was away in good order from stall two and pilot Christophe Lemaire positioned the star mare near the rails in a stalking fourth as 2017 G1 Japanese St Leger hero Kiseki (Jpn) (Rulership {Jpn}) took up his preferred position on the engine. Daring Tact settled a few lengths off Almond Eye in seventh, while Contrail was farther back in ninth. Kiseki quickly opened up a 20-length advantage on the rest of the field, covering the first 1000 metres in a swift :57.90 and getting the mile in 1:33.10.

It appeared for a handful of strides that Kiseki had perhaps poached too great of an advantage a quarter mile from home, but that was an illusion, as the sharp fractions began to viably wear on the frontrunner almost immediately thereafter. Almond Eye was letting down with authority and she set her sights on 2019 G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase victor Glory Vase (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), who was gaining on Kiseki with every stride. Out in the middle of the course, Contrail was making his patented run, as was Daring Tact a few paths toward the inside, with last year's runner-up Curren Bouquetd'or (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) also in the mix.

Almond Eye gained the lead at the 150-metre mark, and asserted from there to withstand the withering late burst from Contrail by 1 1/4 lengths in her career finale. Only a neck separated the 2020 Triple Crown winners, with Daring Tact a nose to the good of fourth-place Curren Bouquetd'or. She in turn was only a neck in front of Glory Vase. The brave pacesetter Kiseki faded to eighth. European raider Way To Paris (GB) (Champs Elysees {Jpn}), a winner of the G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and reluctant to load on Sunday, was outrun for the majority of the contest, but passed some tiring rivals to finish 10th.

“Since this was her final start, it was very special for me and I'm thrilled we were able to win,” said Lemaire. “After winning the Victoria Mile in the spring, we had three weeks to get her prepared for the Yasuda Kinen in which she was second. She had an extra week this time and was tuned up beautifully. She was relaxed in the gate, broke smoothly and was able to sit in a good position. The turf condition near the rails was much better than last week so I don't think the inner draw was a problem. The pace was just right for her and she responded well in the stretch. The others closing in on us didn't worry me at all. Almond Eye is a perfect mare and doesn't have any weak points. Her career as a race horse ended today but I look forward to riding her children.”

Added trainer Sakae Kunieda on Almond Eye who was winning her eighth JRA Group 1 and ninth overall, “She looked good since arriving at the racecourse–she has definitely matured mentally. We were worried about the rough going near the rails, but Christophe did a good job in finding a good path. The pace was ideal for Almond Eye and her response was totally different from that in the Tenno Sho (Autumn). Since expectations of an eighth Group 1 title were enormous in her last Tenno Sho start, we did feel pressure but today, all we wanted was for her to come back safe and sound. The victory is such a bonus, we couldn't be happier. She has given us so much excitement and joy and it has been fulfilling to be a part of her career. It would be great if I could be involved in training her colt or filly someday.”

Second in a newcomers' race in August of 2017, she rattled off seven straight wins afterward, encompassing a maiden that October, before a score in the G3 Nikkan Sports Sho Shinzan Kinen to open her 3-year-old year. After winning the Japanese Fillies' Triple Crown, Almond Eye saluted in her first Japan Cup in November of 2018 and was named the Japanese Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Filly. She took her show on the road with a win in the G1 Dubai Turf in 2019, before a shock third in the G1 Yasuda Kinen in June of 2019. Back on top in the first of two G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) wins, the bay was unplaced in the G1 Arima Kinen at Nakayama last December. First in the May 17 G1 Victoria Mile, Almond Eye was second in the Yasuda Kinen locally in June.

A winner of the Tenno Sho (Autumn) last out, Almond Eye became the first JRA horse to capture eight Group 1 races over turf with that race. Adding in the spoils of her second Japan Cup victory, Almond Eye retires with a mark of 15-11-2-1 and ¥1,915,263,900 (US$18,393,937/£13,819,626/€15,374,801) in earnings, becoming the richest runner in JRA history. Breeding plans have not been decided.

Pedigree Notes

One of four Group 1 winners and 23 total black-type winners for her sire, Almond Eye is a member of her sire's first crop. Fusaichi Pandora has produced 10 foals so far, with eight winners from eight runners. Besides Almond Eye, the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup bridemaid's next most decorated offspring would be the Listed Anemone S. third Unakite (Jpn) (Johannesburg), while her latest is a juvenile by Rulership (Jpn).

Almond Eye's second dam is an unraced Nureyev half-sister to champions and successful sires El Gran Senor (Northern Dancer) and Try My Best (Northern Dancer), as well as Irish highweight Solar (Halo). The quartet are out of blue hen Sex Appeal (Buckpasser), herself a half-sister to Malinowski (Sir Ivor), GI Kentucky Oaks heroine Blush With Pride (Blushing Groom {Fr}), and GSW Monroe (Sir Ivor).

 

Sunday, Tokyo, Japan
JAPAN CUP-G1, ¥574,620,000 (US$5,519,130/£4,146,327/€4,613,255), Tokyo, 11-29, 3yo/up, 2400mT, 2:23.00, fm.
1–ALMOND EYE (JPN), 121, m, 5, Lord Kanaloa (Jpn)
                1st Dam: Fusaichi Pandora (Jpn) MSW & G1SP-Jpn,
                                $3,264,457, by Sunday Silence
                2nd Dam: Lotta Lace, by Nureyev
                3rd Dam: Sex Appeal, by Buckpasser
O-Silk Racing; B-Northern Farm (Jpn); T-Sakae Kunieda;
J-Christophe Lemaire. ¥303,234,000. Lifetime Record:
HotY-Jpn, Ch. 3yo Filly-Jpn, Filly Triple Crown-Jpn, Hwt. Older
Mare-UAE, MG1SW-Jpn, G1SW-UAE, 15-11-2-1,
¥1,915,263,900. *1/2 to Unakite (Jpn) (Johannesburg), SP-Jpn,
$290,564. Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*. Click for the
   eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Contrail (Jpn), 121, c, 3, Deep Impact (Jpn)–Rhodochrosite,
by Unbridled's Song. O-Shinji Maeda; B-North Hills (Jpn);
¥120,924,000.
3–Daring Tact (Jpn), 117, f, 3, Epiphaneia (Jpn)–Daring Bird
(Jpn), by King Kamehameha (Jpn). (¥12,000,000 Ylg '18
JRHAJUL). O-Normandy Thoroughbred Racing; B-Hasegawa
Farm (Jpn); ¥75,462,000.
Margins: 1 1/4, NK, NO. Odds: 1.20, 1.80, 2.70.
Also Ran: Curren Bouquetd'or (Jpn), Glory Vase (Jpn), World Premiere (Jpn), Mikki Swallow (Jpn), Kiseki (Jpn), Makahiki (Jpn), Way to Paris (GB), Perform a Promise (Jpn), You Can Smile (Jpn), Crescendo Love (Jpn), Taurus Gemini (Jpn), Yoshio (Jpn).
Click for the JRA chart & video or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.

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