By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan: Lys Gracieux has earned Japanese racing’s top honour with an almost unanimous verdict in the vote for the Japan Racing Association’s Horse of the Year award for 2019.
The brilliant mare received 271 of the 274 votes available in the annual ballot of racing media following her exploits in 2019, when she followed up notable overseas success in the Cox Plate, Australia’s premier weight-for-age race, with a stunning triumph on her final career start in last month’s Arima Kinen at Nakayama.
As a result of that latter victory over a field packed full of fellow G1 winners in Japan’s end-of-season grand prix, Lys Gracieux is likely to take high rank in the Longines World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings when they are unveiled in London on January 22.
The daughter of Heart’s Cry won three G1s last year during her five-year-old campaign, also registering a three-length victory under regular jockey Damian Lane in the Takarazuka Kinen in June before justifying favouritism in the Cox Plate.
“As a trainer I am proud to have received such a prestigious award and I am grateful to Lys Gracieux,” said trainer Yoshito Yahagi, who led the way among JRA trainers in prize-money terms. “It is said to part ways with her retirement but I am sure she will be a successful broodmare and look forward to seeing her children.”
However, she saved the best till last with her runaway victory in the Arima Kinen, where her victims included reigning horse of the year Almond Eye. The latter received only two votes this time around, with dirt star Chrysoberyl getting the final outstanding vote.
Lys Gracieux’s owners U Carrot Farm habitually send their mares to the paddocks after their five-year-old season, and a retirement ceremony for Lys Gracieux will be held at Kyoto racecourse on January 19 before the JRA awards ceremony on January 27.
At the same ceremony. Christophe Lemaire will be honoured as champion jockey after leading the way in both races won (164) and prize-money (approx. 3.5bn yen). Leading trainer with 64 wins was Takayuki Yasuda.
JRA AWARD WINNERS FOR 2019
Horse of the year: Lys Gracieux (Yoshito Yahagi)
2yo colt: Contrail (Yoshito Yahagi)
2yo filly: Resistencia (Takeshi Matsusita)
3yo colt: Saturnalia (Katsuhiko Sumii)
3yo filly: Gran Alegria (Kazuo Fujisawa)
Older horse: Win Bright (Yoshihiro Hatakeyama)
Best older filly/mare: Lys Gracieux (Yoshito Yahagi)
Sprinter: Indy Champ (Hidetaka Otonashi)
Dirt horse: Chrysoberyl (Hidetaka Otonashi)
Steeplechase horse: Shingun Michael (Keiji Takaichi)