By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan: Almond Eye fully lived up to her reputation as one of the best racehorses on the planet as she dismantled her rivals in a magnificent four-length victory in Sunday’s Victoria Mile behind closed doors at Tokyo racecourse.
This was a superb comeback from the Sakae Kunieda-trained five-year-old, who was facing 15 opponents at a mile trip below her optimum on her seasonal debut after an abortive trip to Dubai.
Always travelling comfortably a few lengths off a strong pace set by Trois Etoiles, Almond Eye cruised upsides sitting-duck leaders under Christophe Lemaire.
With her rivals toiling, the 2-5 favourite lengthened clear at the 200-metre mark to score as she liked and record her seventh G1 victory from in-form mare Sound Chiara, who raced handily, with last year’s winner Normcore a neck away after flashing home for third.
However, a more accurate rendering of the result was offered by the Japan Racing Association’s English-language race caller Murray Johnson. “There’s nothing coming with her – daylight’s gonna run second,” he said.
Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) winner Loves Only You struggled to hold a pitch throughout from her tricky inside post and finished seventh in the ¥226,800,000 (£1.75m) event.
Almond Eye’s time of 1m30.6s was only a tenth of the track record; the daughter of Lord Kanaloa joins an elite list of JRA horses to have won seven races at the top level.
No JRA horse has ever won eight G1s – but Lemaire made it sound like a formality for Almond Eye. “She’s a legendary horse and will surely win more G1s in the future,” said the jockey, landing his 30th top-level victory on the JRA circuit.
“I think she’s matured well, as she was relaxed from the paddock to the start of the race,” added Japan’s reigning champion jockey, who turns 41 on Wednesday.
“I was able to position her in good position behind Sound Chiara and race her in her own rhythm without getting any pressure from the outside. She felt good during the race and showed her powerful stride at the end.”
The Victoria Mile is part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge offering a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland in November.
• More about Japanese racing at the JRA website