By Nicholas Godfrey
Hanshin: Mile Championship G1 ¥253,100,000 (£1.83m) 1m, turf, 3yo+
Gran Alegria (Kazuo Fujisawa/Christophe Lemaire)
Japan: Gran Alegria produced the latest in a series of stunning displays to complete a G1 hat-trick in the Mile Championship under the unstoppable Christophe Lemaire.
Penned behind horses with a furlong to run, the top-class four-year-old filly settled the race in a matter of strides with a startling turn of foot to overwhelm her rivals, who were led home by last year’s winner Indy Champ and Hong Kong Mile hero Admire Mars.
Thanks to the likes of Contrail, Almond Eye and Daring Tact – and despite the attentions of COVID-19 forcing the sport behind closed doors – 2020 is going to be remembered as a year of wonders for Japanese racing.
Whisper it quietly, but Gran Alegria might even be the best of them, last year’s Oka Sho (1,000 Guineas) winner Gran Alegria having more than done her her bit in beating Almond Eye in the Yasuda Kinen and then landing a last-to-first victory in the Sprinters Stakes before Sunday’s fantastic display.
Sunday’s race, moved to Hanshin as Kyoto undergoes a huge development project, was no less impressive as the 3-5 favourite overpowered the customary double-figure field full of fellow G1 winners.
After breaking more sharply than usual, Sunday Racing’s daughter of Deep Impact sat in the second rank just behind what seemed a moderate pace set by Resistencia.
But if she was close enough to the pace, Gran Alegria found herself boxed inside the duelling Indy Champ and Admire Mars in the straight before Lemaire was able to extricate her.
Showing a tremendous turn of foot, she stormed past her rivals to score by three-quarters of a length and a neck; both second and third could go on to the Hong Kong Mile, won in 2019 by Admire Mars.
Lemaire was winning a G1 for the third weekend in a row after the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and QEII Stakes. “I was a little worried but the way she exploded into gear in the last 150 metres, it just shows how powerful she is and I’m looking forward to a great season from her as a five-year-old,” he reported.
“She had a good break so we were able to sit in a good position,” added the rider, who is destined to land his fourth successive JRA jockeys’ crown in 2020 and now has 34 JRA G1s to his name.
“She’s matured and a lot easier to ride now being a four-year-old. She was relaxed and we had a good trip until the last turn – but as a favourite you’re marked and sometimes it happens like that but we weren’t able to make our move to the outside smoothly for the stretch run.”
Winning trainer Kazuo Fujisawa was winning his 32nd G1 event in Japan and his fifth Mile Championship.
The final time was a hot 1m32.0s for the 1,600 metres; back in fifth, finishing well over an inadequate trip, was leading three-year-old Salios, regular punchbag for Triple Crown winner Contrail, who heads next week’s Japan Cup.
• Visit the Japan Racing Association website