Japan’s Almond Eye (JPN) proves herself on the world stage with Meydan win

Japan’s Almond Eye (JPN) proved herself on the world stage winning the US6m, Group 1 Dubai Turf (1800M), sponsored by DP World, at Meydan on Saturday, March 30th, in her first race outside of Japan.

Almond Eye (JPN) winning the 2019 Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan, picture Liesl King
Almond Eye (JPN) winning the 2019 Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan, picture Liesl King

The Lord Kanaloa filly, trained by Sakae Kunieda to win all three legs of the Filly Triple Crown and the Japan Cup at home, was produced with a well-timed run by Christophe Lemaire to land the race with a winning margin of 1 1/4L.

The race provided a great result for Japan with compatriot Vivlos (JPN) a length and a quarter back in second and Deirdre (JPN) finishing fourth.

“It was a really great race. She broke well, settled well, got a good position and accelerated well to win well. It was the result I thought we could get and I’m happy she proved us right. I was nervous, I’ve lost my voice. Almond Eye can continue my dreams, so next we’ll go to Europe, our dream is to take her to the Arc,” said Kunieda.

“She was very impressive. The way she accelerated is unbelievable. Today was her first start of the year, and quite early on she was actually in front of the rest of the field. I think she relaxed a little bit and she had a bit of a margin on them,” said Lemaire.

“The distance was a little bit short for her today, but she is so good that I had no fear about that. When you have the right horse and you have confidence in your horse, you can go out confident no matter what happens - and she's the right horse. Hopefully, there are some big victories on the horizon for her.”

In results from other Asian Racing Federation runners at the UAE meeting Hong Kong’s Southern Legend finished sixth, 10 lengths behind Japan’s super star filly and a couple of placings behind where trainer Caspar Fownes had fixed his expectations.

“To run sixth was a bit disappointing for me,” Fownes said. “I felt he would be in the first four.”

Vivlos, the mare who won this race under Joao Moreira in 2017, and who was supposed to retire after a fine second to Beauty Generation in December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin, chased her illustrious compatriot home.

Southern Legend was only a neck behind Vivlos when third in Sha Tin’s premier mile contest, however at Meydan he was about nine lengths her inferior.

“His form in Hong Kong puts him right there with the second horse, they finished together in December,” Fownes said.

Zac Purton attempted to make the most of Southern Legend’s draw against the fence, breaking smartly to race at the fore. But when Century Dream soon went by to lead the field, Hong Kong’s hope slipped back to midfield: the bay lacked verve and plugged home without threatening.

“He wasn’t travelling, he was never on the bit so it was always going to be hard for him to finish,” a disappointed Purton said as he carried his saddle back to weigh in.

Richard Gibson’s Gold Mount was fourth in the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup (3200m).
The six-year-old settled at the rear in his first race at beyond 2400m and kept on gamely under Ryan Moore to claim fourth place, behind the race’s big three contenders. Group 1 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter added another important win to his resume, holding his in-form stablemate Ispolini by a length and a quarter, with Group 1-winning French runner Call The Wind third.
“He has been beaten by three good horses; I am very happy with his run,” Moore said upon dismounting.

“First time over the trip, it was a very positive experience for the horse. In a top-class field like that he has performed well so I am pleased with him,” said Gibson.

Gibson’s Wishful Thinker was seventh in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m), though.

Trainer Me Tsui and jockey Joao Moreira were in agreement that Fight Hero had run as well as he could in finishing sixth in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m, dirt).

“Sixth or fifth was what I expected because in the morning I saw the dirt, it was very sticky,” Tsui said.

The veteran was outpaced in a race with plenty of speed up front but fought down the straight under Moreira, passing a couple of rivals to cross the line six and a quarter lengths behind the winner X Y Jet.

Fight Hero was a close second in the KOR G1 Korea Sprint (1200m, sand) at Seoul last September and that could be an option again but Tsui is not making any firm plans yet.

Two Australian trained runners in the Al Quoz Sprint, Viddora and the Japanese -bred Brave Smash, finished fourth and eighth respectively.

“I was tracking the winner Blue Point and at halfway I asked my mare to go with him. She couldn’t quite do that, but she batted on well for fourth. She has run with credit having travelled so far from Australia. Blue Point must be very good to clock a time like that on a track that to me didn’t appear super-fast,” said Viddora’s jockey Joe Bowditch.

Hugh Bowman, Brave Smash’s jockey commented; “I had a lovely run in transit, but my horse was just a bit free for me in mid-stages, which took away from his excellent finish unfortunately.”

The night’s feature, the Group 1 Dubai World Cup (2000m, dirt), went to Godolphin’s Thunder Snow, who became the contest’s first two-time winner.
Thunder Snow overcame a huge amount of difficulty to become the first horse in history to land consecutive wins in the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline.

Christophe Soumillon was in the saddle as 12 months ago and the victory capped a superb evening for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Godolphin team who scooped four of the eight thoroughbred races.

Korea’s leading hope in the World Cup, Dolkong, finished 11th.

“He never stretched. It was a hard race as he was a bit lazy. The pace was very fast, there was a lot of kickback. He is normally able to come when I ask but he wasn’t able to today. Something went wrong, he was not the real Dolkong. We should have finished closer. I know him as I have ridden him three times already and he never stretched like he should today,” said jockey Olivier Doleuze.