New possibilities for Almond Eye after Victoria Mile victory

The win by Japan's champion Almond Eye (JPN) in the ¥ 226.8m, Grade 1 Victoria Mile (1600m) at Tokyo on Sunday opened up new globetrotting possibilities for the five-year-old mare as she gained an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.

Almond Eye winning the Grade 1 Victoria Mile at Tokyo, picture Japan Racing Association
Almond Eye winning the Grade 1 Victoria Mile at Tokyo, picture Japan Racing Association

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on November 6th and 7th, 2020.

Almond Eye was starting for the first time after returning from the UAE for her intended title defence in the Dubai Turf at Meydan, which was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The win added to Almond Eye's already formidable record. It was her seventh turf Grade 1 title ties her with all-time Japanese greats Symboli Rudolf (JPN), T.M. Opera O (JPN), Deep Impact (JPN), Vodka (JPN), Gentildonna (JPN) and Kitasan Black (JPN).

In her 2018 Horse of the Year campaign, Almond Eye captured the Japanese Fillies’ Triple Crown—the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, 1,600m G1), the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, 2,400m, G1) and the Shuka Sho (2,000m, G1) — and the Japan Cup (G1) title in her 3-year-old season. Last year, she claimed the Dubai Turf (1,800m, G1) and the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (2,000m, G1).

She not only won by 4L but she time of 1:30.6 was only 0.1 second off the track record. Sound Chiara (Deep Impact) ran stongly in the lane, nailing Trois Etoiles (JPN) in the last 100 meters and holding off the fast-closing defending champion Normcore (JPN) before the wire for second place, the margin a neck.

Trainer Sakae Kunieda claimed his 17th JRA-Grade 1 title following last year’s Tenno Sho (Autumn), which he won with this horse, and jockey Christophe Lemaire won his memorable 30th JRA-Grade 1 title following his Tenno Sho (Spring) victory with Fierement two weeks earlier.

“I think she has matured well, as she was relaxed from the paddock to the start of the race. 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 displayed her powerful strides at the end. She is a legend horse and will surely win more Grade 1 races going forward,” commented jockey Christophe Lemaire.

Almond Eye is by Lord Kanaloa out of the Sunday Silence mare Fusaichi and she is raced by Silk Racing Co.