The Yoshito Yahagi trained Japanese five-year-old Heart's Cry mare Lys Gracieux and Australian jockey Damien Lane had combined to win the 2019 Group 1 WS Cox Plate over 2040m at The Valley in Melbourne in October and they became a winning team once again before a crowd of 90,374 at Nakayama Racecourse.
Lys Gracieux's win in the Arima Kinen followed her win in the Takarazuka Kinen in the Japanese spring to become the 14th horse and the first mare to dominate both Grand Prix races as well as the 10th horse to win both races in the same year.
The Heart’s Cry mare, who registered her first Grade 1 title in last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup, will be retiring to the breeding barn after Sunday's race with the remarkable achievement of scoring three consecutive Grade 1 win; the Takarazuka Kinen in June, Cox Plate in October and the Arima Kinen.
The win was Yahagi's eighth JRA-Grade 1 victory since the Takarazuka Kinen and Lane, who was riding under a one-day short-term JRA license, scored his third JRA-Grade 1 win following the Victoria Mile in May with Normcore and the Takarazuka Kinen in June with this mare.
Lys Gracieux broke smoothly from stall six and hugged the rails around 10-11th from the front while eyeing race favourite Almond Eye traveling on the outside. Lane steered his mount to the outside rounding the last corner and urged her to go at the top of the stretch, to which the Heart’s Cry mare responded willingly, taking the front 200 meters out and flying past the cheering crowds while leaving the field behind for a five-length victory.
“Obviously, I went into the race thinking Almond Eye would be hard to beat but I just had so much confidence in this horse, the way she improved out of the Takarazuka Kinen into the Cox Plate and Yahagi-san said she had improved again. I just knew she was going to run a big race. It was a really good pace and I found a lovely spot back in the rail. I did not know what sort of track I was going to get, but a space opened up and she did the rest,” commented Lane.
Third favourite Saturnalia travelled wide toward the rear, around fourth from last. The Lord Kanaloa colt improved position while taking a wide trip through the last corners, surged out behind Lys Gracieux in the last 200 meters with a strong late kick and, though unable to keep up with the powerful speed of the winner, held off the strong challenge of World Premiere by a neck.
Fourth choice World Premiere trailed in the very rear through most of the trip, circled the widest around the last two corners and dislodged an impressive late charge that timed the second fastest last three furlongs to close in on the runner-up by a neck at the wire.
Odds-on-favourite Almond Eye travelled in mid-division, around ninth from the front, edged forward through the last corners and was among the front horses passing the 200-meter pole but weakened thereafter to finish ninth.
“She was physically fit and in good condition but she couldn’t keep her calm before the crowd in the first lap and lost her rhythm. She was unable to relax and was tired as it was a 2,500-meter race,” commented jockey Christophe Lemaire.
Lys Gracieux, out of the American Post mare Liliside, was winning for the seventh time from 22 starts and she retires with stakes of ¥1,217,200,100 for her owner, Dr H Akital’s U Carrot Farm.
The turnover on the Arima Kinen was ¥46,889,714,600, approx. A$599 million, with the overall turnover on the meeting ¥59,339,791,000, approx. A$758 million.