Moreira, who is racing under a short-term license through to December 9th, 2018, marked his 100th JRA win earlier in the day. The Queen Elizabeth II Cup was his first JRA-Grade 1 title while his other graded victories in the JRA include the Mainichi Okan (G2) and the Keeneland Cup (G3), both claimed this season.
Between Moreira, Cristian Demuro with three winners and Christophe Lemaire with three winners they nearly rode the card until Yusuke Fujioka won the final race of the programme with Moreira second and Lemaire third.
For the four-year-old Hearts Cry mare the win in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup was her first at Grade 1 level to go with her two earlier graded wins, the 2016 Artemis Stakes (G3) and this year’s Tokyo Shimbun Hai (G3). She also has four Grade 1 runner-up efforts; the 2016 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, last season’s Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) and Shuka Sho, and the Victoria Mile this past spring.
Trainer Yoshito Yahagi celebrated his fifth JRA-Grade 1 victory, his most recent title was with Mozu Ascot in the Yasuda Kinen in June.
Breaking from stall 12, Lys Gracieux settled right in the middle of the field, angled out at the last corner, hit her best stride at the top of the stretch and while displaying the fastest last three-furlong charge, swooped past the leader in the last half furlong to prevail by a neck.
“Today was her day. We were in a good position, two off the fence, and she had plenty left in the tank after angling out at the last turn. Under pressure, she responded very well and I had every confidence from the 300 meter point that we were going to win. She’s a real champion,” commented winning jockey Joao Moreira after the race.
Hoping to take revenge of her second-place finish in last year’s version, Crocosmia (JPN) broke well and swiftly took the lead with Miss Panthere (JPN) and Primera Azul (JPN) stalking the pace. After extending her lead up to three lengths before the final turns, the ninth favorite kicked into gear furiously holding off her pursuers in a tenacious stretch run but was no match against the speed of the fast closing Lys Gracieux and finished second once again this year.
Race favorite and defending champion Mozu Katchan (JPN) ran the rails in fourth to fifth, entered the stretch chasing the eventual runner-up and drove well but lacked the final response, unable to cut the gap in late stretch, and was three lengths from Crocosmia in third.
For Moreira the coming weeks will be busy with not only his commitments in Japan but also riding in Hong Kong for champion trainer John Size. The trainer has confirmed that he has applied to the Hong Kong Jockey Club to have Moreira as his stable jockey for later in the Hong Kong season.