Japan: Lys Gracieux wins group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup

Third favourite Lys Gracieux, under jockey Joao Moreira, landed her first G1 triumph in this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

The four-year-old has notched two graded wins so far, the 2016 Artemis Stakes (G3) and this year’s Tokyo Shimbun Hai (G3) but had been out of reach of G1 titles in spite of four G1 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 celebrates his fifth JRA-G1 victory, his most recent title was with Mozu Ascot in the Yasuda Kinen in June. For jockey Joao Moreira, who is racing under a short-term license and had just marked his 100th JRA win earlier in the day, the Queen Elizabeth II Cup is his first memorable JRA-G1 title while his other graded victories in the JRA include the Mainichi Okan (G2) and the Keeneland Cup (G3), both claimed this season.

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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,” winning jockey Joao Moreira said after the race.

Hoping to take revenge of her second-place finish in last year’s version, Crocosmia broke well and swiftly took the lead with Miss Panthere and Primera Azul stalking the pace. After extending her lead up to three lengths before the final turns, the ninth favourite 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 favourite and defending champion Mozu Katchan 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.

The also rans

4th: (5) Red Genova—took economic trip in front of winner, showed effort along rails, finished neck behind Mozu
Katchan
5th: (13) Normcore—positioned in 6th, made headway to 4th after 2nd corner, responded well but weakened in
last 200m
6th: (8) Cantabile— prominent early in 4th, entered 6th to lane, ran gamely but checked 200m out, lost momentum
7th: (2) Frontier Queen—ran in mid-division, blocked 200m out, switched to outside, accelerated
8th: (16) Corcovado—sat outside eventual winner, lacked needed kick at stretch
9th: (11) Smart Layer—settled 2nd from rear, angled wide, showed belated charge
10th: (10) Vafuram—raced in mid-pack, quickened in last 200m, belatedly
11th: (14) One Breath Away—traveled near rear, circled wide, passed tired rivals
12th: (17) Miss Panthere—advanced to 2nd from widest draw, dropped back after 200m pole
13th: (3) Reiho Romance—hugged rails in mid-division, failed to respond at stretch
14th: (6) Admire Lead—saved ground towards rear, showed brief effort at straight
15th: (15) Eterna Minoru—broke poorly, sat 3-wide towards rear, even paced after final corner
16th: (1) Happy Yunibansu—was off slow, trailed in rear, no factor
17th: (4) Primera Azul—chased leaders in 3rd, faded after final corner

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