By DICK POWELL
It’s a big deal when females beat males in American horse racing but barely noticeable around the world. Enable won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) and Magical was right behind her with a huge gap back to the boys. Coming off her win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), Enable beating the boys is like me eating chocolate candy. Hardly newsworthy anymore. And, Winx beats the boys in Australia so many times that she should be giving them weight.
Well, another filly has crushed the hopes of male rivals and she did it in world-record time. In Sunday’s Japan Cup (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse, 14 rivals raced over the firm turf and Filly Triple Crown winner ALMOND EYE drew post 1. Christophe Lemaire had to sweat to get down to 53 kilograms (117 pounds) but she was worth every ounce.
Kiseki went to the front and set a demanding pace. Instead of making the front and then dropping anchor, Yuga Kawada put the field to the test. He covered the first 400 meters in 48.2 seconds but the next 400 meters in 46.6 seconds as he stretched the field out. Lemaire had Almond Eye in behind and was content to sit second around the far turn.
Usually, the horse setting this kind of pace would have been softened up and ready to be passed but Kiseki kept on going. They straightened out in the run home and Lemaire still hadn’t moved a muscle on Almond Eye. With 400 meters to go, it was still a two-horse race but with just over 200 meters to go, Lemaire asked Almond Eye for her best and she ground down Kiseki to win going away by 1 ¾ lengths. Kiseki was a gallant second over Suave Richard.
The final time for the 2400 meters was a record 2:20.6. The last 400 meters were run in 45.8 seconds and this was after an impossible pace. The sectional times for each 400 meters was 48.2 seconds (from a standing start), 46.6 seconds and 45.8 seconds. 2400 meters is just over 15 yards short of 1 ½ miles. But keep in mind that these races are automatically timed with no runup to the timing pole. The fastest 1 ½ miles ever run on turf was 2:22.63 by Twilight Eclipse when winning the Pan American (G1) at Gulfstream Park around three turns while the Japan Cup is run around two turns. It’s not quite an apple-to-apple comparison but Almond Eye ran as fast as anyone ever has at the classic distance.
Here is where it gets real interesting. Her connections are considering the Sheema Classic (G1) in Dubai at Meydan in March and eventually, the Arc de Triomphe. The Japanese have never won the Arc despite some close calls and there will be immense pressure on Almond Eye to bring home her nation’s first Arc triumph.
Awaiting her, if all goes well, will be Enable, the winner of the past two Arcs. Nobody has ever won three Arcs in a row although Treve came close with two straights wins and a gallant fourth in 2015 behind Golden Horn. By the way, Treve, was a female. Enough said.