The consistently capable and occasionally brilliant Lys Gracieux overcame adversity to achieve a historic victory in the prestigious Cox Plate (G1) on Saturday, October 26, at Moonee Valley in Australia.
The five-year-old Japanese-bred mare had already achieved a strong reputation in her home country, defeating males in the June 22 Takarazuka Kinen (G1) and edging her own gender in the 2018 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1). But by conquering an international field in the Cox Plate, Lys Gracieux became the first Japanese runner to win Australia’s premier weight-for-age race.
Patiently ridden by hot jockey Damian Lane, Lys Gracieux was shuffled back during the early stages of the Cox Plate and wound up racing behind and between runners as the globe-trotting Magic Wand carved out the pace with Black Heart Bart in close pursuit. But rounding the far turn, Lane threaded Lys Gracieux to the far outside and allowed the daughter of Heart’s Cry to sweep into contention with a bold six-wide rally.
Turning for home, the Group 1-winning three-year-old Castelvecchio—in receipt of 17 pounds from Lys Gracieux—sprinted to a clear advantage and briefly appeared poised for victory. He was unprepared, however, for the final sprint of Lys Gracieux, who flew through the final 400 meters in :23.38 to roar past the youngster and win easily by 1 1/2 lengths as the 3-2 betting favorite.
Longshot Te Akau Shark rallied from the back of the pack to edge the fading Magic Wand for third place. Over a course labeled “good,” Lys Gracieux stopped the clock for 2,040 meters in 2:04.21.
Conditioned by Yoshito Yahagi for U Carrot Farm, Lys Gracieux claimed not only the winner’s share of the purse (A$3 million), but a lucrative bonus as well. By winning the Takarazuka Kinen and the Cox Plate in the same season, Lys Gracieux secured the A$2 million Cox Plate International Bonus, bringing her total payday to a hefty A$5 million.
Lys Gracieux’s victory marked the second major Australian success for Japan in the span of a week. On October 19, Damian Lane guided U Carrot Farm’s rising star Mer De Glace to an impressive victory in the Caulfield Cup (G1).
Mer De Glace is expected to remain in Australia for a tilt at the 3,200-meter Melbourne Cup (G1) at Flemington on November 5, but Yahagi indicated Lys Gracieux would return to Japan with an eye on competing in the 2,500-meter Arima Kinen (G1) on December 22.