November 30, 2023

Gran Alegria flaunts class in Breeders’ Cup WAYI Victoria Mile

Gran Alegria romps in the Victoria Mile (Copyright Japan Racing Association)

Two-time Japanese champion Gran Alegria demolished her opposition in Sunday’s $2.16 million Victoria Mile (G1) at Tokyo, completing an unprecedented treble in the milers’ division. The winner of the Yasuda Kinen (G1) and Mile Championship (G1) over males last season, the Kazuo Fujisawa trainee became the first to make it a clean sweep by adding the Victoria Mile versus fellow distaffers.

Gran Alegria’s Sunday romp earned her a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) thanks to the “Win and You’re In” provision, but a Del Mar trip is doubtful. Her autumn agenda revolves around the Oct. 31 Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) back at Tokyo, where she’ll get another chance to test her stamina at about 1 1/4 miles.

The daughter of Deep Impact and multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Tapitsfly tried that longer trip for the first time in the April 4 Osaka Hai (G1), only to wind up an inconclusive fourth. A rain-soaked course at Hanshin contributed to the upset by 11-1 shot Lei Papale, while reigning Triple Crown champion Contrail was a well-beaten third.

Back to her wheelhouse in the Victoria Mile, Gran Alegria was bet down to 3-10 favoritism in a field of 18. Even that price didn’t reflect her utter dominance.

Regular rider Christophe Lemaire, who was recording his 1,400th win on the JRA circuit, bided his time just about midpack on the outside. Up front, Christie sped through to lead the way from fellow longshot Smile Kana. Resistencia, the 6-1 second choice, chased from her far outside post 18 and took over in the stretch.

Gran Alegria was just cruising on the bridle. As soon as Lemaire gave her the signal, the bay bounded clear to win handily by four lengths. She clocked a field-best :32.6 for the last three furlongs, and her time for the good-to-firm metric mile, 1:31.0, was just off Normcore’s record of 1:30.5 established in the 2019 running.

“She was very strong as we had all expected,” Lemaire said. “She’s not a very good starter, so we settled in mid-division but she raced in good rhythm.

“After I took her to the outside entering the lane, she showed a remarkable response and geared up on her own. She showed that she’s at a different level than her competitors and will probably win more Grade 1 titles going forward. Personally, I am delighted that I was able to score my 1,400th JRA victory today and to win another Grade 1 race.”

The late, great Deep Impact had the trifecta as Rambling Alley edged Magic Castle in the bunched-up finish for the minors. Also necks apart were Dirndl, Shigeru Pink Dia, a swamped Resistencia, and Danon Fantasy, who crossed the wire a head up on Des Ailes. Next came Maltese Diosa, Christie, Sound Chiara, Red Belle Deesse, Ria Amelia, Terzetto, Smile Kana, Affranchir, Pourville, and the distanced Iberis.

Gran Alegria now brandishes a record of 12-8-1-1. As a juvenile, she won two of three starts against males, both at this course and distance. Successful in a newcomers’ event as well as the Saudi Arabia Royal Cup (G3), she concluded 2018 with a third in the Asahi Hai Futurity (G1).

Returning triumphant in the 2019 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1), her first outing in strictly female company, Gran Alegria had a rougher time back versus the boys in the NHK Mile Cup (G1). She reported home a close fourth but was demoted to fifth. Although not seen again until that December’s Hanshin Cup (G2), she slammed older males to clinch the champion three-year-old filly title.

Gran Alegria followed up in 2020 by becoming champion in the sprinter or miler category. Dropping down to about six furlongs for the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1), she missed narrowly before being promoted to second. Gran Alegria then reeled off three majors in a row, defeating Horse of the Year Almond Eye in the Yasuda Kinen, beating speed specialists in the Sprinters S. (G1), and finally adding the Mile Championship.

A title defense in the June 6 Yasuda Kinen is likely next, when Gran Alegria would try to become the first since Vodka (2008-09) to score a repeat.