Lys Gracieux tracked pacesetting Kiseki through most of the June 23 Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse, challenged 200 meters out, and easily drew clear to win by three lengths, earning a berth in both the Nov. 2 Longines Breeders' Cup Turf and also the Oct. 26 W.S. Cox Plate in Australia.
Kiseki held for second, with Suave Richard third.
Lys Gracieux, the only female in the field of 12, finished the 2,200 meters (about 11 furlongs) in 2:10.8 on firm going.
The Takarazuka Kinen is one of two "Grand Prix" races in which potential runners are selected through voting by Japanese fans. This year's No. 1 fan favorite, star filly Almond Eye, declined the honor. Lys Gracieux, a 5-year-old daughter of Heart's Cry, was ninth in the balloting after running third in the April 28 FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong.
In a straightforward race, Suave Richard, a 5-year-old son of Heart's Cry, went right to the front from the inside stall under Mirco Demuro. Australian jockey Damian Lane quickly eased Lys Gracieux over from the outside gate and took station in second. As they ran out of the second bend into the stretch, one burst of speed put matters to rest.
"The horse turned out in perfect condition," said Lane. "She broke well, and I thought I might as well use that to my advantage. I was very confident turning in that she had plenty left in the tank. I was worried that there were a lot of good horses chasing, and I thought that they would challenge, but she was just too strong.
"I was very lucky to be aboard her today," Lane added.
Owned by U. Carrot Farm and trained by Yoshito Yahagi, Lys Gracieux was bred by Northern Farm. The win was her fifth from 20 starts and the second at the top level, following the 2018 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in November at Kyoto, also at 2,200 meters.–Bob Kieckhefer