JAPAN’S SUPERSTAR Almond Eye is set to return to action in Sunday’s Arima Kinen after missing Hong Kong’s international fixture. Almond Eye had been set to run in the Hong Kong Cup after connections opted to bypass one of her home nation’s biggest races, the Japan Cup, for the prestigious international fixture at Sha Tin. However, Almond Eye, a 4yo daughter of Lord Kanaloa, was withdrawn last month when she developed a fever shortly before her scheduled departure for Hong Kong. The Japanese 2018 Horse of the Year will now contest the Arima Kinen at Nakayama on 22 December. It is the final Grade One of the season for older horses in Japan and typically proves pivotal with regards to the annual racing honours in the country.
Her trainer, Sakae Kunieda, said: “She trained fast on 8 December and moved good, with no problem with her breathing after it. She will be able to be in her best condition on the raceday if I can continue to train her for the Arima Kinen.” Almond Eye was crowned Japan’s Horse of the Year in 2018 after winning the Japanese Fillies’ Triple Crown, which consists of the Oka Sho (1000 Guineas), Yushun Himba (Oaks) and the Shuka Sho, the final leg. She then proved just as lethal against her elders and the colts, beating Kiseki by almost two lengths to win the 2018 Japan Cup, a race she skipped as defending champion this year. Her dominance stretched outside Japan for the first time when she beat a strong field, including Vivlos, Lord Glitters and Deirdre, to win the Dubai Turf at Meydan by a comfortable margin.
The prospect of a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe bid was briefly entertained in the spring before connections opted against a European campaign. Almond Eye’s unbeaten run came to an end in June when she was beaten into third as favourite in the Yasuda Kinen, although the star filly finished only a neck behind the winner Indy Champ. She bounced back to her best with an easy success in the Tenno Sho under regular partner Christophe Lemaire and will bid to seal another fantastic year with success in the last domestic Grade One of 2019.