SUNDAY’S GROUP 1 Mile Championship at Hanshin, as expected, overwhelming favourite Gran Alegria claimed the 1600m prize, a third consecutive Group One for the filly after the Yasuda Kinen, over the same trip, and 1200m Sprinters Stakes. In completing the noteworthy treble, the 4yo daughter of the much lamented Deep Impact became the first filly to land the Mile Championship since Blumenblatt in 2008 and only the sixth overall. Last year’s Champion 3yo Filly in Japan, when she won the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), she now has four Group Ones to her name and became the eighth horse in JRA history, following Indy Champ last year, to claim both mile Group One titles in the same year.
Furthermore, she is also the third horse to claim the Sprinters Stakes and Mile Championship double, Durandal the previous one to accomplish the feat in 2003. It was Japanese Group One number 32 for trainer Kazuo Fujisawa who extended his Mile Championship record tally from three to four. Jockey Christophe Lemaire has now won three Group Ones in a row after the Tenno Sho (Autumn) with Almond Eye and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup with Lucky Lilac to reach 34 career Group One wins in Japan. Gran Alegria broke sharply and was positioned behind the leaders, just off the rails in fifth position behind a slower than moderate pace set by Resistencia. Moving with the flow towards the front as the field closed in approaching the final turn, Lemaire was momentarily boxed inside, unable to angle out for a clear path coming into the home straight.
Still caught behind the duelling Admire Mars and Indy Champ with 200m to go, Gran Alegria shifted further outside and showed a tremendous turn of foot with a little more than 100m remaining, storming past both rivals to win by almost a length. A clearly impressed Lemaire said: “She had a good break so we were able to sit in a good position. She’s matured and a lot easier to ride now being a 4yo so she was relaxed and we had a good trip until the last turn where, as a favourite you’re marked and it happens, but we weren’t able to make our move to the outside smoothly for the stretch run. “I was a little worried but the way she exploded into gear in the last 150m, it just shows how powerful she is and I’m looking forward to a great season from her as a 5yo; she is only going to get better!”