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Rainbow Dahlia upsets Verxina in Kyoto's QEII

Rainbow Dahlia scored a career high in dreary conditions, besting Verxina (obscured) and Pixie Princess (outside) (Copyright Japan Racing Association)
After finishing runner-up to Gentildonna in all three legs of Japan's Triple Crown for fillies, Verxina appeared ready to escape her archrival's shadow at last in Sunday's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup. But even the absence of Gentildonna, who is bound instead for the Grade 1 Japan Cup, couldn't cure Verxina's seconditis. Sent off as the clear favorite at Kyoto, Verxina again played second fiddle, this time to the longshot Rainbow Dahlia, on the yielding going.

The five-year-old Rainbow Dahlia was earning her first career stakes credit. Eighth behind Filly Triple Crown sweeper Apapane in the Grade 1 Shuka Sho in 2010, she was fifth in last year's QEII, beaten just 3 3/4 lengths by the globetrotting Snow Fairy.

In her only subsequent Grade 1 attempt, Rainbow Dahlia was 12th of 18 in the May 13 Victoria Mile. The daughter of Brian's Time was coming off a pair of rallying fourths in the Grade 3 Hokkaido Shimbun Hai Queen Stakes July 29 and in the Grade 2 Fuchu Himba October 13.

Trainer Yoshitaka Ninomiya, best known for Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runners-up El Condor Pasa (1999) and Nakayama Festa (2010), believed that Rainbow Dahlia was sitting on a big effort. She proved him right.

Rainbow Dahlia was reserved near the back of the pack by Yoshitomi Shibata. Legend Blue carved out the early pace, tracked by Meine Jeanne, All That Jazz and Verxina. Erin Court made a bold early move to take command before the final turn, but was soon overtaken in turn by All That Jazz entering the stretch.

Meanwhile, Rainbow Dahlia and Verxina were launching their bids in tandem on the outside. The older mare was too strong for her sophomore rival, besting favored Verxina by a neck. Verxina has now finished second in five consecutive races, four of them to Gentildonna.

Third-placer Pixie Princess, ridden by Mirco Demuro, flew from near last and missed catching Verxina by just a head. Meine Orchard reported home another 1 3/4 lengths astern in fourth, followed by All That Jazz, Merveille d'Or, Meine Isabel, Acanthus, La Scintillante, Whale Capture, Fumino Imagine, Legend Blue, Christmas Carol, Erin Court, Meine Jeanne and Smart Silhouette.

Rainbow Dahlia, who negotiated 1 3/8 miles on the rain-softened ground in 2:16.3, improved her record to 28-6-4-7, 232,073,000. Bred by Daiei Bokujo in Japan, the chestnut mare races for Yoshiko Tanaka. She is out of the winning Northern Taste mare Arome, who comes from the family of Belgian champion Ztunami, multiple Grade 3 scorer Withholding, Grade 3 winner Jet Propulsion and Grade 2 victress Shining Light.

Sunday's 37th running of the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup was designated in honor of the British sovereign's Diamond Jubilee. The top-level prize for fillies and mares also kicks off the Japan Autumn International series, which continues with next Sunday's Grade 1 Mile Championship, the Japan Cup on November 25 and the Grade 1 Japan Cup Dirt on December 2.

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