January 22, 2022

Lys Gracieux in Breeders’ Cup Turf mix after taking ‘Win and You’re In’ Takarazuka Kinen

Jockey Damian Lane celebrates as Lys Gracieux wins the Takarazuka Kinen (G1) at Hanshin Racecourse in Japan on June 23, 2019 (c) Horsephotos.com/Tomoya Moriuchi

U. Carrot Farm’s Lys Gracieux not only earned her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) by beating males in Sunday’s “Win and You’re In” Takarazuka Kinen (G1) at Hanshin – the Japanese champion mare is under serious consideration to take up the offer at Santa Anita.

Trainer Yoshito Yahagi told Racing Post’s Masakazu Takahashi that international travel is likely on the agenda for Lys Gracieux. The only question is which direction to go. In addition to being part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, the Takarazuka Kinen also furnishes incentives to try Australia’s premier weight-for-age event, the Cox Plate (G1), on October 26. And with four-time Cox Plate champion Winx now retired, the Moonee Valley feature could lure even more international participation.

Lys Gracieux has already taken her game on the road to Hong Kong, finishing second in last December’s Hong Kong Vase (G1) and third in the April 28 QEII Cup (G1) last out.

“Her two experiences of running in Hong Kong should stand her in good stead,” Yahagi said, “and come the autumn, if we consider the Breeders’ Cup, I would like to run her in the Turf, rather than the Filly & Mare Turf, and I think she would run well.

“The Cox Plate is another option now. I will discuss it with her owners, who I think would like to challenge for big races abroad.”

Lys Gracieux benefited from the presence of Australian jockey Damian Lane in the saddle Sunday. Typically held up off the pace, the 9-2 third choice instead took up a forward position tracking 5-2 favorite Kiseki. That was very much the place to be, as the closers didn’t make a dent in the about 1 3/8-mile affair.

Kiseki, the Japan Cup (G1) runner-up who had run everyone except Almond Eye ragged that day, again had his fellow males beaten but could not fend off a high-class distaffer. Lys Gracieux rolled past to win going away by three lengths in a final time of 2:10.8, just off the stakes record of 2:10.1 established by Earnestly (2011).

Suave Richard, handy in the chasing group, rallied to overhaul the stalking Al Ain for third. Rey de Oro raced evenly in fifth, followed by Noble Mars, who made mild headway into sixth. Stiffelio, Clincher, Etario, Shonan Bach, Makahiki, and Tatsu Gogeki rounded out the order under the wire.

“The horse turned out in perfect condition,” Lane said in the quotes furnished by the Japan Racing Association. “I was very lucky to be able to board her today. 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 and 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.”

Lys Gracieux, Japan’s reigning champion older mare, had scored her first major in last fall’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Kyoto. A Grade 1 performer in all four seasons of racing, she captured the 2016 Artemis (G3) and finished second in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1). At three, Lys Gracieux placed in a pair of classics, the 2017 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1) and Shuka Sho (G1), as well as in a couple of classic trials. Her 2018 campaign featured a victory in the Tokyo Shimbun Hai (G3) and placings in the Victoria Mile (G1), Hanshin Himba (G2), and Fuchu Himba (G2) en route to Kyoto’s QE II Cup.

As a daughter of Heart’s Cry, Lys Gracieux was entitled to improve with age. The five-year-old is accordingly better than ever while facing males in four straight now. Between her two trips to Hong Kong, she was runner-up in the March 10 Kinko Sho (G2).

Lys Gracieux was bred by Northern Farm in Japan. Her dam, multiple stakes winner Liliside by American Post, is a full sister to another French stakes scorer in Lily America. This is the family of Italian highweight and French Group 1 veteran Robin of Navan and last fall’s Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) vixen Lily’s Candle.

The second horse in the past week to secure a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Lys Gracieux follows Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s (G1) hero Crystal Ocean at Royal Ascot. All being well, Crystal Ocean is a logical type to make the trip, considering Sir Michael Stoute’s longstanding interest in the Breeders’ Cup.

The other two qualifiers so far are from South America, but neither is in line to come, according to reports in Turf Diario. Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini (G1) winner Il Mercato joined Chad Brown to prepare for a Breeders’ Cup tilt, but unfortunately suffered a career-ending injury earlier this spring. Plans called for him to return to Argentina where he will eventually enter stud. Although the Brazilian George Washington landed the “Win and You’re In” Grande Premio Brasil (G1) June 9, his connections reportedly ruled out the Breeders’ Cup, preferring to point for the Pellegrini in December.