Almond Eye Takes Her Show on the Road

In addition to being the richest day of horse racing in the world, Saturday’s Dubai World Cup assembly at Meydan Racecourse has constructed its repute on high quality grime and turf horses coming from throughout the globe to compete.

Such is the case with Almond Eye, Japan’s star filly, who’s raced by the partnership group Silk Racing. She won’t run in the day’s namesake race, the $12 million Dubai World Cup. It is the world’s richest horse race, however it’s held on grime. Instead, for her first begin of the yr, she has entered the Dubai Turf. As the identify suggests, the race is run on Almond Eye’s most well-liked floor: grass.

All instructed, there might be $35 million in prize cash supplied throughout Dubai World Cup day at Meydan, and $6 million of it’s for the Dubai Turf. That makes the Group 1 contest one in every of the most profitable races in the world. There are a complete of 9 races that day.

“We felt that the one-turn, 1,800-meter race at Meydan would be an easy run for her first race back,” Sakae Kunieda, her coach, mentioned of choosing the Dubai Turf for Almond Eye’s anticipated return. “She has been training remarkably well. We put in a few solid works at the training center as she prepared to ship to Dubai, and she has wowed us every time. She has told me through her smooth and strong movement that she is ready to race.”

Kunieda isn’t any stranger to proficient fillies. Among others, he additionally skilled Apapane, who received the 2010 Japanese Filly Triple Crown: the Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas), Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and Shuka Sho.

In 2017, Almond Eye completed second in her very first race, however she has been undefeated since. Last yr, she grew to become a star when she grew to become the fifth horse to win the Filly Triple Crown after which ended her season by taking the Japan Cup over older males in record-breaking fashion. As she racked up victories, her repute and recognition elevated.

“Almond Eye is recognized as the best filly we have ever seen at racetracks in Japan,” mentioned Naohiro Goda, the worldwide consumer consultant for the Japan Racing Horse Association. “When she completed the Filly Triple Crown, she was seen as one of the best fillies, and she was compared to Vodka, Gentildonna and Buena Vista. After she won the Japan Cup, establishing a world record over 2,400 meters on turf, we are convinced she is the best filly in Japanese racing history.”

For Almond Eye’s efforts, she was named 2018 Horse of the Year and have become the first feminine horse to unanimously take the title after receiving all 276 of the votes. Upon receiving the award, Masashi Yonemoto, the chief govt of Silk Racing, mentioned Almond Eye’s racing schedule can be formidable in 2019.

Running in Dubai is Almond Eye’s first worldwide race, but when issues go effectively, it received’t be the final. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris in October is her long-range goal. No Japanese horse has ever received the Arc, Europe’s most prestigious race, and it’s a dream not just for her staff but additionally for the entirety of Japan’s racing business.

“The Arc is still the goal for the end of the year without a doubt,” Kunieda mentioned. “Americans in all probability don’t perceive, however Japan sees European racing as the pinnacle of turf racing round the world. For a few years, to us, the Arc is the race to win there.

“Japan has had so many shut calls over the years, so a win in the Arc can be impactful to the Japanese racing neighborhood and followers. While there are at all times tons of wonderful worldwide racing occasions to journey to every yr, the Arc is at all times first on Japanese minds.”

Almond Eye’s common jockey, Christophe Lemaire, shares the similar hopes for a profitable worldwide marketing campaign. “She was outstanding last year,” he mentioned. “Even at 3 years old, she became a super horse. I hope that she will go on to win big races this year as well, with the biggest goal being the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.”

First, although, Almond Eye has her sights set on Dubai. She has not run since the Japan Cup final November, however she has been coaching since coming off her winter break.

“She performs well fresh,” Kunieda mentioned. “She ran such a strong race in the Japan Cup, she earned a good break and didn’t really need a race after that. She went about her normal routine up at Northern Farm, with mild training to keep her fit that slowly got stronger and stronger as it became time to move her back to Miho Training Center.”

Almond Eye was bred by Northern Farm, and possession will revert to her breeder when she is retired. Northern operates various partnership teams, together with Silk Racing. Because Almond Eye is from the first crop of foals by the stallion Lord Kanaloa, her extraordinarily excessive degree of success was not anticipated.

The Japanese are identified for touring internationally to help their star horses, and based on Goda, journey brokers are organizing group journeys to Dubai to cheer on Almond Eye, who already has her personal line of merchandise.

“There are heroes in every kind of sport,” Goda mentioned. “Almond Eye has every right to be a hero. She is beautiful and very fast, faster than her male competitors. Her acceleration, which is shown on homestretch, reminds us of Zarkava, Zenyatta and Winx, all of whom are legendary female athletes of horse racing.”

Beyond her expertise, one other endearing high quality Almond Eye has is her kindness, resulting in one in every of the common catchphrases about her: “Angel off track, devil on track.”

“She is a very quiet and calm filly around the barn,” Kunieda mentioned. “She is very easygoing until you put the saddle on her — then she knows it is go-time. She knows when it is time to be a racehorse and when to switch off and relax.”

One of the issues that makes her coach assured in her worldwide schedule, although, is his perception that Almond Eye has not really been challenged. “I don’t think we have seen her limit yet,” Kunieda mentioned. “I don’t even know where her limit lies, so as we test her this year with various international expeditions, it will be exciting to see how we go. It will be a journey we all take together.”

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