Lucky Lilac returns to winning ways with Queen Elizabeth II Cup victory

Lucky Lilac bounced back from a long struggle since her first G1 victory as a two-year-old in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1, 1,600m), turning in a strong performance in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2200m) at Tokyo on Sunday. 

The 2017 Best Two-Year-Old Filly was winless during her three-year-old season, while finishing second in the Oka Sho (Japanese b1000 Guineas, G1, 1,600m), third in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) and then ninth in the Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m). She was fourth this year in the Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m) and had come off a third-place finish in the prep Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2, 1,800m). 

Trainer Mikio Matsunaga, who was winning jockey with Phalaenopsis to victory in the 2000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup, landed his fourth career G1 title including one G1 title  over obstacles and the first since with Lucky Lilac in the 2017 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies. Jockey Christophe Soumillon, who is riding under a short term license from October 19, landed his first JRA-G1 title in five years since the 2014 Japan Cup with Epiphaneia and third overall—his first was in 2010 in the Tenno Sho (Autumn, Buena Vista).

Lucky Lilac broke sharply from stall No.2 but allowed the early leaders pass and settled along the rails in mid-pack in sixth or seventh position. As the field spread rounding the last corner, Christophe Soumillon kept the filly straight in the inside and skillfully coaxed her to spring forward into the stretch, pinned race favorite Loves Only You at the furlong pole and then Crocosmia at the 100-meter marker after which she continued to draw away to a 1-1/4-length victory.

“I was very confident when I saw how good she was in training but today she was even better. She was really concentrating and I saw she was reacting very fast. In the race, I would have preferred to have her another position closer, the pace was not very fast so I thought it would be a little bit hard to make up ground, but finally I took the option to stay in the inside and she really quickened well and at the 200-meter marker when I saw the gap was still open I was confident that I had won,” commented winning jockey Christophe Soumillon after the race.

Crocosmia broke smoothly and was allowed to dictate a moderate pace without pressure as she opened the margin to two to three lengths for most of the trip. The Stay Gold mare made most of the early advantage and continued to maintain her lead but was unable to keep up with the increasing speed of the winner while holding off the rest for second place.

Race favorite Loves Only You secured a forward position with good speed coming out of gate 11 and tracked the leader in second with the rest of the field keeping close watch of the favorite and trailing another length behind. As the field closed in and entered the stretch, the Deep Impact filly was slow coming into gear as the winner overtook her inside the furlong pole but found her best strides to close in on Crocosmia for third.

THE 44TH QUEEN ELIZABETH II CUP (G1) – Japan Autumn International -
3-year-olds & up, Fillies & Mares, 2,200 meters (about 11 furlongs), turf, right-handed
Sunday, November 10, 2019 Kyoto Racecourse 11th Race Post time: 15:40
Total prize money: ¥ 226,800,000 (about US$ 1,972,000 <US$1=¥115>)
3-y-o: 54kg (about 119 lbs), 4-y-o & up: 56kg (about 124 lbs)

1. Lucky Lilac (JPN), chestnut, filly, 4-year-olds
Orfevre / Lilacs and Lace (Flower Alley)
Owner: Sunday Racing Co., Ltd. Breeder: Northern Racing
Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
12 Starts, 5 Wins
Added money: ¥ 108,822,000 Career earnings: ¥ 400,739,000

2. Crocosmia (JPN), dark bay or brown, mare, 6-year-olds
Stay Gold / Developpe (Boston Harbor)
Owner: Ryoichi Otsuka Breeder: Hideo Takadaru
Trainer: Katsuichi Nishiura Jockey: Yusuke Fujioka

3. Loves Only You (JPN), bay, filly, 3-year-olds
Deep Impact / Loves Only Me (Storm Cat)
Owner: DMM Dream Club Co., Ltd. Breeder: Northern Farm
Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi Jockey: Mirco Demuro 

Other Horses:
4th: (12) Centelleo—advanced to 3rd in backstretch, ran gamely but failed to threaten top 3 finishers
5th: (8) Chrono Genesis—took economic trip 5th in front of eventual winner, lacked needed kick
6th: (17) Salacia—advanced to 4th from wide draw, found little room at early stretch, accelerated in last 200m
7th: (16) Scarlet Color—ran in 5-6th, willingly until 200m marker, weakened thereafter
8th: (9) Armeria Bloom—settled in 11th behind winner, quickened but belatedly inside 200m pole
9th: (13) Satono Garnet—traveled in 9th, best strides late while timed 2nd fastest over last 3 furlongs
10th: (10) Frontier Queen—sat in 3rd, ran gamely until 200m pole, outrun thereafter
11th: (4) Uranus Charm—positioned in 15th early, gradually advanced, showed belated charge
12th: (14) Gorgeous Lunch—was off slow, ran 3-wide 2nd from rear, passed tired rivals at stretch
13th: (7) Reiho Romance—raced around 14th, unable to reach contention
14th: (18) Red Landini—traveled 3-wide in 12th, even paced at stretch
15th: (3) Shadow Diva—saved ground in 13th, showed little after turning final corner
16th: (5) Pont des Arts—hugged rails around 10th, never fired at stretch
17th: (15) Miss Mamma Mia—trailed in rear, no factor throughout
18th: (1) Bright Moon—settled 3rd from rear along rails, faded after final corner
Fractional time (sec./furlong): 12.7 - 11.6 - 13.3 - 12.7 - 12.5 - 12.8 - 12.3 - 11.6 - 11.5 - 11.4 - 11.7
Last 4 furlongs: 46.2 Last 3 furlongs: 34.6