Four-year-old Admire Lead captured her first grade-race victory in this year’s Victoria Mile at Tokyo Racecourse after being sent off sixth favorite in a field of 17, putting away three G1 champions. The daughter of the late stallion Stay Gold registered two wins out of four starts in her debut season but was winless in all six of her three-year-old campaign starts after challenging the fillies’ classics, finishing fifth in the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) and 15th in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks). However, she notched a back-to-back win and had shown a good runner-up effort in her most recent G2 Hanshin Himba Stakes start. For both trainer Naosuke Sugai and jockey Christophe Lemaire, this is their 11th JRA-G1 victory—their latest were the 2015 Tenno Sho (Spring) with Gold Ship and the 2016 Arima Kinen with Satono Diamond, respectively.
The field broke evenly with Solveig rushing to the front setting a slow pace as Smart Layer sat at her heels on the rails with Jour Polaire right behind that while Admire Lead settled far back in 12th behind Queens Ring and Denko Ange. While most of the field fanned out to avoid the soft inner-track going due to the heavy rain the day before, Admire Lead chose an economic inner route heading into the stretch and dug in gamely between Solveig and Smart Layer 150 meters out, stretching strongly from thereon to cross the finish line a comfortable 1-1/4-length winner.
“I had every confidence in her today because I knew the soft track wouldn’t bother her at all. I was able to position her well and although she has a good turn of foot, her charge doesn’t last long so I tried not to drive her in early stretch. She kicked off the season with two wins and then a second in a G2 race—it’s obvious she’s progressed enormously,” commented Christophe Lemaire who claimed his 600th JRA career win in his first race today.
As Solveig, Smart Layer and Queens Ring, who also took an inner path into the lane, furiously rallied for the runner-up seat, Queens Ring was first to drop away 100 meters out before both Solveig and then Smart Layer were caught by Denko Ange who came up gamely from the outside to clear the wire in second. While the runner-up displayed an incredible last three-furlong drive, Jour Polaire, who chased Solveig down the middle of the straight, also dug in well to tag her front runners in the final strides for third.
Breaking from stall 11, heavy favorite Mikki Queen traveled wide in seventh to eighth and angled out at the top of the stretch for clear sailing, however met traffic with a furlong to go, losing momentum to finish seventh.
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