Gentildonna narrowly completed a sweep of Japan's Triple Crown for fillies Oct. 14 with a nose victory over rival Verxina in a thrilling finish to the $2.3 million Shuka Sho (Jpn-I) at Kyoto Racecourse.
Sunday Racing Co.'s Deep Impact filly joins three others on the classic series' roster: Apapane in 2010, Still in Love in 2003, and Mejiro Ramonu in 1986. Sunday Racing swept last year's Triple Crown for colts with Orfevre. Gentildonna's victory marked the second time an ownership entity has accomplished the Triple Crown double, following Kaneko Makoto Holding Co.'s win in both with Deep Impact in 2005 and with Apapane two years ago.
Favored Gentildonna relaxed in seventh on the outside while second choice Verxina led early. Halfway through the race on the backstretch, 200-to-1 longshot Cherry Medusa roared past the field to snatch command and opened more than an eight-length lead.
Second on the home turn, Verxina showed a willing acceleration in pursuit of Cherry Medusa, who showed no signs on slowing down. Gentildonna was full of run on the outside and extended her stride to catch Verxina in the final 50 yards. The two battled past a tiring Cherry Medusa to reach the finish line in union, with Gentildonna winning the photo.
Gentildonna, who was ridden by Yasunari Iwata for trainer Sei Ishizaka, was timed in 2:00.04 in the 1 1/4-mile (2,000-meter) contest over firm going.
The Shuka Sho marked the third time Gentildonna had beaten Verxina in a jewel of the fillies' classic series. She defeated her rival by a half-length in the Oka Sho (Jpn-I, Japanese One Thousand Guineas) April 8 at Hanshin before dominating her in a five-length win in the Yushin Himba (Jpn-I, Japanese Oaks) in stakes-record time May 20 at Tokyo.
The pair entered the Shuka Sho off a one-two finish in the Kansai Telecasting Corp. Sho Rose (Jpn-II) Sept. 16 at Hanshin, and Gentildonna bested Verxina a fourth consecutive time in the Shuka Sho.
The Shuka Sho was run for the first time in 1996. Prior to that, the final jewel in the fillies' Triple Crown was the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, a race eventually opened to older fillies, and won by Mejiro Ramonu in 1986 to sweep the series.
Aromatico finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Verxina. Cherry Medusa faded to sixth in the 18-horse field.
Gentildonna is among four classic winners from the first two crops of Deep Impact, Japan's Horse of the Year in 2005 and 2006, and arguably the nation's best racehorse ever. By Sunday Silence, Japan's greatest sire, Deep Impact stands at Shadai Stallion Station on the island of Hokkaido. He also is the sire of Verxina.
Gentildonna was bred in Japan by Northern Racing. She is one of two winners from as many starters out of 2005 Sky Bet Cheveley Park Stakes (Eng-I) winner Donna Blini, by Bertolini.