Holding the rare distinction as runner-up in all three jewels of Japan’s Triple Crown for fillies this season, Verxina will try to break through in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup-Diamond Jubilee (Jpn-I) Nov. 11 at Kyoto.
The 1 3/8-mile (2,200-meter) contest, worth 176,920,00 yen ($2,227,166), marks the first race in which 3-year-old fillies meet older females at the group I level and drew a relatively weak field of 16, headed by Verxina and group I-winning 4-year-old Whale Capture.
Gentildonna, who became only the fourth horse to sweep the trio of classics when narrowly winning the Shuka Sho (Jpn-I) Oct. 14 at Kyoto, is not entered. Verxina will likely be the overwhelming favorite in the QE II Commemorative Cup following her equally unique feat of finishing second in all three races, including the Yushun Himba (Jpn-I Japanese Oaks) May 20 at Tokyo and Oka Sho (Jpn-I Japanese One Thousand Guineas) April 8 at Hanshin.
Gentildonna has bypassed the QE II Commemorative Cup in favor of the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) later this month, leaving Verxina’s connections hopeful that she can add to her record a win at the highest level.
“Mentally and physically, she's come along really well for this race” said Yasuo Tomomichi, who trains the Deep Impact filly for former Major League Baseball pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki. “Judging by the way she's responded, I would say she's in even better shape than she was for the Shuka Sho. We targeted this race as the last race of the season for her, and we've done everything we can to get her ready for it.
“She's come close so many times up to now, and she's more than tasted her fair share of defeats. I would love it if she wins a G1 title here. I'm sick of second place. She should be the favorite this time around and I hope she lives up to all the support."
Masaru Shimada’s Whale Capture, fourth in last year’s QE II Commemorative Cup, won the Victoria Mile (Jpn-I) May 13 at Tokyo for her first group I win. She disappointed in two subsequent starts, finishing 14th behind Orfevre as the only female in the Takaruzuka Kinen (Jpn-I) June 24 at Hanshin. After more than three months off, she returned to finish 11th of 17 as the second-favorite in the Fuchu Himba Stakes (Jpn-II) Oct. 13.
"She wasn't in that great of shape for her last race,” trainer Kiyotaka Tanaka said of the Kurofune filly. “We drew the outside barrier, the horse got overexcited because she was racing for the first time in a while and basically, she didn't have much left by the time she turned for home. The jockey didn't even bother trying to win it then because she was so out of it. She started looking more like her old self last week.”
Other entrants include group winners All That Jazz (by Tanino Gimlet) and Fumino Imagine (Manhattan Cafe) and stakes winner Smart Silhouette (Falbrav), who is group-placed.
The QE II Commemorative Cup also serves as the opening race of the Japan Autumn International series of four group I races with combined prize money of more than 1.18-billion yen ($14.9-million). The series follows with the Mile Championship (1,600 meters, on Nov. 18 at Kyoto), the Japan Cup (2,400 meters, on Nov. 25 at Tokyo), and concludes with the Japan Cup Dirt (1,800 meters, on Dec. 2 at Hanshin).