Gentildonna wins photo, claims Japan's Triple Crown for fillies

Gentildonna has become the first since Apapane in 2010 and fourth in history to sweep Japan's Triple Crown for fillies

Gentildonna has become the first since Apapane in 2010 and fourth in history to sweep Japan's Triple Crown for fillies. Under jockey Yasunari Iwata, the bay filly nosed out her archrival Verxina in a breathtaking photo-finish to claim the final leg, Sunday's Grade 1 Shuka Sho at Kyoto. Both fillies are by Deep Impact, hero of the 2005 Japanese Triple Crown.

Gentildonna made history for her sire. Deep Impact and Gentildonna have become the first father/daughter pair in JRA history to accomplish the Triple Crown

Moreover, Gentildonna achieved a coup for her owners, Sunday Racing Co. The same team campaigns Orfevre, last year's Triple Crown champion. The only previous owner to take both Triple Crowns is Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co., whose silks were carried by Deep Impact and Apapane.

The field of 18 broke in front of the stands with Verxina, Meisho Suzanna and Ice Follies gunning for the lead, while Gentildonna sat right behind I'm Yours who camped seventh, and Aromatico and Bridge Climb hugged the rails in a file near the rear.

With about half of the distance to go, Cherry Medusa suddenly came charging down the backstretch, surging past the field to take control and distancing herself from the others with more than eight lengths as she made the final turns.

Second to enter the stretch and in desperate pursuit of catching the fleeing leader, Verxina showed excellent acceleration as Gentildonna, after taking a wide trip throughout and making the turn for home in midfield, had no trouble finding her stride to catch up with Verxina about 50 meters out.

The two picked off the tiring leader in the final strides as they crossed the wire, resulting in a photo-finish -- the result in favor for Gentildonna. The final time for 1 1/4 miles on firm turf was 2:00 2/5.

Verxina hung tough with the winner, but had to settle for the runner-up position once again, becoming the only filly to finish second in all three Triple Crown races. It is the first time in JRA history that the same two fillies dominated the top two places in the same order in all three legs.

Gentildonna bested Verxina by a half-length in the Grade 1 Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas) at a mile April 8, and scored by a resounding five lengths in the Grade 1 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) over 1 1/2 miles May 20. The archrivals met again in their prep for this final fillies' classic, the Grade 2 Sho Rose, where Gentildonna prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths.

Winning trainer Sei Ishizaka was earning his first Shuka Sho title, his third Grade 1 victory this year (all three with Gentildonna) and his ninth career Grade 1 win.

Iwata was celebrating his second consecutive Shuka Sho, following last season's victory with Aventura. This was also his fifth Grade 1 title this year, with his most recent being the Sprinters Stakes aboard Lord Kanaloa on September 30, and his 17th JRA Grade 1 title overall. Iwata did not have the opportunity to ride Gentildonna in the Japanese Oaks, however. Due to suspension, he was forced to give up the reins to Yuga Kawada for the second leg.

Crossing the wire third in the Shuka Sho was Aromatico, 1 1/2 lengths behind the top pair. Bridge Climb overtook Cherry Medusa for fourth, followed by I'm Yours, Sunshine, Quatre Feuilles, Tosen Benizakura, Las Venturas, Midsummer Fair, Daiwa Zoom, Hawaiian Wind, Omega Heartland, Ice Follies, Hana's Goal, Satono Jolly and Meisho Suzanna.

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