Gentildonna captured the $2.3 million Oka Sho (Jpn-I), Japan's version of the One Thousand Guineas, when she came from off the pace to score by a half-length at Hanshin Racecourse April 8.
Second choice in the field of 18 3-year-old fillies, Gentildonna ran the 1,600 meters (about one mile) in 1:34.6 over firm going before a reported crowd of 56,911. Ridden by Yasunari Iwata, she overtook Verxina in a spirited battle to the wire to produce her third win in five lifetime starts.
Gentildonna became the second straight daughter of Asian great Deep Impact to win the Japanese classic, following Marcellina in 2011. Runner-up Verxina is also by Deep Impact.
Trainer Sei Ishizaka, who is known for training top winners such as dirt champion Vermilion, earned his first classic victory. He conditions the bay filly for Katsumi Yoshida’s Sunday Racing Co. She was purchased at the 2006 Tattersalls December Mare Sale for 500,000 guineas.
Bred in Japan by Northern Racing, Gentildonna is out of the Bertolini mare Donna Blini. She is the second foal out of Donna Blini, following group III winner Donau Blue.
Gentildonna raced mid-pack and traveled wide to remain on the good part of the course while a couple of lengths behind Verxina in fourth. Race favorite Joie de Vivre, who broke from stall 17, was reserved toward the rear of the field before unleashing a wide move at the final corner for the last run.
Meine Epona inherited the lead briefly after the field straightened away, only to be overtaken by Verxina, with I'm Yours in close pursuit right on her outside. But Gentildonna thundered down the center of the lane to commence a fierce three-horse battle with less than a furlong to go.
I’m Yours gave way as Verxina poked her head in front. Gentildonna was going the better of the two, however, as they approached the wire and pulled away in the final strides. I’m Yours was another half-length behind Verxina for third. Joie de Vivre, unable to reach contention, finished sixth.