Little Amapola Takes Japan's QE II Cup

The 3-year-old filly holds off favored Kawakami Princess at Kyoto Racecourse.

Little Amapola burst to the lead with 200 yards to go and defeated highly favored Kawakami Princess by 1 1/2 lengths in the $1.77 million Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (Jpn-I) before a crowd of 54,922 at Kyoto Racecourse Nov. 16.

It was the first group stakes win for the 3-year-old Little Amapola, the fourth choice of the public who was ridden to victory by Chistophe Lemaire.

“The pace was fast and the filly kept on going," Lemaire said afterward. "She’s a tough filly with much stamina and a big stride.”

The 5-year-old mare Kawakami Princess, a dual Japanese Classic winner and the country's champion 3-year-old filly in 2006, was seeking redemption in this year's Queen Elizabeth. She won the race during her championship season, but was demoted to 12th for interference. Kawakami Princess then missed last year's renewal with an injury.

With 18 set to go, this year's race got off to an inauspicious start when third choice Portofino stumbled leaving the gate and dropped rider Yutaka Take. Cosmo Platina went to the lead with a rush and set a lively pace. Little Amapola settled into fifth down the backstretch with Kawakami Princess right behind her while traveling wide alongside eventual third-place finisher Bella Rheia.

As the field swung for home, Little Amapola overtook the leaders and accelerated away to a clear advantage. Kawakami Princess, ridden by Norihiro Yokoyama, tried desperately to cut into the lead through the stretch while challenging on the outside. She wound up second, three quarters of a length ahead of Bella Rheia, who was piloted by Shinichiro Akiyama. Meine Ratsel finished fourth.

Little Amapola completed the 2,200-meter (about 1 3/8 miles) event in 2:12.19 on firm going to collect her fourth win in eight lifetime starts. She earned more than $1 million for the victory. The win was her first since the Daily Hai Queen Cup at Tokyo Feb. 23. Little Amapola was coming off a sixth-place finish in Kyoto's Shuka Sho (Jpn-I) Oct. 19 and was seventh in the Japanese Oaks (Jpn-I) prior to that.

The dark bay filly by the Japanese sire Agnes Tachyon is conditioned by Hiroyuki Nagahama for owner Shadai Race Horse. Shadai Corporation is the winning breeder.