By Michael Cox
As if Almond Eye’s jaw-dropping Tenno Sho performance wasn’t scary enough for potential rivals, jockey Christophe Lemaire has some bad news for whoever sends horses out against her next; he thinks the wonder mare is even better this time in.
“She has shown once again her class. In two strides she really crushed all of the challengers, especially in a field of horses with ten Group One winners,” Lemaire told Asian Racing Hub.
It wasn’t just the electric turn-of-foot that impressed Lemaire, but Almond Eye’s more relaxed pre-race demeanour, in-race tractability, the ruthless way she put the race away and even the post-race recovery – something that has been a concern for connections previously.
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Previously Almond Eye had shown some slightly nervous tendencies in Japan’s long pre-race parade but Lemaire noted that the now-five-year-old has matured mentally.
“I was very happy with her before, during and after the race,” he said. “Before the start she was very quiet and confident. She was not the same as she has been before, maybe she is even more mature now, which is a really great thing.”
From a low draw Lemaire was able to maintain a tracking position behind a solid tempo set by Aerolithe before asking for that effort late.
“I was confident the whole way around because she was galloping freely and racing well. She showed a beautiful stride and she was just waiting for me to press the button and when I did it, she reacted brilliantly,” he said.
It’s hard to pick holes in a horse’s performance when they lost just twice in a career, but Lemaire is a hard marker and there were concerns that Almond Eye switched off and coasted to the line when winning the G1 Dubai Turf earlier this year.
Lemaire’s work with the stick late wasn’t a lack of confidence but simply to ensure Almond Eye doesn’t develop any bad habits.
“When she took the lead, I was aware that she can relax a little bit like she did in Dubai – that is why I used the whip once or twice before the winning post, but that was just to make her work to the line, but the race was already over.”
With connections now weighing up between a shot at a second straight G1 Japan Cup in late November or a trip to Hong Kong for the G1 Hong Kong Cup, Lemaire was pleased to see a better post-race recovery this time.
“She didn’t seem very tired,” he said of a mare that leaves it all on the track every time she runs and hadn’t raced since her defeat in the G1 Yasuda Kinen in June. “To be able to comeback like that after five months it was a tremendous performance and if she keeps this condition or even improves – it will be interesting to see her again in big races, wherever she is.”
“She was brilliant at Tokyo and I hope everybody enjoyed watching such a good horse on the track, it is just such a privilege to be on such a classy horse.”