Marialite upsets Queen Elizabeth II Cup
Marialite, who needed 2000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) to break her maiden in a newcomers’ event in January 2014, had thrived over longer trips earlier this year. She scored in a 2500-meter (about 1 9/16-mile) race at Nakayama March 8, and made it two straight in a 2400-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) race at Tokyo May 9. Down in trip and up in class for the June 14 Mermaid (G3) over 2000 meters at Hanshin, she was second as the favorite. Marialite returned from her summer holiday in the September 27 Sankei Sho All Comers (G2) going this 2200-meter (about 1 3/8-mile) distance at Nakayama, finishing fifth behind Shonan Pandora and QEII foe Nuovo Record.
Although Marialite could claim a generally improving profile, her ability to cope with this level of competition, over a trip possibly short of her best, remained to be proven. In this regard, it’s significant that she caught a rain-affected track. The course at Kyoto had been yielding, and was just upgraded to good Sunday afternoon. The give in the ground may have played to her strengths, as Ebina himself noted.
“The track condition worked to her advantage,” her rider said. “She’s easy to ride and was in great shape today. She’s been allowed to mature without much pressure up to now for which I’m grateful and now that she’s won today, I’m looking forward to much more improvement which she is capable of.”
Trainer Takashi Kubota had considered a Group 2 tilt at last Sunday’s Copa Republica Argentina (G2), which would have been against males but at a congenial 2500-meter trip. He decided in favor of this spot, citing the few top-level opportunities for distance-loving distaffers. His boldness was rewarded with his first Grade 1 laurel as a trainer.
“I’m so delighted with her achievement because I’ve been training her towards this goal all along and she’s built up into a great filly,” Kubota said. “I left all the tactics to Ebina and she ran such a smooth race, I was really excited watching her charging down the homestretch. She held on so well!”
For much of the QEII Cup, the free-wheeling Win Liberty looked like a real threat to go wire to wire. She opened up a sizeable lead, and her nearest pursuer, Lilavati, was herself clear of the rest. Even into the homestretch, Win Liberty was still in front. Rivals must have hoped that she’d remember her 0-for-3 mark at this distance, and she finally hit the proverbial wall about a furlong or so from home. By that point, Lilavati was nearly alongside, but she too would be swamped by the closers in a couple of strides. Her fellow U. Carrot colorbearer Marialite was foremost among them.
Marialite got the decisive jump on Nuovo Record, who settled for a tough-beat second in this race for the second straight year. Aside from moving a touch later than Marialite, Nuovo Record was also compromised by a wide trip from post 18.
Touching Speech, who had been just a couple of spots behind Marialite in the early going, unfortunately lost that good positioning in the scrum for home. Spearing through a fraction too late, she was beaten a neck and a nose for it all in a titanic effort. A daughter of Deep Impact like the winner, Touching Speech may have been best with a better trip. The maturing three-year-old promises to be even stronger next season.
Another to take from this race was fourth-placer Rouge Buck, the best-regarded of the U. Carrot trio. Despite a six-month layoff, a wide passage from post 15, and possibly preferring a quicker surface, the sophomore rallied strongly and went down by less than a length. Her reputation has outstripped her racecourse performance so far, but she's got plenty of time to display her abundant talent.
While the minor awards were full of merit, Marialite deserves credit for delivering on the day, and there's surely much more to come from her as well. She is a half-sister to Japanese Grade 2 victor and classic-placed Lia Fail as well as to 2013 Japan Dirt Derby winner Chrysolite. Their dam, the winning El Condor Pasa mare Chrysoprase, is in turn a full sister to 2006 Japan Cup Dirt star Alondite.
Photo courtesy of Tomoya Moriuchi/Horsephotos.com.