Sixteen horses competed in the 18th Victoria Mile, and the final 200 meters became a three-horse test of skill and will.
Fourth favorite Songline (jockey Keita Tosaki's ride) edged 2022 race winner Sodashi (Damian Lane) by the length of a head on Sunday, May 14 at Tokyo Racecourse. Race favorite Stars on Earth (Christophe Lemaire) finished ¾ of a length behind Sodashi on the slick turf as rain fell from the sky.
The top three finishers all appeared to have a strong shot at winning the 1,600-meter race.
But Kizuna-sired Songline's speed over the last three furlongs (33.2 seconds over about 600 meters) proved to be precisely what it needed to be. The 5-year-old narrowly held off Kurofune progeny Sodashi, who was clocked in 33.6 over that distance, and Duramente descendant Stars on Earth, who had the same closing time as Sodashi in that span. (Watch the race on the Japan Racing Association's YouTube Channel.)
Songline won her second consecutive JRA Grade 1 race, giving trainer Toru Hayashi his second career G1 win and Tosaki his 10th. On June 5, 2022, her most recent G1 event before Sunday's Victoria Mile, Songline triumphed in the Yasuda Kinen. In that race, jockey Kenichi Ikezoe and Songline won by a neck's length.
This time, Tosaki piloted Songline to the finish line with no margin of error available to him.
Divina (Mirco Demuro), the 15th favorite, was the fastest sprinter over the final three furlongs (33.1 seconds) and earned a fourth-place finish, one length behind Stars on Earth.
Victoria Mile Review: Tosaki's Assessment of Songline
How did the winning jockey feel about his horse's performance on Sunday?
"Though we had to race further back and inward than planned, we were able to race in good position while eyeing the race favorites," Tosaki said after the race.
"The track was a little heavy due to the rain, but she responded strongly in the straight," the 42-year-old jockey added. "It was a close race, but I was pretty sure we crossed the wire in front.
"I knew that Songline has a strong ability so I'm really happy we were able to win the race."
Last year, Songline was the fifth-place finisher in the Victoria Mile.
Setting the Stage for the Final Stretch
Lotus Land (Norihiro Yokoyama) was the early pacesetter, with Sodashi also making a strong push for the front of the pack in a race featuring fillies and mares ages 4 and up.
Another Duramente offspring, Sound Vivace (Kohei Matsuyama), held the third spot early on.
Sodashi made her move to the outside and maintained position to contend for the win throughout the race. At the same time, Lotus Land ran on the inside.
With 400 meters remaining, it looked like Sodashi was poised to overtake Lotus Land, sparking the possibility of back-to-back Victoria Mile victories for the popular white horse.
Then, in the final 200 meters, Stars on Earth picked up the pace, emerging with a realistic shot at winning it.
Songline and Sodashi sprinted side by side to the wire, captivating the 45,000-plus spectators during the race's riveting conclusion.
With excitement building and building, Songline reached the wire a split second before Sodashi to complete the rain-soaked race in 1 minute, 32.2 seconds.
As a result, Tosaki picked up his third Victoria Mile win following victories aboard Straight Girl in 2015 and '16.
Sound Vivace and Lotus Land placed fifth and sixth, respectively. Second favorite Namur (Takeshi Yokoyama) was seventh.
The Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), the JRA's next G1 race, is on Sunday, May 21 at Tokyo Racecourse.
Author: Ed Odeven