Unicorn Lion shows heart in 5th-place effort in Queen Elizabeth Stakes
Unicorn Lion went down swinging in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, finishing fifth place at Royal Randwick in Sydney on Saturday, April 8.
On the second day of the Championships, the 7-year-old trained by Yoshito Yahagi headed out as the third betting favorite under Damian Lane and came home a respectable fifth to the top pick Dubai Honour, who ran the 2,000 meters in 2 minutes, 7.72 seconds.
Dubai Honour turned out to be a class apart in what was billed as a showdown between the 5-year-old gelding and Anamoe in the Grade 1, A$ 5 million affair. For William Haggas and Tom Marquand, it was the trainer and jockey’s third Queen Elizabeth Stakes victory in four years.
Yahagi lamented the draw. His horse was posted on the far outside in a field of 11 after Cascadian and Protagonist were scratched.
“The outside barrier was just too much,” Yahagi said. “He had to use a lot of kick to get out in front but credit to him, he did really well. He handled the bad going fine and left everything out there.
“He held his own against a strong field but it’s still disappointing we couldn’t come away with a win today.”
Unicorn Lion was the fifth Japanese-trained horse to take a shot at the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and the first since Danon Premium finished third in 2020. No challenger from Japan had won the race.
Coming off seventh place in the G2 Kyoto Kinen on Feb. 12, Unicorn Lion was in search of his first career G1 title and held his own to set the stage for an intense finish.
Lane, in his first partnership with the No Nay Never son, pushed his mount forward after a great jump off the blocks to set the pace against the heavy turf. Unicorn Lion ushered the bunched up pack into the home stretch, resilient as he made his run for the wire.
But the rest caught up with 200m to go, Dubai Honour wresting the lead from him in a flash. Unicorn Lion ran to the last drop, holding on to secure a place on the board.
Lane gave his horse a pat on the back following the race.
“We started from the outside barrier but he broke well and moved on to the lead without any problems,” the Australian rider said. “He was in good rhythm during the trip, traveled nice and easy. I was hoping for a lot out of him on the final straight. You have to respect the winning horse but Unicorn Lion ran his heart out. He never gave up until the end and you couldn’t ask for more from him.
“He ran well. Tried hard and that is about as good as he can go.”
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