Gentildonna (Jpn) (Deep Impact) made her final start Sunday in the G1 Arima Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse ending off an illustrious racing career with a tenacious victory in front of 110,000 largely adoring fans and capping off a season which included a spectacular win in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March.
The greatest single betting race in the world, the G1 Arima Kinen lacked neither for quality nor excitement, nor pari-mutuel action. Those who packed the stands also put it through the windows. The turnover on the feature race alone was nearly ¥39 billion (over US$322 million). The overall handle for the program was in excess of ¥51 billion (over US$422 million). And the fans got what they came to see.
Run for the 59th time, the Arima Kinen was conceived of as a season-ending 'Grand Prix' - an all-star event at the end of the season for which the runners are selected by the fans. Gentildonna fast endeared herself to the locals, in no small part due to her 2006 Arima Kinen-winning sire, and she made some history of her own in 2012, sweeping the Japanese Filly Triple Crown with victories in the G1 Oka Sho, G1 Yushun Himba and G1 Shuka Sho, defeating Verxina (Jpn) (Deep Impact) on each occasion, then closed the season with a nose defeat of favored Orfevre (Jpn) (Stay Gold) in the G1 Japan Cup.
Runner-up to the late St Nicholas Abbey (Ire) (Montjeu) in the 2013 Sheema Classic, Gentildonna was third to Gold Ship (Jpn) (Stay Gold) in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen and second to Just a Way (Jpn) (Heart's Cry) in the Tenno Sho before becoming the first to go back-to-back in the Japan Cup, defeating Denim and Ruby (Jpn) (Deep Impact) by the minimum margin.
Her 5-year-old season began on something of a sour note, as she could finish only sixth at 3-5 in the G2 Kyoto Kinen, but she stripped fitter for the effort in the Sheema Classic. Bottled up with nowhere to go at a crucial stage, she finally got room beneath Ryan Moore, and stretched away once clear to best Cirrus des Aigles (Fr) (Even Top) by 1 1/2 lengths. A non-factor when ninth to the repeating Gold Ship in this year's Takarazuka Kinen on 29 June, Gentildonna - much better with a race under her belt - rattled home to finish second in the Tenno Sho off that four-month layoff on 2 November, but was soundly defeated into fourth by Epiphaneia (Jpn) (Symboli Kris S) in search of the Japan Cup three-peat on 30 November.
Accordingly sent off the fourth betting choice, Gentildonna was bounced away from the gates by JRA leading rider Keita Tosaki and settled in a close-up third as Verxina was hustled along to set a soft pace from her low draw in advance of Epiphaneia, who was wide early before getting down closer to the rails to chase from second. Gold Ship, the 2012 Arima Kinen hero and number one in the voting, was a bit wide in midfield down the back, while Just a Way raced near the tail in what was his career finale. Epiphaneia had the leader in the crosshairs as they raced on the final turn, but Gold Ship was warming up to the task with a wide run, and Tosaki had Gentildonna poised three away from the inside, ready to call on her superior stamina. Epiphaneia cut the corner and pinched a break, and while it took Gentildonna some time and with programs flying through the Nakayama sky, she found the wire best to go out on top. To the World weaved his way through to snag second on the wire from Gold Ship, while Just a Way rallied smartly to miss by just over a length in fourth.
"I'm really glad she was able to show her best performance in the last race of her career," commented Tosaki, who was piloting just the third Group 1 winner of his career. "When I rode her the last time (second in the G1 Tenno Sho-Autumn on 2 November), she was easy to ride and very clever, so I felt very comfortable riding her this time. I was able to handle her just as I expected, settling her towards the front and making use of her persistent late charge. She responded well until the end."
Some 40,000 fans braved the chilly evening air and remained for a post-race retirement ceremony to honor Gentildonna, who heads to the breeding shed with over $18 million in career earnings.
Easily the most accomplished offspring of the good sprinter Bertolini (Danzig), Gentildonna's dam, Donna Blini, fetched just 20,000gns as a Doncaster St Leger Sale yearling and made an immediate impression at the races. Trained by Brian Meehan, Donna Blini won her career debut at Newmarket and was runner-up in a listed stakes at Beverly before adding the G2 Cherry Hinton Stakes and later the G1 Cheveley Park Stud Stakes. Though she tacked just one victory at three in 2006, she'd done enough to cement her status as a potential broodmare and was snapped up by Katsumi Yoshida for 500,000gns at that year's Tattersalls December Sale and was booked to Deep Impact (Sunday Silence) in his first year at stud in 2007. It was a match apparently made in heaven, as Donna Blini's first produce by the stallion was Donau Blue (Jpn), who improved with age to win a pair of Group 3 tests and was twice placed in Group 1 miles in Japan in 2012. Also Group 2 placed at five, Donau Blue was runner-up in this year's G3 Kyoto Himba. Donna Blini is the dam of an as-yet unraced 2-year-old full-brother to Gentildonna named Legende (Jpn) and produced a full-sister to the superstar this past January after being barren for 2013.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News