11/13/2009 1:00AM

Shalanaya aims for Japan's QEII


Shalanaya, winner of the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp on Arc Day, attempts to become the first foreign-trained horse to win the $1.9 million, Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto on Sunday. The QEII is the first of four major international races on the Japanese calendar to be run during the next four Sundays, each of them carrying valuable bonuses that have attracted a record number of foreign entries.

As the winner of the Prix de l'Opera, Shalanaya, owned by the Aga Khan, would earn a bonus of $1 million should she land the QEII, which, like the Opera, will be run over a distance of 1 1/4 miles and is restricted to fillies and mares. A 3-year-old daughter of Lomitas, the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Shalanaya did not make her career debut until May 16, since when she has won 3 of 5 starts, including the listed Prix de Liancourt at 1 5/16 miles before her Opera triumph. The Opera third, Midday, paid her a big compliment by winning the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf last week, suggesting that Shalanaya is capable of better yet. She will be ridden by the Aga Khan's new contract rider, Christophe Lemaire, a man well familiar with Kyoto's right-handed turf course.

Two of Japan's best females, Vodka and Red Desire, are skipping the QEII to await the Japan Cup on Nov. 29, but a pair of local 3-year-olds pose serious threats. Broad Street and Japanese Oaks winner Buena Vista were second and third behind Red Desire last time in the Grade 1 Shuka Sho over the QEII course and distance. Little Amapola is the defending title-holder, but she has been off form of late, as has last year's runner-up, Kawakami Princess. Mood Indigo is in with a chance off her recent win in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 3 Fuchu Himba Stakes at Tokyo.