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Christmas Special: Arima Kinen Preview

The 16 nominees boast six runners from the fans’ top choices, including Titleholder, Efforia and Equinox for the 67th running of the Arima Kinen.



Kazuo Yokoyama and Titleholder zoom to victory in the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse on June 26. (WEEKLY GALLOP)

This article first appeared on SportsLook, JAPAN Forward's dedicated sports website.

Sunday, December 25 is the date for the 67th running of the Grade 1 Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix). Staged at Nakayama Racecourse, the Arima Kinen boasts Japan’s top purse, which ties the Japan Cup with its first-place bounty of ¥400 million JPY ($3.028 million USD).

Like the Takarazuka Kinen, the Arima Kinen solicits fans to vote for the horses they most want to see run. This year, the 16 nominees boast six runners from the fans’ top choices, including Titleholder, Efforia and Equinox. Those three, along with the Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner Geraldina, are expected to also be the most popular in the lineup. It is a highly competitive field, as the Arima Kinen always is.

Post time will be 15:25 local time, earlier than usual for a Grade 1 event. The Arima Kinen is the 11th race on the Christmas Day card of 12 at Nakayama.

Horses aged 4-years-old and up will carry 57 kg, while 3-year-olds carry 55 kg. Fillies and mares are given a 2-kg allowance.

Here is a look at the expected top picks.

Titleholder Enjoying a Banner Year

Though the No. 1 pick of the fans for the Arima Kinen lineup, Titleholder has made only three appearances at home this year. He aced them all, starting with the Grade 2 Nikkei Sho over the Nakayama 2,500 meters. He followed that up with a win in the Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) over 3,200 meters at Hanshin and, at the end of June, he aced the 2,200-meter Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen

Titleholder then went overseas to take on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Wearing himself out with a forward attack over grueling heavy going, he finished 11th of 20. Back on familiar turf, good things are expected of the son of Duramente. Regular rider Kazuo Yokoyama is expected to have the ride.

Equinox Brings Impressive Track Record to Arima Kinen

A son of 2017 Arima Kinen winner Kitasan Black, Equinox heads into the Arima Kinen with a stupendous record of three wins and two seconds from his five career starts. Unlike his seven-time Grade 1 winning sire, Equinox has traveled a somewhat different path to the Arima Kinen.

He was a close second in both the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), despite having drawn the far outside gate in both races. Equinox then passed on the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) and went straight to the Tenno Sho (Autumn), where he notched his first Grade 1 win with only four starts behind him. 

If Equinox can win on Sunday, he will upstage his sire once again.


Vela Azul Has a Chance to Match Deep Impact's Feat

The 5-year-old Eishin Flash-sired Vela Azul is fresh off a victory in the Japan Cup. An incredible and outstanding feat, it would have not have been imaginable less than a year ago, when Vela Azul already had 16 starts in his career and was still seeking his third win. When the trainer Kunihiko Watanabe switched him from dirt to turf, however, Vela Azul was as if transformed. He made the top 3 in his next five starts (including three wins) before taking on his first Grade 1 and bagging ¥400 million JPY. 

At the Japan Cup, Vela Azul was ridden by Ryan Moore, but jockey Kohei Matsuyama is expected to be in the saddle for the Arima Kinen. Matsuyama was first paired with Vela Azul in the Grade 2 Kyoto Daishoten, which he won. Vela Azul finished third over Nakayama's 2,500 meters in April in his second start after switching to turf. 

If he can win, he will become the first horse since Deep Impact in 2006 to win the Japan Cup and the Arima Kinen in the same year.

Read the rest of this article about the Arima Kinen as well as the Japanese horses in contention on JRA News, here.

Author: JRA News