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December 22, 2015


2015 Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) (G1) - Preview
Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) (G1)

Another star-studded field is set for the 60th Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) this weekend with six Grade 1 winners among the 16 slots, yet the stage will belong to one in particular - beloved six-time G1 champion Gold Ship, who will end his career with the 2,500-meter race at Nakayama Racecourse.

This year's race will also likely help determine who wins Horse of the Year honors as no one single horse has dominated the G1 scene. The following are the favorites for the 10th race on Sunday's card. Post time is 3:25 p.m. with a purse of 521 million yen, 250 million yen of it going to the winner.

Takarazuka Kinen (G1)
Gold Ship
GOLD SHIP: A huge fan favorite, 6-year-old Gold Ship will ride into the sunset in what will be his fourth consecutive Arima Kinen appearance (likely as the top pick) and a lot will be at stake for the Stay Gold son. Victory will see Gold Ship join Symboli Rudolf, T.M. Opera O, Deep Impact and Vodka as record seven-time G1 champions; it would be the Naosuke Sugai-trained horse's 12th graded win, also a record. The top vote-getter for the second straight season, Gold Ship will be reunited for the first time in two years with the jockey who rode him to his first G1 title - the 2012 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) - Hiroyuki Uchida. Gold Ship is coming off a 10th-place finish in the Japan Cup, his first start in five months since the disastrous Takarazuka Kinen where he ended up 15th, a performance that highlighted the worst of his career. With a farewell ceremony scheduled for him after the race, Sugai would love nothing more than to see his horse go out a winner. The trainer is counting on Uchida to get the best out of Gold Ship - hopefully on his good day. "He brought us our first G1 win and he's had both good and bad races with him. They've been through a lot together," Sugai said. "This season was going to be his last so I wanted him to peak in time for the Arima Kinen. He came home far on the outside (in the Japan Cup) but still managed to keep it fairly close. He was absolutely fine in the gate in spite of the crowd on the day. I'm not worried about a thing."

Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1)
Kitasan Black
KITASAN BLACK: By Black Tide out of the Sakura Bakushin O mare Sugar Heart, Kitasan Black will take on the big boys for the first time after capturing the last jewel in the Triple Crown, the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger), on Oct. 25. The Kikuka Sho winner has traditionally performed well in the Arima Kinen and there's no reason to think Kitasan Black will not follow suit. The Hisashi Shimizu-trained colt only debuted on Jan. 31 and impressed with a third-place finish in the Satsuki Sho in mid-April. His worst result was 14th in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), which is now looking like an anomaly. Owned by popular singer Saburo Kitajima, Kitasan Black would have been shut down for the season if he was not 100 percent, according to Shimizu. But the trainer has given it the green light, which would suggest Kitasan Black is raring to go. "If he were even remotely feeling it, I wasn't planning on racing him again until next season," Shimizu said. "We're not forcing him that's for sure. He's relaxed, and is a lot sharper than he was a week ago. As he showed in his last start, the distance is not an issue for him. All we have to do is make sure he's fit for the race."

Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1)
Lovely Day
LOVELY DAY: Lovely Day came into his own and then some this season, erupting for six graded victories including a pair of G1s in the Takarazuka Kinen and the Tenno Sho (Autumn). The 5-year-old trained by the esteemed Yasutoshi Ikee was the first choice for the Japan Cup after rattling off four successive graded wins, but just came up short to settle for third to Shonan Pandora. The Ikee camp admits the 2,400-meter distance didn't work to his favor and that the Japan Cup took a lot out of him, but is confident the King Kamehameha son will bounce back. "He's truly evolved," Ikee said. "I thought he ran the strongest race. He was as spent as he's been all season after the Japan Cup, but recovered quickly as usual. I should be able to get him back to his peak." Added chief jockey Yuga Kawada, "We had a smooth trip until the final turn but there was some pressure from the outside and we had no choice but to move early. The 2,400 meters isn't his best distance so he struggled at the end. We're definitely out for payback in the Arima Kinen." The Arima Kinen is longer than the Japan Cup by a half furlong yet Ikee is not concerned. And victory here should also crown Lovely Day as the No. 1 thoroughbred of the year. "Nakayama is a tricky course so there's a way to get by," Ikee said of the distance. "I'm not worried."

2015 Japan Cup (G1)
Shonan Pandora

Note: Shonan Pandora will not run in this race.

SHONAN PANDORA: The only thing that will keep the Japan Cup holder from contesting the Arima Kinen title is her physical condition. The 4-year-old filly held off the likes of Lovely Day to capture the JRA's international showpiece, to underline the potential she flashed when she won last year's Shuka Sho, the last leg of the filly's Triple Crown. The Deep Impact daughter, out of the French Deputy dam Cutie Gold, had to settle for fourth in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) after drawing an outside barrier and made good on her vow of revenge in the Japan Cup. The Arima Kinen will be the longest race Shonan Pandora will have run, but trainer Tomokazu Takano cannot stop raving about her upside. Should she win the Arima Kinen for her second G1 win of the season, it would throw her into the argument for Horse of the Year honors. "We won the Shuka Sho because of Hamanaka's riding. But we felt she was still developing and thought if she reached her potential, she'd be an incredible horse. It was wishful thinking at the time," Takano said. "But after she won the Shuka Sho, we wanted to take a shot at the big races this season; we thought she was that good of a racehorse. She was kind of flimsy when she started out but we were all wondering what kind of a racehorse she'd be if she filled out properly. You don't often come across a racehorse that moves the way she does. She's clearly inherited Deep Impact's DNA and whatever to add on top of it."

Copa Republica Argentina (G2)
Gold Actor
GOLD ACTOR: The 4-year-old colt by former Japan Cup champion Screen Hero produced his first graded win in the Copa Republica Argentina on Nov. 8, his fifth victory in six starts. Gold Actor looked as if he would follow in his father’s footsteps and head to the Japan Cup but trainer Tadashige Nakagawa decided to rest him for the Arima Kinen. In his only other Grade 1 appearance, last season’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger), he finished a respectable third and has won all three starts since then this year. Nakagawa believes it’s time for Gold Actor to take center stage in what will be his 13th start. “He seems to be in pretty good shape. He hasn’t changed much, but it’s all going good with him,” Nakagawa said. “It took some time for him to come around but he’s looking the part now.”

Kobe Shimbun Hai (Japanese St. Leger Trial) (G2)
Lia Fail
LIA FAIL: The dark horse of this year’s Arima Kinen, Lia Fail was the favorite in the Kikuka Sho only to take a backset to Kitasan Black (he finished third). By Zenno Rob Roy out of the El Condor Pasa mare Chrysoprase, Lia Fail will look to bounce back in the big year-ender as his jockey Christophe Lemaire, who beat Deep Impact in the race in 2005 aboard Heart’s Cry, plots another upset. “He was really worked up last time. He couldn’t relax at all,” Lemaire said. “The 3,000 meters is a distance he can cover but because he had a hard time relaxing, he didn’t have much left the last 100 meters. Kitasan Black, on the other hand, ran a perfect race. He traveled right behind us. But we weren’t that far off in the end, less than a length behind him. I think Nakayama suits him because Lia Fail gets off to a good start. Nakayama is tough for horse who comes from behind.”


Source (comments): Nikkan Sports

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