2023 News

December 19, 2023


Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) (G1) - Preview
Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1)
Justin Palace

Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1)
Stars on Earth

Laurel R.C. Sho Nakayama Himba Stakes (G3)
Through Seven Seas

Kyoto Kinen (G2)
Do Deuce

Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1)
Sol Oriens

Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1)

Nikkei Sho (G2)

This Sunday, Dec. 24 brings the Grade 1 Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix). It is the first time in six years that the Arima Kinen falls on Christmas Eve, and with super horse Equinox retired and Liberty Island (the Top 2 picks in the fan balloting) sitting the Arima Kinen out to refresh and refuel, the race has opened up possibilities, lighting the dreams for many more.

The Arima Kinen, held over 2,500 meters of turf at Nakayama Racecourse east of Tokyo, features a full gate of 16. This year, its members include nine Grade 1 champions. As one of two races (in addition to the Takarazuka Kinen) that solicits votes from fans to choose the participants, this year’s Arima Kinen is the first time in the race’s 68-year history that both the Top 2 picks in the fan balloting are missing from the fun.

Nonetheless, the lineup will include six of the fans’ top 10 choices for the horses they most want to see run - Justin Palace, Titleholder, Sol Oriens, Tastiera, Do Deuce and Deep Bond. The lineup will also feature three Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) champions - this year’s winner Tastiera, ’22 champ Do Deuce and Shahryar, winner in 2021.

This year’s Arima Kinen carries a total purse of JPY1.085 billion and a winner’s prize of JPY500 million, matched only by the Japan Cup.

Open to 3-year-olds and up, the youngest horses in the Arima Kinen carry 56kg, older runners 58kg, with a 2-kg allowance for fillies and mares. Post time is 15:40 local time. The Arima Kinen is the 11th race on the Sunday card of 12 at Nakayama

Here’s a look at the expected top picks:


Justin Palace: Justin Palace, a 4-year-old colt by Deep Impact, has had an excellent year with two wins, a second and a third from his four starts. Seventh in last year’s Arima Kinen, Justin Palace’s four starts this year, three of them Grade 1s and ranging in distances from 2,000 to 3,000 meters, have set him up properly for the Arima Kinen. After winning the Tenno Sho (Spring) at Kyoto, Justin Palace ran third in the Takarazuka Kinen behind Equinox and Stars on Earth at Hanshin, then returned in the fall for the Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo and finished 2 1/2 lengths behind Equinox. What may help is the fact that the last five Arima Kinen have favored those runners coming directly from the autumn Tenno Sho (Autumn). All of them have either won or finished in second. Takeshi Yokoyama, who rode Justin Palace for the first time last out in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), is pegged to ride on Sunday.

Stars on Earth: The Duramente-sired Stars on Earth is the epitome of consistency, with her record of three wins, four seconds and four thirds from her 11 career starts. The 4-year-old filly started her career competing against colts, but it wasn’t until seven starts later that she went up against them again. After capturing two of the fillies’ Classic races, Stars on Earth missed winning the Osaka Hai by a nose. In the Victoria Mile, she scored a third behind two older mares, Songline and Sodashi (both now retired). After the summer, she was aimed to return in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) but was withdrawn due to hoof issue. After recovering from that, she ran in the Japan Cup under William Buick and once again finished third. Now, with the Top 2 finishers out of the picture and Lemaire expected back in the irons, Stars on Earth may be ready to shine like she did in the Japanese Oaks. Trainer Takayanagi says he’ll have Lemaire ride her final fast work. “I’ll give her gate practice too. These last two starts, she has broken well, but this time it’s a trickier course and I want her start to be perfect.”

Through Seven Seas: A 5-year-old daughter of Dream Journey, Through Seven Seas returns from an admirable fourth-place finish in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. Though the winner’s circle has eluded her in her four Grade 1 bids to date, Through Seven Seas is in full bloom and has had a good year behind her. With a 2023 record of two wins and a second from her four starts, she’s shown consistency. Without the presence of Equinox, may be able to avenge her loss by a neck to him in the Takarazuka Kinen. Kenichi Ikezoe was her partner in that race and he’s set to be up in the Arima Kinen as well, a confidence booster given the fact that he’s the current recordholder for most wins (four) in The Grand Prix. Through Seven Seas has raced seven times at Nakayama, won three times and never missed the Top 3 spots. This time, however, at her longest distance yet, trainer Tomohito Ozeki says keeping the somewhat excitable mare relaxed will be crucial. “On Dec. 13, with this race in mind, I had her work for the first time over 2,500 meters. The rider asked her to pick it up after the finish line as well. She’ll have to pass before the stands twice in the Arima Kinen. I think the jockey who knows her well will help there.”

Do Deuce: The 4-year-old Heart’s Cry colt Do Deuce has had only three races this year after being withdrawn due to lameness a couple days before his bid at Meydan in the Dubai Turf. Back in Japan, he returned to the turf after eight months without a race and took on two big events at Tokyo, the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Japan Cup, and recorded a 7-4 in them. Without the presence of two (Equinox and Liberty Island) of the three that beat him over the line, this time he may find himself much closer to a bigger share of the pot. The Arima Kinen will be half a furlong longer than anything Do Deuce has seen to date, but trainer Yasuo Tomomichi is not overly worried. “This will be his third start after returning and he’s always been a horse that improves with each race. Nakayama has relatively tight turns and there will be six of them, which I think he’ll be able to handle. He’s not bothered by the going, so I think he has a chance.” Though Keita Tosaki had the reins in the last two outings, this time Yutaka Take, who had been up nine times before Tosaki, should be back in the saddle.

Sol Oriens: The 3-year-old colt Sol Oriens has had a very solid career. In his six starts thus far, he has always figured in the Top 3. He leapt from his debut win to a win of a Grade 3 and then posted one win, a second and a third in the Classic races, with another second in the Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen before the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger), his most recent outing. Sol Oriens has only competed against his peers and barely was able to handle the 3,000 meters of the Kikuka Sho. His record at Nakayama (two wins and a second from three starts) speaks in his favor, though the three were all in the 2,000-2,200 range. Trainer Takahisa Tezuka is optimistic. “He traveled on the far outside in the Kikuka Sho and this time at 2,500 meters, it will without a doubt be an easier race for him. His training since that race and now has been aimed at bringing out his very best and though the numbers may not show it, he is more powerful now than he was in the spring.” Expected in the saddle is new partner Yuga Kawada. Though winner of 26 Grade 1s, Kawada has yet to clinch the Arima Kinen in his 10 tries to date.

Tastiera: Second in this year’s Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) behind Sol Oriens, winner in the Japanese Derby and runnerup in the Kikuka Sho, Tastiera has only figured out of the Top 3 once. He has also showed his stamina over the longer distances, but all six of his tests thus far have only pitted him against his peers. Despite his young career, Tastiera has displayed his versatility both in his racing style and his ability to work with a number of different riders, which include Damian Lane, whom he won the Derby with, and Joao Moreira in the Kikuka Sho. This time Ryan Moore, who partnered Tastiera’s debut win, is expected to have the ride.

Titleholder: With three Grade 1 victories to his name, Titleholder leads this year’s Arima Kinen nominees for top-level wins. He will be capping his career with what will be his third Arima Kinen. Posting a fifth and a ninth in his two prior attempts (2021 and 2022), the first time Titleholder was coming off his win of the Kikuka Sho, the second he was back from a grueling Arc run. This will be his third start of his fall campaign, which began with a second in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers over 2,200 meters at Nakayama and was followed by a fifth-place showing in the Japan Cup, not too shabby given the competition. Titleholder, who likes to race from first or second position, is an old hand at Nakayama, and has landed four firsts and two seconds from his 10 starts at the venue.


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