Fan-Voted Arima Kinen Lures Japan's Star Gallopers

Titleholder | JRA photo


Sunday's G1 Arima Kinen offers fans of international racing the ultimate Christmas gift, as a field of 16–largely selected by the public–will face the starter in one of the world's most valuable Group 1 races not held in a desert environment.

Titleholder (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}) was the leading votegetter and looks to atone for his speed-and-fade 11th-place effort in that boggy-ground renewal of the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp Oct. 2. He'd earned the right to contest Europe's weight-for-age championship, having defeated fellow Arc runner Deep Bond (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) over the metric two miles in May followed by a two-length score in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen the next month. Fifth in this race last season, Titleholder looms the controlling speed and could prove tough to peg back.

“Last week, jockey Kazuo Yokoyama, who knows him best of all, rode to check his balance and how well he was communicating with the rider. Everything was fine,” said trainer Toru Kurita. “He carried himself well, with good balance, and raced solidly to the end. He is improving slowly, but surely. His muscle tone and coat are looking good and his wind was better than it had been the week before. He is also more eager to run. There are no particular points of concern.”

The flashy Equinox (Jpn) (Kitasan Black {Jpn}) was second in this year's G1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) and G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) and most recently returned from a five-month break to post an improbable victory over loose leader Panthalassa (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo Oct. 30.

“At the bottom of the slope, he was so far behind the front-runner I was worried he wasn't going to make it,” admitted assistant trainer Yu Ota. “In the end, however, he moved on his own, gave it his all and was able to overtake the front-runner.”

Equinox will be looking to complete the same Tenno Sho/Arima Kinen double this year as did Efforia (Jpn) (Epiphaneia {Jpn}) did 12 months ago with a 3/4-length defeat of Deep Bond. But it hasn't been plain sailing since for the reigning Horse of the Year, who resumed with a slow-starting ninth in the G1 Osaka Hai at Hanshin Apr. 3 and his lone appearance since was a moderate sixth to Titleholder in the Takarazuka Kinen.

Vela Azul (Jpn) (Eishin Flash {Jpn}) was given a masterful steer from Ryan Moore to be up in the final couple of jumps in the G1 Longines Japan Cup Nov. 27 and shoots for a fourth straight victory, while Geraldina (Jpn) (Maurice {Jpn}) will try to follow-up on her win over recent G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase heroine Win Marilyn (Jpn) (Screen Hero {Jpn}) in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup last month. Geraldina's dam, the great Gentildonna (Jpn), swansonged victoriously in the 2014 Arima Kinen, as did the latter's legendary sire–Deep Impact (Jpn)–in 2006.

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