where the horse is always the hero
Article Item
Posted 2019-12-20 07:51:57  
Almond Eye heads outstanding line-up in G1 Arima Kine

Nakayama Racecourse hosts the G1 Arima Kinen, Japan’s most-beloved race, on Sunday, 22 December. The 2500m turf event over a right-handed track attracts Japan’s best talent and the stakes are high, with a first-place prize matching the G1 Japan Cup’s 300 million yen.

The race’s 64th running boasts one of its most impressive lineups in recent years, with 11 G1 winners among the full field of 16 runners. Ages range from three to seven, with older horses assigned 126lb and a 5lb-allowance given to the females and the three-year-olds.

The ladies are well represented this year with a total of five female runners. Youth this year is especially strong, with a trio of three-year-olds all attracting a good share of attention, especially with Blast Onepiece’s victory last year still fresh in memories. Arima Kinen veterans Rey de Oro, Suave Richard and Kiseki are back for second tries and Cheval Grand takes on his fourth Arima challenge.

Fan ballots help determine which runners compete, and this year, not only will the top four horses from the voting be in the race, 10 of the top 13 horses fans most want to see run in the Arima Kinen are ready to clash.

The real gem among them, is of course, Almond Eye. The virtually invincible filly was the favourite in the fan voting. At the time ballots were being cast, the plan was to race her in Hong Kong and pass on the Arima. But an elevated temperature close to her intended departure for Hong Kong meant that Almond Eye was hurriedly nominated for the Arima Kinen.

A winner of six Grade 1 events, including victories both at home and abroad, Almond Eye comes off an impressive first-place in the autumn version of the Tenno Sho (2000m, Tokyo) on 27 October. She’s never finished out of the money, but she’s also never raced at Nakayama. Christophe Lemaire is in the saddle.

Early odds predictions have Almond Eye the shoo-in favourite, followed by Lys Gracieux. Three-year-olds Saturnalia and World Premiere follow and after them are Fierement, Suave Richard, Velox and Kiseki. Rey de Oro, Aerolithe, Etario and Al Ain, all too good to dismiss.

The Yoshito Yahagi-trained Lys Gracieux, second in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) last year and third in the FWD QEII Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin in April, returned home to win the G1 Takarazuka Kinen (2200m, Hanshin) this spring by three lengths, then returned in October for a Cox Plate (G1, 2040m) win. The Arima, which marks her first time at Nakayama, is to be her last run and she’s to be partnered with Aussie Damian Lane, also racing for the first time at Nakayama.

Of the three-year-olds in the spotlight this year, odds are currently lowest on Saturnalia. The Katsuhiko Sumii-trained colt had already won a G1 at Nakayama before he claimed the Satsuki Sho this spring. That first G1 was the Hopeful Stakes for two-year-olds. Fourth in the Japanese Derby, Saturnalia finished sixth in the Tenno Sho Autumn. Christophe Soumillon is up.

World Premiere is on his third start since returning from the spring. He ran third in the G2 Kobe Shimbun Hai (2400m) before capturing the 3000m classic, the Kikuka Sho, and will be paired with three-time Arima Kinen winner Yutaka Take.

Velox is the third three-year-old in the mix. He hasn’t won a big one yet, but he posted a second and two thirds in the classics. Yuga Kawada, Japan’s current No. 2 just 11 wins behind Lemaire, is in the saddle.

Having finished last in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) in October, Fierement is looking to save face on his first start back home. The heavy going at Longchamp took a lot out of him, but he’s a colt with a lot to give. After claiming the Kikuka Sho last year, he went on to capture the G1 Tenno Sho Spring over 3200m at Kyoto that put him ahead of this month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) winner Glory Vase by a neck.

Kiseki fared better in the Arc with a seventh-place finish. He hasn’t made the winner’s circle since the 2017 Kikuka Sho but he has posted two seconds in top-level races this year and is a strong choice to fill out a trio, especially with ace Ryan Moore in the saddle.

Post time for the Arima Kinen, the 11th race on the Nakayama card, is 2.25pm Hong Kong time.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Email link to a friend | Printable Version
  • Japan
    Displaying 10 ResultsSee All
    contrail claims kikuka sho to become third undefeated triple crown winner3 days ago

    Odds on favorite Contrail claimed this year’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) and added his na...

    View | Add Comment
    horse racing in japan - summer edition2020-08-08

    JRA-organized races, which began to be held in front of empty stands from the end of February due to...

    View | Add Comment
    takarazuka kinen (g1) all the runners2020-06-23

    A star-studded field looks guaranteed this coming Sunday (June 28), when the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kine...

    View | Add Comment
    almond eye returns on sunday 2020-05-16

    Covid 19 put pay to her ambitions to repeat the Dubai Turf performance of last year but the brillian...

    View | Add Comment
    lauda sion lands g1 nhk mile cup. 2020-05-11

    The Real Impact colt won two out of three starts between 1,200 and 1,400 meters before finishing eig...

    View | Add Comment
    hewitson produces cracking ride in derby trial2020-05-02

    Lyle Hewitson's Japanese stint came to an end but it ended on a high as he rode a treble on the day ...

    View | Add Comment
    top-class contenders ready to clash in g1 osaka hai2020-04-02

    The racing spotlight in Japan moves to Osaka’s Hanshin Racecourse on Sunday (5 April) for the ...

    View | Add Comment
    hewitson hits home first japan group race2020-03-22

    Lyle Hewitson'riding career has taken a 360 turn since he arrived in Japan a few weeks back with win...

    View | Add Comment
    summary of sires results for 20192020-02-05

     Deep Impact the general ranking champion for the eighth consecutive year   General sire...

    View | Add Comment
    almond eye smashed as arima kinen goes to lys gracieux2019-12-22

    Japanese fan favourite Almond Eye suffered her second defeat as Cox Plate champion Lys Gracieux ende...

    View | Add Comment