The G1 Arima Kinen (2500m) is one of the most anticipated races of the fall season in Japan. The race this year is boiling down to a competition between underdogs and the stars. Even among the eight G1 winners, there are several runners with a lot to prove if they hope to win the year-end Grand Prix.
Likely favourite, 2017 Derby winner Rey de Oro comes into the race fresh after an impressive win in the G1 Tenno Sho Autumn (2000m) this past October. After a somewhat lacklustre spring, the now two-time G1 winner seems to have gotten back in top form. His regular rider and leading JRA jockey Christophe Lemaire is in great form and the pair will be the ones to beat on Sunday.
Kiseki set a pace in the G1 Japan Cup (2400m) and held on so gamely for second against the speed demon Almond Eye that he will be quite popular on race day. Even though the race is 100m longer than the Japan Cup, the stretch is a lot shorter at Nakayama, giving this front-runner a real chance at holding off the closers as he sets his own pace. The pace was fast in his last run, but he still finished one and three quarter lengths in front of the third-place finisher.
Rey de Oro will be the one Kiseki’s rider Kawada will have to keep an eye out for as they turn for home on Sunday, but they will also need to be wary of a late-charging Cheval Grand. The six-year-old will once again be paired with Hugh Bowman who knows how to get the best out of him. After two average runs both ending in fourth, the fairly reliable performer should be ready to go this weekend.
Mozu Katchan and Blast Onepiece are both offspring of Harbinger so any bit of rain this weekend could be a big bonus for them on top of the 5lb allowance both get as a filly and a three-year-old colt. While Mozu Katchan is a proven G1 horse, Blast Onepiece is still working his way in that direction though has always impressed those around him to warrant significant support from punters each time he starts.
Looking at the number of G1 wins at Nakayama on his form would probably make everyone think Oju Chosan is a shoe in this weekend, but all five of his G1 wins have been over the jumps at Nakayama, not the flat. To help earn a spot in the Arima Kinen, connections took the son of Stay Gold through a few allowance races to see if he could even run well on the flat and he has won both of his starts.
While on the flat Oju Chosan still might be an allowance graded horse, the fan ballots got him into the Arima Kinen. There are many questions as to his ability to beat horses like Rey de Oro, Cheval Grand, or Kiseki, who are all proven at the highest level on the flat.
Satono Diamond will be making his swan song this weekend and will be hoping to recapture his three-year-old glory before going into the breeding shed. After a disappointing four-year-old season last year, he seemed to finally be sorting himself out when he won the G2 Kyoto Daishoten (2400m) back in October but fell very flat in the Japan Cup last month. Going out a winner will be a high priority for owner, trainer, and jockey.
The rest of the field comprised of graded stakes winners or graded stakes-placed horses who will be looking to make a big splash on Sunday. In short, the Arima Kinen is always an exciting race, and this year will be no exception.