The Arima Kinen; Clash of Champions,

By Jess Samy
Japan’s season ending spectacle, the Arima Kinen (Grand Prix) is set to be contested this coming Sunday (25 Dec) at Nakayama racecourse.


18 horses will go to post in what is arguably Japan’s most prestigious horse race.

Known as the people’s race, for it calls for the fans to invite much of the field (with the top ten vote getters earning automatic entry), this 61st renewal promises to be an absolute humdinger with some of Japan’s most talented equine superstars verily geared up for the season’s finale.
Will we see Japan’s most popular racehorse Kitasan Black seal his place in the record books, or will the boom 3 year old Satono Diamond beats his elders and adds further flesh to the bone of his ever growing reputation?


Whilst Kitasan Black and Satono Diamond both are in with great chances the Arima Kinen is not a two horse race horse.

Last year’s winner Gold Actor, 2015 Oaks victress  Mikki Queen, Takarazuka Kinen winner Marialiate amongst others have also thrown their hat into the ring and are also in with a major shout. 


The following is a detailed preview of each of runner contesting the Arima Kinen (2500m)


1. Admire Deus
After a very decent effort behind the freakish Maurice in the Tenno Sho where he was running on very stoutly  in the closing stages, Admire Reus, will try to improve his rank from last year in this very race where he finished 7th.

His penultimate run in Kyoto Daishoten Gr2 where he chased Kitasan Black home (finishing a neck 2nd) was excellent and on this run he ought to be right there in the mix.

We must keep in mind that he is course and distance suited unlike many of his rivals, for he won the Nikkei Sho Gr2 back in 2015.

He has been very lightly campaigned this year whilst despite not winning he has shown some fair bit of home which in my opinion warrants him a place chance at best. 

2. Albert
A spectacular winner last time out in the Stayers Stakes over 18F, with Ryan Moore at his sheer best lifting him at the line, Albert comes into the Arima Kinen with a out and out staying profile.

I think he may have his work cut out back in distance for I believe he is better over the marathon trips. This is also  major step up in a grade. He has been well held by Gold Actor and Kitasan Black this year although that penultimate run behind Cheval Grand over the distance in the Copa Republica Argentina was more than decent.
 3. Cheval Grand
Excellent performance in the Gr1 Japan Cup behind Kitasan Black where he was absolutely flying home and making tons of ground from the back in the process. This son of Heart Cry has been progressing at the rate of knots since August of last year and I think that he will be cherry ripe for Arima Kinen.

He has been held twice by Kitasan Black  but we can’t but feel that there is more to come and with a bit of luck can legitimately aspire turning the table over the later.. I think he is in with an each way shot and I wouldn’t be surprise if he ends up foiling the two favourites.

He is very consistent and honest whilst he hits the line extremely well. Must include. 


4. Denim And Ruby


Coming from a long injury lay off, Denim and Ruby made her seasonal return earlier this month in the Kinko Sho Gr2 won by Yamakatsu Ace. Whilst she will have to step up massively from that pretty decent return, it is interesting to note that in her heyday she gave the mighty Gentildonna something to think about in the Japan Cup in 2013.

Having said, I’m not sure she is quite as a good as she was back in the days, but connections are perserving which means she is still showing something at home. Hard to recommend, but it will be lovely to see her run a good race.
 5. Gold Actor
Gold Actor will try to win the Arima Kinen for the second year in a row. He really turned the corner after winning it in the most emphatic style last year, and started 2016 with a bang winning the Nikkei Sho at Nakayama over course and distance.

Notwithstanding, his well below par run in the Tenno Sho (12th behind Kitasan Black), it was crystal clear that he has more than consistent in his effort.

His effort in the Japan Cup was more than satisfactory. I would not disregard him yet as he absolutely loves the track having won 4 times in 6 attempts over there. Can’t knock him off, each way chance.
 6. Hit The Target
The 8 year old son of King Kamehameha has been struggling to feature in his last few starts. His best run for a long while has been a 3rd place finish in the Megeuro Kinen Gr2, just behind Marialiate, but that was back in May.

His 5th in the Kyoto Daishoten behind Kitasan Black was decent as well but I must concede he is well held. Monumental task ahead. 

 7. Kitasan Black
Japan’s most popular racehorse at the moment. He is an absolute superstar over there. Almost a cult. Should he win the Arima Kinen and in the process do the double Japan Cup/Arima Kinen, there is little doubt he will definitely seal his place in the annals of Japanese Racing.

On form he holds most of his rivals. He has been impressive, dominant and absolutely sensational this year sweeping up the Tenno Sho, Kyoto Daishoten and the Japan Cup in the most brilliant fashion.

He is very effective at Nakayama for he won the St Leger and the Spring Stakes over  there and duly looks to be a worthy favourite.


The only question mark for him is that whether his opponent will give him an easy lead?


We all know how lethal he is when he dictates the pace. He is able to make every post a winning one without breaking a sweat.

This time I'm far from convinced they will let him have an easy lead.


Will he be able to fend off challenges?


Time will tell. In any case he is definitely the horse the horse to beat.
 8.  Maltese Apogee

Another fast progressive horse that enters the Arima Kinen picture after winning 3 in a row. He was last seen when notching the hat trick of win in the Gr3 Fukishima Kinen.

The form of the race has been given considerable boost with Meiner Honey winning subsequently the Challenge Cup. He won at Nakayama so he is course suited, but it is a massive step in class and in trip. He will have to squeeze even more improvement to feature. 

9. Marialite
Marialite will be having her swan song in the Arima Kinen calling time after what has been an exceptional career as a racehorse where she won two Gr1s including QE II and the Takarazuka Kinen.

Her last two runs have been arguably disappointing though but she is worth much more than she has showed there. When she won the Takarazuka Kinen Gr1 in June she got the better of Kitasan Black and the very talented Duramente.

If she bounces back to such sort of form, she will have her say come the final furlong.

She finished 4th in last year’s edition of the race won by Gold Actor and was subsequently held by the latter again earlier this year in the Nikkei Sho Gr2. Place chance as for me. 

10. Mikki Queen
The 2015 Oaks winner, Mikki Queen returned from a spell after an injury last time QE II where she ran an excellent 3rd over a mile.

She is definitely one of the most talented fillies in training in Japan.

An extremely consistent filly having finished  once outside the first 3 in 11 attempts.

She doesn’t know how to run a bad race.

I think there is no problem with the distance and  assuming she does not feel the 2nd after a rest syndrome, she is my dark horse in the race.

11. Mousquetaire
No form whatsoever to recommend in his last 5 starts. Has passed his best. Back in the days he chased Fenomeno home in the Nikkei Sho, but well held by Cheval Grand and Yamakatsu Ace since of late..

Very hard to see him feature and looks to have an impossible task.
 12. Samson’s Pride
After some very good performance in Allowance Plate earlier this year where he scored and finished runner up twice, he struggled since when being upped in grade.

Well held by Albert and Gold Actor. Has had a rough season where he has been extensively campaigned. Will be a major surprise if he manages a placing let alone winning.
 13. Satono Diamond
One of Japan’s leading 3 year olds, 

Satano Diamond won the Japanese St Leger in most emphatic  style obliterating his rivals with his now customary telling turn of foot.

He comes into the race, with a brilliant record of 7 starts - 5 wins and 2 placings.  

It is really hard to fault such a horse.

He has been a sensational animal endowed with one amazing change in gear that he is very likely to utilize at Nakayama on Sunday.

He won the St Leger at Nakayama, so the track will not be an issue. If they chase Kitasan Black early on, the latter will be vulnerable turning for home, I won’t be surprised to see Satono Diamond flashing home to pick up the pieces.

Should he win this race as a 3 year old, he will join the likes of Gold Ship, Orfevre, Victoire Pisa in the hall of fame all three who achieved stardom status in Japan after winning the race.
 14. Satono Noblesse
Satono Noblesse is a 6 year old son of Deep Impact trained by Yasutoshi Ikee just like Satono Diamond and Mikki Queen. Based on what he has achieved thus so far, Satono Noblesse will need a career best to feature on Sunday.

I feel he is just beneath proper Gr1 standard is in my opinion Gr2 level at best. He has been consistent this year, winning two  Group 3 races, with an excellent 2nd to Gold Actor in the All Comers Stakes Gr2 in between.

He finished in front of Marialiate and Samson’s Pride that day. Having said that he was very average against Maurice in the Tenno Sho in his penultimate run. His last effort was more than decent, but I am not sure if that is good enough to win.
15. Sounds of Earth

This 5 year old son of Neo Universe deserves his day to bask in the Group 1 sun and in truth had been tad unlucky so far finishing 2nd on more than 7 occasions in his last 13 starts. He was 2nd to  Kitasan Black in the Japan Cup and was also 2nd in last year’s renewal of Arima Kinen behind Gold Actor.

Connections must be hoping for a change of luck. He is right there when it comes to form lines and ability. If things fall for him on Sunday; I will not be surprised to see him run the race of his life.

He is long over due a Gr1 win and he is in with big shout.
 16. Tosen Basil
One of the best performing sons of King George winner Harbinger, Tosen Basil prior his tilt at the Japan Cup was on a hat trick sequence winning from 2200-2400. He unfortunately did not raise a gallop in the Japan Cup but connections  still feels; he is worth a short at the Arima Kinen. Notwithstanding his effort in the Japan Cup,  he has been ultra progressive so far, but I feel that this race may just be a bridge too far for him.
 17. Toshin Monstera 


Has not tasted success since 2014. His last win Yutaka Take in the Deep Impact Cup.  

His last 10 run have been catastrophic. Impossible task. It was absolute shocker if he features.
 18.  Yamakatsu Ace
A very gritty winner of the Kinko Sho Gr2 last time out Yamakatsu Ace, a race which featured Denim and Ruby, Mousquetaire and Satono Noblesse. He started the year with a bang and then last his way during the season.

It was nice to see him bounce back at Kyoto last time. It is fair to say he probably isn’t of Gr1 calibre. He has well held in the Takarazuka Kinen Gr1 finishing a disappointing 13th  few starts back; a race won Marialite in front of Duramente and Kitasan Black. Has probably found a new essence for life but very hard task ahead. 



Go give @Jess01313 a follow on Twitter. 



Jess has showed avid interest in horse racing since his very young age and follows horse racing of multiple jurisdictions around the globe. Freelance writer whose articles have been published in Zot Turf.

His articles have also been featured on the GarberSports website.  

He handles the marketing and social media of Hurlywood Racing.

He also administers the Frankel Watch and  Ryan Moore Facebook page which has more than 6000 followers.

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