Saturday, 24 December 2011
: The Japanese racing year will end on a huge high on Christmas Day when Japan Cup winner Buena Vista meets Triple Crown hero Orfevre and defending champion and Dubai World Cup winner Victoire Pisa in a tremendous season finale in the Arima Kinen at Nakayama.
Known colloquially in Japan as the 'Grand Prix', the 384 million yen event is the biggest betting race of the year in Japan with its national interest making it the Japanese equivalent of races like the Grand National, Melbourne Cup and Kentucky Derby.
It can also claim to attract bigger betting turnover than any other race in the world and may set records this year with such a stellar cast.
The Arima Kinen will bring down the curtain on the glittering career of reigning horse of the year Buena Vista.
After a frustrating sequence of near misses, the five-year-old was back to her best in the Japan Cup in November when she beat Tosen Jordan and JaguarMail, both rivals again in the 14-runner Arima Kinen.
"She's won a Grade 1 race the last four years and you can only be grateful for what she's achieved," said trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda.
"She's such an amazing horse because she knows how to get herself into shape. Just like always, she'll do what she's got to do here as well."
Her jockey Yasunari Iwata added: "She ran a strong race in the Japan Cup but I think she'll be even better for the Arima Kinen.
“If she can run the way she knows how to run, we don't have a single thing to worry about. I hope she can finish her career on a high note."
Buena Vista is drawn the rails barrier with Dubai World Cup winner Victoire Pisa in gate two.
He was never a factor in the Japan Cup after an eight-month injury layoff but is expected to be much better for that run as he bids to repeat last year's victory when he touched off Buena Vista with the return to Nakayama where he is unbeaten in four starts.
"He's shown no signs of stress, and he pretty much went right back to work after the race," said trainer Katsuhiko Sumii said.
"Without a doubt, he's far more ready to run than last time, which was disappointing."
Orfevre is one of just two three-year-olds alongside Red Davis taking their chance against a galaxy of older stars.
The son of Stay Gold has won his last five races including dominant successes in all three legs of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Satsuki Sho (2000 Guineas), the Tokyo Yushun (Derby) and Kikuka Sho (St Leger) to be the first horse to achieve the feat since Deep Impact in 2005.
Orfevre missed the Japan Cup to prepare for the Arima Kinen.
"It's just less taxing on the body if we space out his races more," said trainer Yasutoshi Ikee. "Like we had hoped, he has started to fill out while he was away from the track.
"He's gotten even bigger, to a point where it's almost intimidating. He'll definitely weigh in more.
"He raced really well in his two starts this autumn and he shouldn't have a problem with Nakayama."