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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

A Christmas Showdown in Japan

Orfevre
Photo: Kate Hunter
While millions of children will push the limits of their bedtimes with a potent combination of great anticipation and the hopes of catching a glimpse of Santa, I will be doing much the same to watch one of the best races of 2011. In one of the more interesting turf races in recent years, a star-studded field of 14 will lineup at Nakayama Racecourse for the Christmas Day, Grade 1 Arima Kinen. With a field this strong, I struggle to even know who to mention first, so I will take the chivalrous route and go with ladies first.

Buena Vista, already a winner of approximately $17 million, and a grade 1 winner in each of her four seasons at the racetrack, will have millions of fans hoping that she can conclude her remarkable career with a win in a race that has seen her narrowly beaten in each of the last two years. Coming off her biggest win in last month’s Japan Cup, Buena Vista has regained the great form that seemed to be fading earlier this year. The victory in Japan’s richest race should have been her second consecutive, but she was unceremoniously disqualified in a highly questionable decision in 2010. The daughter of Special Week should already have another year-end award in her future, but now she gets one more chance in the 1 9/16 mile race that she has been so close to winning in the previous two editions. The Japanese heroine will break from post 1, and if she is to go out a winner, she will need to defeat a slew of topnotch males, including a Triple Crown winner.

If the Arima Kinen does not become the coronation for a retiring champion, it instead could become a passing of the guard to a youngster. When last seen in October, Orfevre was finishing off a dominating series sweep in Japan’s Triple Crown, with a strong win in the 1 7/8 Kikuko Sho. The win allowed the striking chestnut son of Stay Gold to stake his place in history by becoming only the 7th Triple Crown winner in Japanese history. A winner of five straight, he is the full brother of Dream Journey who defeated Buena Vista in the 2009 edition of the Nakayama race. Tomorrow’s big test will be Orfevre’s first attempt against older grade one company, and besides the great mare, several older males will be in there to make sure it will be anything but easy.

Chief among them is the defending champion, Victoire Pisa. The four-year-old colt has shown a strong liking for Nakayama, as he won this race last year, defeating Buena Vista by a nose. Before that he had finishished third in the 2010 Japan Cup. Carrying over his great form from his three-year-old season, Victoire Pisa won the Grade 2 Nakayama Kinen over this same course in February, before traveling to Dubai to win the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup in March. Unfortunately an injury knocked the son of Neo Universe out for several months, and his recent disappointing 13th place finish in the Japan Cup leaves a big question mark as to whether he will return to his great form from early this year. 

Another horse who should draw plenty of attention is Tosen Jordan. Coming off two huge performances, the five-year-old is clearly in the best form of his life. Two starts ago, he set a track record in accounting for the Tenno Sho Autumn, and then came back to give Buena Vista everything she wanted in the Japan Cup. As the two separated from themselves from the rest of the large Cup field, it was the mare who narrowly edged by Tosen Jordan in the closing meters to win by a hard fought neck.

It may not be a national holiday in Japan, but with a race like the Arima Kinen, and a field like this, it seems they sure know how to celebrate Christmas.




 

 

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Older Comments about A Christmas Showdown in Japan...

In case you missed Orfevre's big win this morning ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-z7sGDpjjo
I saw an announcement at TwinSpires recently that they were planning to carry Japan Racing, but I haven't seen an update, and nothing at their site as to whether they will carry this race.
Does anyone know if this race will be televised or streamed online?
I have become a huge fan of Japan racing (and Hong Kong). The time difference does make it hard to watch the races in both Japan and Hong Kong live, but the Japan Racing site makes it easy to watch the race replays shortly after the race. They post the English version the following day. For those interested in finding out more about Japan racing, they have a super web site at JapanRacing.com. Would love to see Buena Vista go out a winner. Sorry to see her leave the stage...will miss her.
I am so excited for this race I hope I can stay awake Will be doing everything I can to be watching I am also lookng to see how Rse Kingdom fairs in this

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing since birth. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 
  
As Managing Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Brian also serves on the the Board of Directors of ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
  
A graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives in Suburban Chicago with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra, where he is a professional golf instructor when he is not following the horses.