Sunday’s $5.4 million Arima Kinen (G1) lived up to expectations, with market leaders Satono Diamond and Kitasan Black fighting out a terrific finish in the Nakayama showpiece. The bettors sent off both at odds of 8-5, marginally favoring Satono Diamond over last-out Japan Cup (G1) winner Kitasan Black, and the upwardly mobile sophomore justified his slight favoritism by getting up by a neck.
Having stated a persuasive case for Japanese champion three-year-old colt honors, Satono Diamond will harbor international ambitions for 2017. Winning rider Christophe Lemaire was already mentioning the race most coveted by the Japanese – the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) – in the post-race interview (see video below).
“This is so thrilling for me,” Lemaire said. “I won my first Grade 1 title in the same race with Heart’s Cry (in 2005) but I have partnered this colt, Satono Diamond, since he was still a newcomer and he’s become a super horse.
“He can be a little difficult at times and he got keen early but today, he was able to relax when I placed him behind Kitasan Black and put in a strong finish to win this race as race favorite. He has won the Arima Kinen (against older horses) as a three-year-old and he is a fine colt with a lot of talent, stamina and great potential to become a strong contender in big races next year.”
Satono Diamond deserves extra credit for covering more ground from post 11, and having to use more energy earlier than ideal when improving his position into fourth. Meanwhile, Kitasan Black was saving every yard from his rail draw. Although not dictating the pace as in the Japan Cup, Kitasan Black was traveling comfortably stalking the leader Maltese Apogee, and defending Arima Kinen champion Gold Actor shadowed him in third.
Rounding the final turn, Lemaire began to niggle at Satono Diamond, but Kitasan Black was launching a strong bid to overtake the spent Maltese Apogee. Gold Actor moved in tandem with Kitasan Black, trying mightily to retain his crown, only to be rebuffed. Kitasan Black edged away and appeared to have victory in his grasp.
At last, Satono Diamond, who had been soldiering on down the lane, struck top gear. The son of Deep Impact summoned a final burst to catch Kitasan Black in the shadow of the post, finishing about 1 9/16 miles on the firm turf in 2:32.6. The top two could be colloquially described as “cousins,” for Kitasan Black is by Deep Impact’s full brother, Black Tide.
Gold Actor checked in another half-length astern in third. Late-running Yamakatsu Ace clocked the fastest 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :35.1 to grab fourth.
The first three-year-old to win the Arima Kinen since Gold Ship in 2012, Satono Diamond extended his record to 8-6-1-1. The Yasutoshi Ikee pupil commenced his career with a three-race winning streak, capped by the Kisaragi Sho (G3) at Kyoto last February. After placing third in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1) and a near-miss second to Makahiki in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1) in the spring, Satono Diamond has blossomed over the fall. He regained the winning thread in the September 25 Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2) at Hanshin, his stepping stone to an authoritative success in the October 23 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) (G1) back at Kyoto.
The Arima Kinen represented a cutback in trip from about 1 7/8 miles, and a class hike versus Japan’s leading older horses. By catching a horse the caliber of Kitasan Black in full flight, he aced his test.
Satono Diamond was also continuing a hot streak for owner Hajime Satomi, who has won major events on three successive Sundays in December. Satono Crown upset Highland Reel in the December 11 Hong Kong Vase (G1), and on December 18, Satono Ares captured Japan’s premier race for juveniles, the Asahi Hai Futurity (G1).
Out of multiple Argentinean Group 1 heroine Malpensa, a daughter of Orpen, Satono Diamond was sold for ¥241.5 million at the 2013 Japan Racing Horse Association Select Sale. That made him the second-best seller, surpassed only by the ¥252 million for Leukerbad, Hall of Famer Azeri’s son by Deep Impact. Ironically, the duo met in a newcomers’ race at Kyoto as juveniles, and Satono Diamond had the satisfaction of coming out on top.