Three-year-old Equinox, ridden by Christophe Lemaire, beat older runners as the favorite in the Arima Kinen at Nakayama racecourse on Christmas Day
Silk Racing Co.’s Equinox was third in the public voting that helped determine the starting field for the 67th running of the Grade 1, $7.5 million Arima Kinen, but the 3-year-old Kitasan Black colt was clearly the best of the 16 runners when they raced toward the finish of the 2,500-meter contest (approximately 1 9/16 miles) held on Christmas Day at Nakayama Racecourse in Tokyo, Japan.
Ridden by Christophe Lemaire for trainer Tetsuya Kimura, Equinox – a great-grandson of 1989 U.S. Horse of the Year Sunday Silence – overpowered his rivals with a devastating turn of foot in the final quarter mile to win by 2 1/2 lengths in 2:32.40 on good to firm turf on the clockwise course. He was sent off as the 13-10 favorite.
Another 3-year-old colt, Boldog Hos, finished second, with the 4-year-old filly Geraldina third and 5-year-old mare Izu Jo no Kiseki fourth. Efforia, reigning horse of the year and defending Arima Kinen champion, was fifth. Titleholder, a three-time G1 winner who received the most votes in the fans’ all-star type balloting, finished ninth as the second wagering choice in an effort to rebound from a dull 11th-place finish in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Equinox raced in ninth position early while three or paths off the rail and in the clear as Titleholder set the early pace. When the field reached the final turn and began rounding toward the stretch run, Lemaire eased Equinox further to the outside with about three furlongs to go. The brown colt quickly overtook the frontrunners and opened up on his rivals en route to the victory.
The win was the fourth in six starts for Equinox, who was bred in Japan by Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm. He won the G2 Tokyo Sports Hai at 2, and was second in two G1 events earlier this year: the Satsuki Sho (2,000 Guineas) and Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby).
“What happens twice will happen thrice,” said Lemaire. “I won the Arima Kinen with Heart’s Cry and Satono Diamond both on Christmas Day, and I’m really happy to be able to win the race on Christmas Day again. We were able to make a good start and the horse was keen to go so I held him and responded strongly when I brought him to the outside. Though he was not mature yet during his spring campaign, he became really strong from this fall and I look forward to his performance next year.”
The Arima Kinen is Japan’s most popular race, having once attracted 177,779 to Nakayama for the farewell race of Oguri Cap in 1990. With attendance at major events still limited due to COVID-19, the Japan Racing Association reported a crowd of 39,670. Wagering on the day was over 65 trillion yen (about US$493 million) and 52 trillion yen (US$393 million) was bet on the Arima Kinen itself. The amount wagering on the full card compares favorably to the $263 million bet on the 2022 Kentucky Derby card and the $189 million wagered over two days of the 2022 Breeders’ Cup.