Gold Ship wins the Arima Kinen.
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Gold Ship wins the Arima Kinen.
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Kate Hunter

Gold Ship Sails Last to First in Arima Kinen

The Stay Gold colt is the third straight 3-year-old to win Japan's season finale.

Favorite and dual classic winner Gold Ship scored a thrilling come-from-behind tour de force in the Arima Kinen (Jpn-I), Japan’s season finale and all-star race Dec. 23 at Nakayama.

The gray colt entered as Japan’s top 3-year-old and was facing older opponents at the group I level for the first time. Racing in last place 600 meters out, he looked like a no-hoper under Hiroyuki Uchida. But he powerfully accelerated on cue past 15 opponents with a mighty outside rally and into contention into the stretch.

Charging down the center of the track, Gold Ship overtook runner-up Ocean Blue and Eishin Flash in final 50 yards and held off a brilliant closing run from third-place finisher Rulership, who once again could not overcome his well-known problems in the gate.

Rulership stalked Gold Ship at the back of the field early after rearing at the start and losing several lengths before gradually improving his position, but he could not get to the winner. Eishin Flash held for fourth place.

Gold Ship won by 1 1/2 lengths from Ocean Blue and finished 2,500 meters (1 9/16 miles) in 2:31.90 as the 5-2 favorite on firm turf. Ocean Blue checked in a neck in front of 7-2 second choice Rulership, a top level winner in Hong Kong seeking a breakthrough group I win in his native Japan after three previous races compromised by poor starts.

“It was an amazing win and he really showed how tough he is,” trainer Naosuke Sugai said of Gold Ship. “He turned out to become Santa Claus for the fans (being the race favorite) and I’m very happy. He will probably head for the Tenno Sho (Spring) (Jpn-I) in April, and the Takarazuka Kinen (Jpn-I) in June next season.”

Gold Ship’s win marks the third consecutive year in which a 3-year-old male has captured the Arima Kinen, which arguably generates the largest handle of any race in the world due in part to many of the runners being determined by fan voting.

But absent from the event was Orfevre, 2011 Horse of the Year and last year’s Arima Kinen victor who garnered the most fan votes. Also missing was filly Triple Crown winner Gentildonna, the fourth-highest vote-getter, who defeated Orfevre in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) in a thrilling duel. The Japan Cup marked the final start of the season for both.

Rulership was second in the fan voting, with Gold Ship sixth.

Eiichi Kobayashi’s homebred Gold Ship posted his third win group I triumph in the Arima Kinen. He entered with four wins from five starts this season, including the 3,000-meter (1 7/8-mile) Kikuka Sho (Jpn-I, Japanese St. Leger) with a last-to first rally Oct. 21 in his most previous start. He also captured the Satsuki Sho (Jpn-I, Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) in April before running fifth in the Tokyo Yushun (Jpn-I, Japanese Derby) in May.

Both the winner and runner-up are by Stay Gold, also the sire of Orfevre among seven stakes winners this year. The 18-year-old son of Sunday Silence stands at Shigeyuki Okada's Big Red Farm in Niikkap on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Gold Ship is one of three winners is out of Japanese group III-placed Point Flag, by Mejiro McQueen.