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Gold Ship confirms star power in Arima Kinen

Dual Japanese classic winner Gold Ship was already assured of the champion three-year-old colt title, but the talented gray wrapped it up in fancy paper and placed a beautiful bow on top with his impressive display over older horses in Sunday's Grade 1 Arima Kinen at Nakayama. Under confident handling by jockey Hiroyuki Uchida, the 8-5 favorite loped along in last before unleashing a potent turn of foot, demolishing a strong cast to win this year-end "Grand Prix" going away by 1 1/2 lengths.

"It was an amazing win and he really showed how tough he is," trainer Naosuke Sugai said. "He turned out to become Santa Claus for the fans (as the winning favorite) and I'm very happy."

Eiichi Kobayashi's homebred is now five-for six in 2012, highlighted by victories in the first and third legs of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) here on April 15 and the Grade 1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) at Kyoto last out on October 21.

"I'm just overjoyed to cap off the season with another amazing Grade 1 victory with the colt who helped me make my comeback this season," Uchida said. "As he was off slow, we had to chase the field from behind, but I tried not to push him in the early turns and settled him near the rear.

"I knew he would have the strength for the last run even if we took a wide trip in the last two corners. I had to steer him out wider than I hoped, but he's not the type to run out of steam easily and I had every faith in him. He proved himself a true winner and I'm very grateful."

The Arima Kinen field is partly decided by the votes of racing fans, who choose their 10 most popular runners for the all-star event, and the remaining contestants are determined by earnings. Orfevre, the 2011 winner, was the top vote-getter, but he skipped a title defense. The filly Gentildonna, who just outdueled Orfevre in the Grade 1 Japan Cup, was fourth in the balloting, but she too opted for a Christmas vacation.

Rulership, most recently third to Orfevre and Gentildonna in the Japan Cup, garnered the second-most votes. Although Gold Ship came in sixth in the fan ballot, he was bet down and took over the favorite's mantle, and Rulership went off as the 5-2 second choice.

Rulership totally blew the start, breaking in the air and spotting the rest of the field several lengths right out of the gate. Earnestly took up the running, attended by Beat Black, while Eishin Flash was reserved roughly in midpack, Ocean Blue further behind. Trailblazer, last seen finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, was also among the latter part of the field. Rulership caught up to the tail end of the group and passed three horses, leaving the unhurried Gold Ship as the backmarker.

The Arima Kinen appeared wide open as the rivals fanned out to launch their bids down the stretch. Eishin Flash was the first to stake a bold claim and opened up briefly, but Ocean Blue was quickly bearing down on him, and wider out still came the charging Gold Ship. With ground-devouring strides, the top-class sophomore steamed past Ocean Blue and Eishin Flash and completed 1 9/16 miles on firm turf in 2:31.9.

Ocean Blue salvaged second by a neck from the fast-finishing Rulership, and Eishin Flash reported home another 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth. Sky Dignity, Dark Shadow, Nakayama Knight, Lelouch, Beat Black, Daiwa Falcon, Earnestly, Rose Kingdom, Trailblazer, Oken Bruce Lee, Never Bouchon and To the Glory rounded out the order of finish.

Gold Ship now sports an overall mark of 10-7-2-0, 639,789,000. The winner of his first two career starts as a juvenile, he ended 2011 with a pair of runner-up efforts in the Grade 3 Sapporo Nisai and Grade 3 Radio Nikkai Hai. Gold Ship captured a classic trial, the Grade 3 Kyodo News Service Hai, at Tokyo on February 12 before his good-looking 2 1/2-length score in the Satsuki Sho. The only time that he failed to make the exacta was in the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) May 27, where he rallied for a close fifth. He rebounded in style in the Grade 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai at Hanshin September 23, his prelude to the Kikuka Sho, and he has now won three straight.

Gold Ship is bred on a potent cross. Like Orfevre, he is by Stay Gold and out of a Mejiro McQueen mare -- in Gold Ship's case, the Japanese stakes-placed Point Flag.

Stay Gold has now sired three of the past four winners of the Arima Kinen, beginning with Dream Journey (2009), the full brother of Orfevre. Moreover, Stay Gold achieved a one-two finish on Sunday, for Ocean Blue is by the same stallion.

Sugai mentioned the usual early-season targets for Gold Ship.

"He will probably head for the Tenno Sho (Spring) in April, and the Takarazuka Kinen in June next season," the trainer said.

The Grade 1 Tenno Sho Spring, a two-mile affair at Kyoto, is scheduled for April 28. The Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen, over 1 3/8 miles at Hanshin, will be held on June 23.

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