If you decided to stay up late on Saturday night to watch some racing from Japan (or for you East Coasters, early, early, early on Sunday morning), you were treated to quite the spectacle for the final start of Orfevre's career. The Japanese Triple Crown winner and two time runner up in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe capped off his brilliant career with a victory in the G1-Arima Kinen by eight lengths over his outmatched rivals.
The Arima Kinen, originally the Nakayama Grand Prix, is a 2,500 meter (approximately 12 1/2 furlongs) race run on a right-handed turf course in which many of the participants are "chosen" by fan balloting. You read that right. The racing fans in Japan vote on which horses they want to see entered in the race. And while that doesn't require any of them to actually run (several of this year's top vote getters skipped the race), just the fact that the racing fans are asked which horses they want to see run is unique. From the JRA website:
The Arima Kinen was designed to be a season-end Grand Prix, in which the runners were selected by fan poll-an "All-Star" event in Japanese Racing. Fans could cast their votes by ballots available at JRA racecourses and off-track betting sites, by mail or by online to select the ten most popular runners. The rest of the field is determined in order of earnings. Foreign runners that won the Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m) became eligible to race in the Arima in 2000 then the race was designated as an international G1 race and open to a maximum of six foreign runners in 2007, though no foreign runners have yet participated in the race.
Second choice in the ballots was Kizuna (JPN, by Deep Impact), in fourth was Gentildonna (JPN, by Deep Impact), and Meisho Mambo (JPN, by Suzuka Mambo), Tosen Ra (JPN, by Deep Impact), Epiphaneia (JPN, by Symboli Kris S), Fenomeno (JPN, by Stay Gold) and Just a Way (JPN, by Heart's Cry) were voted sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth, respectively, but all decided not to run to prepare for the next season. Voted fifth was Eishin Flash (JPN, by King's Best) who was to make his last appearance before being sent to stud, however was forced to withdraw just a few days before the race because of a sprain in the fetlock area of his right fore-leg.
Orfevre began the Arima Kinen slowly and raced fourth from the rear through the early stages of the contest. Content to wait for the race to develop in front of them, Orfevre and jockey Kenichi Ikezoe did little to improve their position through the first three turns of the two lap event. As the field approached the fourth and final turn, Orfevre raced to the outside of his rivals and quickly rolled towards the front of the field in one big, smooth move at the top of the lane. By the time he hit the front of the field the only question that remained was how many lengths the champion would win by in his final race.
It was a fitting end to Orfevre's racing career: a dominating performance in front of a crowd of over 100,000 fans in his homeland. Here's to a happy retirement and a productive career in the breeding shed in the years ahead.
Japanese racing clocks their races in furlong increments and the splits from the Arima Kinen are listed below: