Zenno Rob Roy takes Arima Memorial

by Barbara Bayer

Zenno Rob Roy and Tap Dance City turned the Arima Memorial into a match race Sunday at Nakayama Racecourse, the crowd roaring as the two grade 1 champions went neck-and-neck down the stretch.

It was Zenno Rob Roy, however, who danced his way in record time to the Arima winner’s circle by half a length to pull off a dazzling racing hat trick: the fall Emperor’s Prize, the Japan Cup, and the year’s grand finale Arima Memorial — three of the most prestigious races in Japanese racing.

Silk Famous crossed the line in third place a length and a half behind runnerup Tap Dance City, with Daitaku Bertram finishing in fourth a length later.

The roar from the crowd, not mere cheers but a seeming solid wall of sound, continued long after the winner had crossed the finish line. When the red record light went on, the roar swelled to shake the stands.

Zenno Rob Roy covered the 2,500 meters of turf in 2 minutes, 29.5 second and shaved one full second off Symboli Kris S’s race record time of last year.

The victory gave both Japan’s top trainer, Kazuo Fujisawa, and French jockey Olivier Peslier not only their third win of the Arima Memorial itself but their third consecutive win of the esteemed race.

From the gate, Tap Dance City, winner of the 2003 Japan Cup, took the lead as expected and pulled the all-male field of 15 at a medium pace. Race-favorite Zenno Rob Roy, breaking from the No. 1 gate, was held to the rail by Peslier until the final stretch.

Peslier said he had felt good from the beginning. “He started well. We had a good lead and we had plenty of space.”

Into the stretch, just past the 200-meter mark, Peslier brought Zenno Rob Roy out with two whacks of his whip, took a fragile lead with some 100 meters to go, and hung on for the win.

Fujisawa said they will likely look to race the colt abroad next year and will likely aim for Newmarket and possibly an outing at Ascot.

The dark bay Zenno Rob Roy, by Sunday Silence out of the Mining mare Roamin Rachel, is owned by Shinobu Osako and was bred at Shiraoi Farm in Hokkaido. His accumulated earnings from seven wins in 15 starts got a 180 million yen boost from the Arima and now stand at over 964 million yen.

Over 125,000 spectators were in attendance at Nakayama with over 62.5 billion yen wagered on the Arima alone.