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Another season of Japanese thoroughbred racing comes to an end on Sunday with the 55th Arima Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse, where 16 of the nation’s most popular runners will try to have the last laugh of 2010.

The Arima Kinen is neck and neck each year with Britain’s Grand National as the world’s highest grossing race, generating sales of more than ¥40.4 billion last season. At its all-time high 14 years ago, the Arima Kinen raked in a phenomenal ¥87.5 billion.

The first 10 horses in the maximum field of 16 are chosen by the fans, the rest determined in order of earnings. The top vote-getter this year was none other than Buena Vista, the autumn Tenno-sho champion and the demoted runnerup in last month’s controversial Japan Cup.

The 4-year-old Buena Vista has been the first choice in all 14 of her starts on Japanese soil, and the Hiroyoshi Matsuda-trained filly again should be the favorite this weekend.

Buena Vista, who was second in the Arima Kinen last year, comfortably crossed the line first in the Japan Cup, but was dropped to second behind Rose Kingdom on grounds of interference.

Buena Vista has never finished under third in any Grade 1 race for her career, and the trend is not expected to change on Sunday barring some unforeseen accident — like the one in the Japan Cup.

“I hope we can live up to the results of the voting,” Matsuda said earlier this week. “It doesn’t matter what the competition does. The goal is for her to become horse of the year in the end.”

Buena Vista, though, will not have the opportunity to get even with Rose Kingdom in the Japan Cup.

The 3-year-old Rose Kingdom — who garnered the second most fan votes and likely would have been the narrow second pick after Buena Vista in the ¥379 million race — pulled out with stomach pains, his trainer Kojiro Hashiguchi announced on Friday.

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