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Monday, Dec. 23, 2002
Symboli Kris S wins Arima Memorial
FUNABASHI, Chiba Pref. -- France's Olivier Peslier wrapped up the year and his own Christmas present with a victory in Japan's horse racing grand finale Arima Memorial on Sunday aboard the American-born Symboli Kris S.
The race second pick Symboli Kris S shot forward from the 200-meter mark at Nakayama Racecourse to catch and pass longshot Tap Dance City just two strides before the finish for the win by half a length.
Eighth choice Coin Toss finished in third place 2 lengths later, with fourth pick Narita Top Road turning in a fourth-place finish.
The 3-year-old Symboli Kris S clocked 2 minutes, 32.6 seconds over the 2,500 meters of slightly yielding turf.
The win of what is considered Japan's biggest race gave Peslier his first Grade 1 in Japan this year, his sixth since he began riding here in 1995. Peslier became the first foreign jockey to win the Arima Memorial in its 47-year-history.
The race favorite, the 3-year-old filly Fine Motion, failed in her bid to become the first unbeaten horse to win the Arima.
Her rampant popularity took the cheer out of Symboli Kris S' dramatic victory for many and the race finish was met with more moans and grumbles than whoops of delight as close to 122,000 fans saw the favorite fade to a fifth-place finish.
From the gate Fine Motion raced to four lengths in front past the grandstand and continued to put distance between her and the others. Rumbles of concern rolled through the stands. Fine Motion settled into second position down the backstretch as Tap Dance City moved into the lead.
Peslier and Symboli Kris S had remained in sixth position on the rail immediately behind stable mate Coin Toss, with Yukio Okabe up.
Peslier's ground-serving route proved key to his success as did the fact that the pair had been covered by the pacesetting Coin Toss for most of the race.
"I think it was a big help. I could take the time with him today," Peslier said of his horse. "I followed Okabe because he was our pacesetter, but at the final bend I didn't need a pacesetter any more and got out of there."
Peslier was able to bring Symboli Kris S off the rail and out for a clear run in time to gain the top. "I wasn't really worried because, being closed in, I hadn't used up much horse. I knew he still had a lot in him," Peslier said.
Fine Motion's jockey Yutaka Take was unable to offer an explanation for his filly's first loss.
"She just didn't run today. She was very relaxed, the most yet, but, I don't know. It wasn't like she gave it her best and lost. It's really too bad because I had high hopes for her," Take said.
It was the first win of the Arima Memorial for both Peslier and trainer Kazuo Fujisawa. Peslier returns to France for the holidays and is scheduled to return to Japan in late January.
Fujisawa topped Japan's trainers for wins for the eighth year straight, notching a total of 51 firsts this year.