12/24/2006 1:00AM

Deep Impact victorious in Arima Kinen


Deep Impact bid his legions of fans a fond farewell at Nakayama Racecourse on Sunday with an emphatic 3-length victory in the $2.9 million Arima Kinen. The 4-year-old son of Sunday Silence, who started as an odds-on favorite in all 14 of his career starts, now retires with a well-earned reputation as the greatest Thoroughbred in the history of Japanese racing.

Yutaka Take, who rode Deep Impact in all of his races, was content to settle his charge in 13th place early on, ahead of only two rivals as Admire Main sped to a clear lead. Deep Impact quickened on the final bend approaching the quarter pole, leading at the furlong marker, then zooming clear to make amends for his loss to Heart's Cry in last year's Arima Kinen, the only time he had ever tasted defeat on home soil.

Depite the absence of Heart's Cry this time, Deep Impact was beating a world class field. Melbourne Cup runner-up Pop Rock was second with recent two-time Grade 1 winner Daiwa Major third, three quarters of a length further behind and a nose ahead of the unlucky Dream Passport, the 3-year-old who had finished second to Deep Impact in the Japan Cup on Nov. 26. This year's Japanese Derby winner Meisho Samson was fifth with Melbourne Cup winner Delta Blues sixth, beaten 5-3/4 lengths.

Sent off as the 1-5 darling by the huge 100,000-plus Christmas Eve crowd, the Yasuo Ikee-trained Deep Impact covered the 1 9/16 miles in 2:31.90 on firm ground. Victory was his seventh at the Grade 1 level, equaling the record for a Japanese-trained horse. Owned by Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co. Ltd., Deep Impact was bred in Japan by Northern Farm but will soon be reporting to Shadai Stallion Station, the longtime Hokkaido home of his sire Sunday Silence at which he has been syndicated for $62 million, and where he will be joining El Condor Pasa, End Sweep, French Deputy, Fuji Kiseki, Helissio and Kurofune.

In addition to winning last year's Japanese Triple Crown (1 1/4-mile Japanese 2000 Guineas, 1 1/2-mile Japanese Derby and 1 7/8-mile Japanese St. Leger), Deep Impact this year won the 1 7/8-mile Hanshin Daishoten, the 2-mile Spring Tenno Sho, or Emperor's Cup, in which he set a new Kyoto track record, the 1 3/8-mile Takarazuka Kinen and the Japan Cup. His 2006 record was marred only by his one-length third-place finish in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, from which he was subsequently disqualified for a drug positive.

Deep Impact departs the racetrack with 12 wins and one second from 14 starts for earnings of $12,830,592, placing him second on the all-time list behind T.M. Opera O, the 2000 Japan Cup winner who earned $16,200,337 in 26 career starts. In spite of his arc loss, in which he went off at the longest price of his career at 1-2, there is growing sentiment that Deep Impact leaves the scene as the best racechorse in the world this year.