12/20/2007 1:00AM

Siblings to clash in $3 million Arima Kinen

EmailEven without the recent Japan Cup winner, Admire Moon, or last year's winner, Deep Impact, Sunday's $3 million Arima Kinen still rates as the race of the year in Japan.

Nakayama racecourse just east of Tokyo will be the scene of a family duel between half-brother and half-sister as Daiwa Major and Daiwa Scarlet square off in the 1 9/16-mile Grade 1 contest.

A Sunday Silence 6-year-old, Daiwa Major is a six-time Grade 1 winner coming off a successful defense of his Mile Championship title. While he has won the Japanese 2000 Guineas and the Autumn Tenno Sho going 1 1/4 miles and was third to Deep Impact in last year's Arima Kinen, there are doubts about his ability to stay 12 1/2 furlongs. His 3-year-old Agnes Tachyon half-sister, Daiwa Scarlet, has won four in a row, among them the one-mile Japanese 1000 Guineas, the 1 1/4-mile Shuka Sho, and the 1 3/8-mile Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, but is facing older colts for the first time.

Katsumi Ando, the regular rider of both Daiwas, has chosen "Scarlet," while Mirco Demuro flies in from Italy to partner with "Major."

Meisho Samson will have no problem with the distance. Last year's Japanese Derby winner, he won the two-mile Spring Tenno Sho in April. He was an unlucky third, beaten less than half a length, in the Japan Cup by the now-retired Admire Moon and could start as the favorite with Yutaka Take aboard.

The selection, though, is Pop Rock. A head second in the Japan Cup and runner-up in the 2006 Melbourne Cup, he will have the services of French big-race specialist Olivier Peslier, who rode Pop Rock's sire, Helissio, to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1996.

It was Delta Blues, a Dance in the Dark 6-year-old, who nosed Pop Rock out of that Melbourne Cup, but he has been unplaced in six starts since then. The late-running filly Vodka got up to win the Japanese Derby and closed for fourth in the Japan Cup, but her chances will be compromised by Nakayama's short, 1 1/2-furlong stretch.