An emerging star in Japan and some nice graded stakes on Boxing Day at Santa Anita provided some holiday glitter in a sparse weekend racing schedule.
Here's how the final full weekend of 2016 unfolded:
Satono Diamond, the only 3-year-old in the field, ran by first Gold Actor and then pacemaking Japan Cup winner Kitasan Black in the final 100 meters to win Sunday's Grade I Arima Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse. Kitasan Black held on gamely to finish second, a neck in arrears and 1/2 length ahead of Gold Actor.
Satono Diamond, a Deep Impact colt, ran the demanding 2,500 meters on firm going in 2:32.6 with Christophe Lemaire in the irons.
For owner Hajimi Satomi, the win completed a hat trick. Two weeks previously, his Satono Crown won the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. A week ago, his Satono Ares took the Asahi Hai Futurity.
It was an emotional win for Lemaire, who won his first Japanese Grade I with Heart's Cry in the Arima Kinen.
"I have partnered this colt, Satono Diamond, since he was still a newcomer and he's become a super horse," Lemaire said. "He can be a little difficult at times and he got keen early but today, he was able to relax when I placed him behind Kitasan Balck and put in a strong finish."
Lemaire added Satono Diamond "is a fine colt with a lot of talent, stamina and great potential to become a strong contender in big races next year."
It was the third straight win for Satono Diamond, who also accounted for the Grade I Kikuka Sho, or Japanese St. Leger, in his previous start -- that at 3,000 meters. The bay colt now is 6-for-8 and a potential successor in a long line of Japanese prospects for some of the world's top races, including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, an elusive target.
Constellation pressed pacesetting Finley'sluckycharm into the stretch in Monday's $300,000 Grade I La Brea for 3-year-old fillies, dropped back a bit and then came again to win by 1/2 length. Finley'sluckycharm held second, 3 lengths ahead of Enola Gray. The favorite, Lightstream, finished fifth -- her first off-the-board result.
Constellation, a Bellamy Road filly, finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.83 with Flavien Prat riding.
"That race kind of unfolded the way we thought it would," said winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. "I think Flavien was a little lucky to get through between horses, and that was the key to winning the race." Constellation previously won at Saratoga and Aqueduct and most recently was an easy winner in the Phoenix Stakes at Turf Paradise after an eight-months layoff.
Mind Your Biscuits ran by Sharp Azteca in deep stretch to win Monday's $300,000 Grade I Malibu for 3-year-olds by 1/2 length over that one. Ten Blessings was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third.
Mind Your Biscuits, a Posse colt, was coming off a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He covered 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20.81 with Joel Rosario aboard.
"I was a little concerned in the stretch," Rosario said. "We were closer than we have ever been before. They were smoking up front. We got a little late kick and he took off."
Conquest Enforcer led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths victory in Monday's $200,000 Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile for 3-year-olds. Mittersill rallied from well back to take second, 1/2 length ahead of Moonlight Drive. Conquest Enforcer, an Into Mischief colt, finished in 1:33.64 with Flavien Pratt at the controls. It was his first start outside Woodbine, where he won four of seven starts.
"I am very happy," said trainer Phil D'Amato, who took over training duties from Mark Casse. "He's settled into our program really nicely and I think the sky is the limit with this horse. Prat is a great fit for him. This horse actually reminds me of Obviously and he guided Obviously to a nice Breeders' Cup win and hopefully next year we're doing the same with this horse."
Betty's Bambino picked up right where he left off after a suspensory injury in February -- making it five wins in a row with an off-the-pace victory in Monday's $100,000 Grade III San Simeon down the hillside turf course. With Rosario up, the 6-year-old Unusual Heat gelding race in mid-pack, came six-wide into the stretch and won off by 2 1/4 lengths over Stormy Liberal. The favorite, Richard's Boy, finished third, just another head back.
Betty's Bambino ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:11.95. He has been defeated only once in seven tries down the hill but his last race was Feb. 21.
"He took six months off and he came back training great for the race," said winning trainer Peter Eurton. "No issues whatsoever. We had to give him the normal time off to recover and here he is today."
Danzatrice stalked the pace in Monday's $50,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes for fillies and mares, took the lead entering the stretch turn and kicked away to a 7 1/4-lengths victory. Include Betty, the 1-2 favorite, finished second, 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Rosie My Rosie. Danzatrice, a 4-year-old Dunkirk filly, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:42.45 with Florent Geroux at the controls.
Bodacious Babe pressed the pace through the early furlongs of Monday's $60,000 Margate Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, went on when asked by jockey Nik Juarez and won by 3 1/4 lengths. Mo' Green was second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of My Awesome Mom. Bodacious Babe, a Mineshaft filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.74.