The Kentucky Derby is quickly becoming an unmissable event on the racing calendar across the globe, as more and more international runners are lining up in the Run for the Roses.
The Irish have tried to target the race in recent history, but Aidan O’Brien’s failed attempt in 2018 has failed to ignite much European interest in the dirt race at Churchill Downs.
However, the same can’t be said for Japanese trainers. They are yet to put their name among the Kentucky Derby winners but they came close. Once again, in 2023 the Japanese will target some of the biggest races on the calendar, as they bid to win more illustrious races and further their glowing reputation across the planet.
Japanese Global Success
Japan is certainly seen as one of the emerging threats to the dominance achieved by the United States trainers on the dirt and the Europeans on the turf. Still, the trainers from Asia are still yet to achieve the goals that they desire in races such as the Kentucky Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. But, there’s little doubt that they are edging closer with every passing year.
The Breeders’ Cup in 2021 was only further evidence that the Japanese are no longer an emerging danger, but they are a chief danger to the world’s biggest races. Loves Only You claimed victory in the Filly & Mare Turf, while Marche Lorraine upset America’s superstar fillies such as Malathaat, Clairiere, and Letruska to win a famous Distaff.
Last year looked set to be the Japanese’s best chance of winning the Arc for the first time, as Titleholder was among the leading contenders in the betting. However, it was yet more heartbreak for the Japanese, as he could only finish in eleventh despite being a solid contender at 8/1.
The dream of winning the Kentucky Derby remains a new one in Japan, as only four previous contenders have tried their luck. The path is certainly now there for the Japanese runners to test their skills, and that was rewarded in 2016 when Lani finished third in the Belmont Stakes after competing in all three Triple Crown races.
It’s likely that further Japanese trained runners will test the Derby route again this year, as there are four key opportunities to earn qualifying points in the country. The Cattleya Sho is the first race in November, and last year it was won by Continuar, before the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun was won by Derma Sotogake in December.
However, the two key qualifying races in the region come in the forms of the Hyacinth at Tokyo, and the Fukuryu at Nakayama. The latter will be staged in March, and offers 40 qualifying points, which would effectively book a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Crown Pride’s Derby Effort
Crown Pride became the fourth Japanese Derby contender in 2022, as he made his way to Churchill Downs in April after landing a stunning victory in the G1 UAE Derby. In truth, it was a fine display by the Koichi Shitani-trained runner in the Run for the Roses, as he pressed the pace after the first couple of furlongs. However, ultimately, he faded in the closing stages of the race and could only finish 13th.
However, he still finished ahead of some incredibly talented American runner. That included Messier, who was a Derby favorite earlier in 2022. Crown Pride also finished ahead of Cyberknife, who later went on to claim victory in the H1 Haskell Stakes.
But, overall, his run continued to show that the Japanese can target the Derby at Churchill Downs, and expect a good run despite being unfavored in the betting against the American runners.
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