Horse Racing

Kentucky Derby Starter a Source of ‘Pride’ for Japan

Anyone who tends to discount the chances of Japan’s Crown Pride  in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) has not been paying attention to the results of some major international races during the last six months.

For as much as only three Japanese-based 3-year-olds have competed in the Run for the Roses, and they finished sixth, ninth, and 14th, horses from the island nation have enjoyed a remarkably prosperous stretch while traveling to all ends of the globe in recent months.

Going into last year’s event, Japanese horses had also been shut out at the Breeders’ Cup. But that goose egg disappeared Nov. 6 in the face of two victories. One came in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) by Loves Only You , who was a fancied 4-1 proposition. Yet the other was a 49-1 shocker when Marche Lorraine  stunned America’s best dirt females by winning the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) over a field that included two future Eclipse Award winners in Letruska  and Malathaat .

Push ahead to the Saudi Cup in February and victorious Japanese runners accounted for four of the six rich graded stakes on the card at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

The following month, Teruya Yoshida’s homebred Crown Pride, a son of Reach the Crown , captured the UAE Derby Sponsored by Mubadala (G2) to earn his spot in the Kentucky Derby field, and the list of winners did not stop there. A total of five horses from Japan were triumphant on the star-studded card, and in the featured $12 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) Japan’s Chuwa Wizard  was third after finishing second in the race a year earlier.

Sign up for

Given all of that success on major international stages, toss out Crown Pride at the peril of your wagering bankroll.

“I have been surprised and overwhelmed by the international wins from Japanese horses,” said Kei Matsuzawa, general manager of the Japan Racing Association’s New York representative office. “I have tremendous respect for the connections of these horses and our racing and breeding organizations and it has led to a new era for Japanese racing. We have a good grounding and are becoming more experienced and successful in these races.”

Helping the cause for Crown Pride is that he is highly accomplished and arguably better than the temperamental Lani , who also won the UAE Derby and finished third in the 2016 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) after competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

In his four career starts, Crown Pride’s lone loss came on a muddy track in the Hyacinth Stakes and his three wins came at distances of 1 1/8 miles or more, which should bode well for his ability to handle the grueling 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby that often trips up American hopefuls at Churchill Downs.

Crown Pride - Gallop - Churchill Downs - 04-22-22
Photo: Coady Photography

Crown Pride gallops April 22 at Churchill Downs

“Since the horse is in good condition right now, I am very hopeful going into the race. The distance should suit him well,” said Yoshida, who will be on hand in Louisville to watch his horse run. “It is not a very easy race to win, so I will be happy if he hits the board. It will be a great achievement.”

In the UAE Derby, contested at 1 3/16 miles, Crown Pride displayed his affinity for a distance of ground by rallying with a wide, sweeping move to post a 2 3/4-length victory over the Dubai-based Summer Is Tomorrow , who is also scheduled to start in the May 7 Run for the Roses.

“He really seems like a horse who has a strong stride and good stamina, so the distance of the Kentucky Derby should be perfect for him,” said trainer Koichi Shintani. “American horses have good speed and stamina and are also quite used to the sharper turns common in American tracks. Crown Pride has proven to be good out of the gate and getting a good position in his races as well as handling the turns, so I think we are in position to be hopeful for a good result.”

Crown Pride also reflects how the Japanese breeding industry has taken some giant-sized strides forward.

His owner is the grandson of Zensuke Yoshida, a pioneer of the Japanese racing industry. His father, Zenya, built Japan’s premier racing and breeding operation, which is now divided among Teruya’s Shadai Farm and his brothers, Haruya, who operates Oiwake Farm, and Katsumi, who runs Northern Farm. Between them, they have more than 1,000 broodmares.

It was Zenya Yoshida who bought dual American classic winner Sunday Silence in 1990 and brought him to Japan to become a stallion, and the move paid incredible dividends. The son of Halo became Japan’s leading sire for 13 consecutive years and his son, Deep Impact, was the leading sire for 10 straight years from 2012-21.

More recently, Japanese interests have acquired top American runners such as California Chrome  , Bricks and Mortar , Mind Your Biscuits , Animal Kingdom , Drefong , Eskendereya , Four Wheel Drive , Henny Hughes , New Year’s Day , Pyro , Shanghai Bobby , and Silver State   to join their stallion ranks.

“We have been trying to improve the quality of Japanese horses for many years,” Matsuzawa said. “Our horsemen are committed to taking good care of their horses and studying all aspects of racing every single day. We have imported many superior stallions and broodmares which improved our horses.”

Bred by Shadai, Crown Pride encompasses much of the farm’s strongest elements. His sire, Reach the Crown, is a paternal grandson of Sunday Silence, who was second in the 2009 Japanese Derby (G1). Reach the Crown’s dam, Crownpiece, hails from bloodlines as regal as they come. Her sire was 1977 Triple Crown winner and top stallion Seattle Slew and her dam was Classic Crown, a daughter of Mr. Prospector out of Six Crowns, a progeny of Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Chris Evert.

Crown Pride’s dam, Emmy’s Pride, is by King Kamehameha , the sire of Chuwa Wizard and a half brother to 2000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner The Deputy . His line includes Mr. Prospector and two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) winner Miesque. Emmy’s Pride’s dam is Emmy’s Smile, a granddaughter of Sunday Silence.

“Japanese horses have become very strong nowadays. I want to continue to provide evidence that they can win in major international races by trying to compete all over the world,” said Teruya Yoshida, who owned the first Japanese entrant in the Kentucky Derby, Ski Captain, who was 14th in 1995.

Buyer Teruya Yoshida (in hat) with Media. and agent Naohiro Hosoda (in Pink) Hip 305 colt from War Front from Don&#39;t Trick Her from Jones/Airdrie Stud brings $900k<br>
Yearlings at Keeneland on Sept. 13, 2016, in Lexington, Ky.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Teruya Yoshida at Keeneland

While having bloodstock bred to handle classic distances is a major plus, a wealth of experience in international traveling has also been beneficial. While U.S. horses rarely travel to Japan for major races, the willingness of Japanese connections to travel thousands of miles has enabled them to become more experienced and proficient in shipping their horses and having them in peak condition for their races on different continents.

The training regimen of Japanese horses has also paid off with fit and ready runners.

Unlike American horses, who generally put in weekly four- or five-furlong breezes to prepare for their stakes engagements, since arriving in the United States and clearing quarantine at Churchill Downs’ new facility, Crown Pride has worked three times from April 16-24, putting in two four-furlong breezes and one at a six-furlong distance. Then on April 27, after warming up in Churchill Downs’ mile chute, he reeled off a bullet four-furlong drill in :46 2/5 in advance of Shintani’s May 1 arrival at Churchill Downs. It was the fastest of 30 works at that distance.

The 3-year-old then galloped out to five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 and to six furlongs in 1:14 4/5.

In contrast to the Japanese runner’s four works in 11 days, Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner and Run for the Roses candidate Taiba  has yet to put in a timed move since his April 9 victory.

“Some people might worry he is getting homesick,” said exercise rider Masa Matsuda about Crown Pride, “but it is a great opportunity for him to grow mentally.”

Frank Gabriel, the senior vice president of racing operations for the New York Racing Association, spent 15 years working overseas with the Dubai Racing Club and has developed a deep respect for Japanese training methods.

“When you see the training centers in Japan, then you can understand their expertise,” he said. “They have so many tracks and surfaces so that they can condition an animal to their liking and he’s comfortable and runs well. Japanese horses are superior. They are unbelievable.”

Of course, the transition to the United States has included some bumps in the road. While schooling at the starting gate April 22, Crown Pride dumped Matsuda after hearing the starting bell, took a left turn out of the starting gate and ran off for a short distance before he was apprehended without incident by outrider Lee Lockwood.

“In Japan, you just open the gate and we can go, but in America, first bell, then open,” Matsuda said. “So the horse was very (surprised) … I fell off of (the horse) but I just checked the ground of Churchill Downs.”

After returning to the gate for a second try, Matsuda and Crown Pride made a smooth departure.

“Second time, I just (lengthened) the irons and sat (deeper) in the saddle,” Matsuda said. “Then I went the straight way, which was easier.”

Whether Crown Pride will cleanly exit the starting gate under leading Japanese rider Christophe Lemaire could hold the key to his chances in the opening leg of the Triple Crown as a troubled start has historically ended many a Kentucky Derby dream.

The last Japanese starter in the Kentucky Derby, Master Fencer , veered out at the start of the 2019 Run for the Roses and trailed by more than 20 lengths after the opening-quarter mile. He did well after that to finish a fast-closing sixth, just four lengths behind.

On a better note, Matsuda voiced praise for the new quarantine barns at Churchill Downs.

“We have now been in multiple quarantine facilities all over the world and if he wasn’t settling in he would not be flourishing and winning races,” Matsuda said. “Crown Pride is very comfortable at Churchill Downs and I am grateful the barns have rubber mats to prevent slipping. Sue Brewster, the quarantine manager, is here to support us. She does everything for us. She is like a loving mother to both me and Crown Pride. If other Japanese horses come to Churchill Downs in the future they will be in good hands with Sue. I think Churchill has built a good facility that will help build a bridge between here and Japan.”

How long Crown Pride will stay on this side of that “bridge” will be based on how he fares on the first Saturday in May, but the May 21 Preakness Stakes (G1) and June 11 Belmont Stakes could certainly be in play, even though NYRA is not offering a $1 million bonus for a Japanese winner of “The Test of the Champion” as it has in past years.

His presence also promises to provide a financial boost to each track as the JRA will conduct separate pool wagering at its facilities on each Triple Crown race with Crown Pride in the field. 

While the pools do not figure to match the $40 million Japanese fans wagered on the 2021 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) because post time for the Kentucky Derby will be at 7:57 a.m. in Japan, even if the pools check in at $4-5 million, a small percentage of that total will boost the host track’s bottom line and underscore the love Japanese fans have for horse racing.

In 2019, the last time there was wagering on the Kentucky Derby in Japan, the pool amounted to $3.5 million and last year the handle on three Breeders’ Cup races was ¥1.4 billion, which equals US$11 million or about $3.6 million per race. 

More reflective of the handle generated by the fervent Japanese wagering public, in 2019, prior to the pandemic, a crowd of 80,826 turned out for the Japan Cup (G1) and the passionate Japanese fans that day wagered more than ¥26 billion, which amounts to more than $204 million.

Nor are Japanese fans infrequent visitors to the racetrack. Each weekend of racing is played out in front of large, enthusiastic crowds with fans who are extremely knowledgeable about the sport. They treat their star horses just as Americans view top professional athletes and rejoice when those equine heroes triumph at home or in a foreign land.

So far, the Kentucky Derby and the American Triple Crown have yet to provide them with a major dose of satisfaction, but what’s happening around the world lately could be a preview of what’s to come at Churchill Downs.

“We are proud of our racing fans. They are rooting for our horses around the world, more enthusiastically since overseas big races with Japanese runners became available for them to cheer with betting tickets in their hands. They have come to recognize the quality of the horses we have in Japan and many of them are traveling to these major races abroad,” Matsuzawa said. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if one of our horses won the Kentucky Derby. It would be an amazing thrill. To win the Kentucky Derby it will be a dream come true and I hope it comes soon in the near future.”

Will May 7 be soon enough? Time will indeed tell.

Crown Pride (Damian Lane) win the UAE Derby<br>
Meydan 26.3.22 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Photo: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

Crown Pride wins the UAE Derby at Meydan

Source link


News7g: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button