Two Races Added to Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby

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Cafe Pharoah shown winning the Listed Hyacinth S. | Horsephotos

The Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, which awards the horse that accumulates the most points an automatic berth in the gate for the ‘Run for the Roses’ Sept. 5, has been extended to include two additional races, officials at Churchill Downs announced Friday.

The G3 Unicorn S. (1600m) at Tokyo Racecourse Sunday, June 21, has been added to the series, as has the July 8 Japan Dirt Derby, a 10-furlong listed test at Ohi Racecourse. Both races will offer points on a scale of 40-16-8-4 for the top four finishers.

“We are thrilled that our great partners with the Japan Racing Association and the Tokyo Metropolitan Racing Association helped us identify two important races for our Road to the Kentucky Derby extension, one at JRA’s Tokyo Racecourse and the other with the esteemed group at Tokyo City Keiba,” said Mike Ziegler, executive director of racing for Churchill Downs Incorporated. “We’ve seen international interest grow in the Kentucky Derby since our partnership with the JRA was formalized in 2016, and we’re encouraged that this year’s Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby could produce another meaningful starter.”

The Unicorn S., contested around one turn, has been won in years past by future Group 1 winners, including Kane Hekili (Jpn), Gold Dream (Jpn) and Le Vent Se Leve (Jpn). The latter took the 2018 Japan Dirt Derby, while last year’s race was won by Chrysoberyl (Jpn), who went on to be named Japan’s champion dirt male.

“As the gateway to success in our 3-year-old dirt division, I firmly believe this race will play an important role and fulfill its duty as one of the qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby,” said Masayuki Goto, the President and CEO of the Japan Racing Association.

Four races have already been held on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. With his upset victory in the Fukuryu S. (allowance) Mar. 28, Herrschaft (Will Take Charge) is the current points leader in the series, but would have to be supplemented to the Derby. Cafe Pharoah (American Pharoah) earned 30 points for his tally in the Listed Hyacinth S. at Tokyo in February, while Vacation (Jpn) (Espoir City {Jpn}) sits on third place with 20 points courtesy of his win in the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun in December.

Master Fencer (Jpn) (Just a Way {Jpn}) took up the invitation for the 2019 Kentucky Derby and finished well to be sixth before finishing a close fifth in the GI Belmont S.

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