Churchill Downs Racetrack today announced that two races would be added to the “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve,” the series of races that could produce a starter in America’s greatest race.
The extended Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, which carves out a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate for a horse from Japan, will include the Unicorn Stakes (Grade 3) on June 21 and the Japan Dirt Derby on July 8. The Unicorn will be contested at one mile on dirt at Tokyo Racecourse and the Japan Dirt Derby will be run at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles at Oi Racecourse. The points for the top four runners in each race will be 40-16-8-4.
“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.”
“I feel quite honored that the Grade 3 Unicorn Stakes has been added to the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. In the past, winners of the Unicorn Stakes have progressed to win Grade 1 races later in their careers. 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 Mr. Masayuki Goto, the President and CEO of the Japan Racing Association. “Worldwide, we are experiencing very difficult times caused by COVID-19. Even in this situation, I sincerely hope one of our horses will emerge from the renewed format of the series to qualify and add extra excitement to this year's rescheduled running of the 146th Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, as Master Fencer did last year”
Last year, Master Fencer (JPN) finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and, later, was fifth in the Belmont Stakes (GI). Other Japan-based horses to run in the Kentucky Derby: Ski Captain (14th in 1995) and Lani (ninth in 2016).
“We are honored to have the Japan Dirt Derby be selected as a Kentucky Derby points race. The Japan Dirt Derby brings together the best domestic 3-year-olds in the country and we are confident that this year will have a strong field of contenders,” said Hiroshi Saito, Racing Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Tokyo Metropolitan Racing Association. “Even though it is due to the date change of the Kentucky Derby that we have been added to only the 2019-2020 renewal of the ‘Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby’, as the final race in the series with a major impact on the final standings, I sincerely hope that the Japan Dirt Derby will be an exciting event to watch for racing fans both in Japan and the United States.”
Four races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby have been run. Eight Triple Crown nominees have already earned points in the series: Café Pharoah (30), Vacation (20), Tagano Beauty (12), Dieu du Vin (10), Yaugau (6), American Face (4), Longonot (3) and Daimei Corrida (1).
The 146th running of the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) was rescheduled from May 2 to Saturday, Sept. 5.