Japan Has Two More Chances To Win Its First Kentucky Derby

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Written By Dave Bontempo | Last Updated
japanese horses in kentucky derby

Score two more Japanese horses in the Kentucky Derby. Kentucky Derby odds for the 150th running will sport two more contenders hoping to become the first champion from The Land of the Rising Sun. Forever Young and T O Password are slated to enter the race with a record $5 million purse.

They will occupy opposite ends of the betting spectrum, with Forever Young viewed as one of the favorites and T O Password considered a longshot.

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Japan’s Road To The 2024 Kentucky Derby

T O Password qualified as the top point-getter in the Japan circuit on the Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule. His big victory came in the $321,000 Fukurya Stakes.

Forever Young punched his ticket with a closing victory in the $2.5 million UAE Derby in Dubai, thus earning a Kentucky Derby slot via the standard qualifying route used by American horses. He now sits sixth in Kentucky Derby points with 100.

Forever Young Remains UnBeaten

Connections will be used to gambling by the time they reach Churchill Downs.

Forever Young won his first three starts in Japan and could have stayed there to qualify for Louisville with one more win in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.

But handlers wisely rolled the dice for the big money. He responded by winning the $1.5 million Saudi Derby, which is not a Kentucky Derby qualifier.

The UAE Derby was their last chance to earn qualifying points for the Run for the Roses. And Forever Young delivered 100 of them along with the big purse money in the 1 3/16-mile race.

At 5-for-5, he’s done everything asked and will get significant Kentucky Derby betting love.

Heart of A Champion?

American racing fans become increasingly enamored with the quality of Japanese entries in big races. One prevailing theory contends that Japanese trainers actively run their horses rather than racing them sparingly to maintain their post-career breeding value. This helps keep them sharp.

Forever Young’s performance backs up that philosophy.

His first two starts resulted in victories around two turns in 1 1/8-mile races.

A one-mile, two-turn race followed, which he won.

But the Saudi Derby tested him. It was a one-turn, one-mile event, and he broke poorly. Even as he tried to rally in the homestretch, the track announcer described him as “flat”.

But like all great athletes, he found a way to win on an off day. He surged through the homestretch and nipped Book’em Danno, ridden by Irad Ortiz, right at the wire.

He followed with a more conventional stalking victory in the UAE Derby.

Expectations will ride with him. Forever Young exited the final Kentucky Derby futures pool with odds of 8-1, third only to Fierceness at 5-2 and Sierra Leone at 7-1.

T O Password Will Be True Longshot

He nabbed the Fukurya Stakes with a front-running effort. He barely held off hard-charging Arare Tabishiru. T O Password would have lost in one more jump.

The winning time of 1:54.1 for the 1 1/8-mile distance is not imposing. Indeed, it is the slowest winning time in the last six years.

He remains unproven against top competition, which is reflected by the Kentucky Derby futures odds. After the sixth and final wagering pool, T O Password ended up at 135-1 betting odds.

But victory nonetheless propels his connections to Churchill Downs, and he gets an excellent jockey in Kaz Kimura. Kimura has been the leading rider at Woodbine for the past three years and rode Mandarin Hero in the 2023 Kentucky Derby.

Japanese Stock Rising in Biggest Horse Races

American racing bettors have observed the steadily ascending thoroughbreds sent to big American races by connections in recent years, including Japanese horses in the Kentucky Derby.

Ever since Japan scored a Breeders’ Cup double, with Loves Only You claiming the Filly and Mare Turf and Marche Lorraine seizing the Distaff in 2021, the public has been watching whomever Japan sends here. Marche Lorraine was a 45-1 longshot.

Both were trained by Yoshito Yahagi, who also guides Forever Young.

The 2023 crop fared reasonably well in the Kentucky Derby, with Derma Sotogake rallying to sixth after a bad break and Mandarin Hero running 12th in the 20-horse field.

Derma Sotogake’s stock soared in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, as he finished second to White Abarrio despite a sixth-month layoff.

Other Japanese entrants in recent Kentucky Derbies include Master Fencer (sixth) in 2019.

There is an expectation that a horse from Japan will soon hit the board or win the Kentucky Derby.

Is this 2024 the year?

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