After Japan’s historic victories in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) and Distaff (G1), a record 21 Japanese-based three-year-olds have been nominated to the 2022 Triple Crown. 
Four have scored points on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, led by Cattleya S. winner Consigliere. Jasper Great was unplaced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), while a few promising prospects are ready to venture into stakes company. 
Japan Road competitors
Consigliere, the points leader among Japan’s Triple Crown nominees, is expected to make his next start in the Feb. 26 Saudi Derby on Saudi Cup Day. A homebred for Kazumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm, Consigliere brings a 2-for-2 record into his sophomore campaign. The Yukio Inagaki trainee, who captured his debut at Niigata, justified 7-10 favoritism in the Nov. 27 Cattleya at Tokyo. Consligiere cruised up out wide turning for home, edged clear, then just held on under good handling. 
From the first crop of U.S. champion sprinter Drefong, Consigliere is a half-brother to Esmeraldina, winner of the 2014 Kanto Oaks on the dirt at Kawasaki. Their dam, Tasha’s Star, is by Spanish Steps, a full brother to Unbridled’s Song and best known for siring $3.5 million-earner Little Mike.
The closing second and third in the Cattleya, Cafe Karma and Geraldo Barows, are also nominated. Although Cafe Karma was only a neck away from catching Consigliere, he has failed to build on that effort. The son of Henny Hughes was a non-threatening third behind Ho O Roulette (see below) in his Nakayama reappearance, then wound up 11th in an allowance back at Tokyo Jan. 29. 
Geraldo Barows is engaged in the next stop on the Japan Road, Sunday’s Hyacinth S. That would mark his first race since the Cattleya, where he finished fast to range alongside Consigliere and Cafe Karma in the three-way tussle. Geraldo Barows had previously never been worse than second, placing in a pair of Chukyo maidens before breaking through at Hanshin. By Sinister Minister, the 2006 Blue Grass (G1) romper and sire of such major dirt winners as current Champions Cup (G1) hero T O Keynes, Geraldo Barows is out of an Arch half-sister to Grade 1 scorers Coil and Chiropractor.
Three Cattleya also-rans are Triple Crown nominees as well – closing fifth El Paso, sixth Copano Nicholson, and seventh Line of Soul. El Paso, a son of British classic winner Makfi (by Dubawi), returned to finish third in a Jan. 16 Kokura allowance. Copano Nicholson was subsequently sixth in a Feb. 6 allowance. Line of Soul, another Sinister Minister colt, has not raced in the interim. 
Sekifu competed in the most recent Japan Road race, the Dec. 15 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, and earned two points for taking fourth. That snapped a three-race winning streak comprising a Hanshin maiden and allowance, followed by the Hyogo Junior Grand Prix at Sonoda (spot him bravely rallying between foes, in the number 10 saddlecloth). 
All of Sekifu’s wins came at around seven furlongs, while the Zen-Nippon was his first try at a metric mile. The son of Henny Hughes – and half-brother to Grade 1-winning turf sprinter Big Arthur – will get another chance to answer the distance question. Sekifu is engaged in the Saudi Derby, but also factors on the list of possible starters in Sunday’s Hyacinth. 

A pair of unbeaten allowance winners to watch

Two unbeaten allowance winners look ready to make an impact at a higher level.

Ho O Roulette is a half-brother to one of Japan’s most prominent dirt performers, Omega Perfume, who recently made history by winning the Tokyo Daishoten (G1) for an incredible fourth year in a row. Both are out of Omega Fragrance, a mare by noted dirt sire Gold Allure (himself a son of Sunday Silence).

A May 19 foal, Ho O Roulette is by 2005 Dubai World Cup (G1) hero Roses in May. His trainer, Toru Kurita, celebrated his first Japanese classic win last fall, when Titleholder ran away with the about 1 7/8-mile Kikuka Sho (G1).

Ho O Roulette has won both of his starts going about 1 1/8 miles at Nakayama. The 6-5 favorite in a newcomers’ race Dec. 4, he was driven to the lead from post 10 and pulled seven lengths clear in the stretch. Ho O Roulette was bet down to 2-5 favoritism in his Jan. 8 allowance. Drawn widest of all in post 16, he prompted the pacesetter before storming home all by himself. A distant third was Cattleya placegetter Cafe Karma.

Hyacinth possible Crown Pride, a May 4 foal, is likewise 2-for-2 for fledgling trainer Koichi Shintani. His sire, the Sunday Silence-line stallion Reach the Crown, is out of a Seattle Slew mare from the family of Chief’s Crown. Crown Pride’s dam is by the influential King Kamehemeha. 

A homebred for Teruya Yoshida’s Shadai Farm, Crown Pride dominated an Oct. 3 newcomers’ race at Chukyo, despite a somewhat eventful trip. Fighting the kickback and hard to handle early, he had to check off heels when threatening to run up on the rail. But once into the clear, Crown Pride drew off by six lengths. He followed up in a Nov. 7 allowance at Hanshin, stalking from the outside post 13 and pulling away at the top of the stretch. Both races came at about 1 1/8 miles.

Maiden winners for Okubo, Takayanagi

Blitz Fang, the 7-10 favorite in a newcomers’ race at Chukyo Jan. 22, ran up to billing in a seven-length romp. Stalking the leaders early on the rail, he steered out on the far turn and easily stretched clear. His inexperience showed, though, when floating wide on the turn and sticking to his left lead down the lane. Blitz Fang could make his stakes debut in the Hyacinth. 

Runner-up Mr White, himself a Triple Crown nominee, came back to miss by a neck over the same track and about nine-furlong trip Feb. 6. Mr White figures to get better with age, a hallmark of the progeny of Heart’s Cry (another of Sunday Silence’s major sons). 

Blitz Fang is a May 11 foal by Hokko Tarumae, Japan’s champion dirt horse of 2014. Trainer Ryuji Okubo is attracting attention on the international stage. He sent out Chuwa Wizard to finish second in the 2021 Dubai World Cup, and Deep Bond to take France’s Prix Foy (G2) last fall. 

Trainer Daisuke Takayanagi, whose current dirt champ T O Keynes is slated for the Saudi Cup (G1), has two Triple Crown nominees.

Reiwa Homare showed little in his turf debut, checking in 16th of 18 in a Niigata newcomers’ race last July. But he promptly won on the switch to dirt at Chukyo Sept. 24, when rolling by 3 1/2 lengths from a stalking spot. In his only ensuing start, an Oct. 24 Hanshin allowance, Reiwa Homare rallied from farther back and missed by a head to the aforementioned Sekifu. As a son of Deep Brillante, the 2012 Japanese Derby (G1) winner by Deep Impact, and a Montjeu mare, Reiwa Homare stands to benefit from longer distances.

Stablemate Depasser is from the first crop of another Deep Impact stallion, Satono Aladdin, winner of the prestigious Yasuda Kinen (G1) in 2017. Depasser was fifth to Dry Stout, the future Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun winner, in his sprint debut. Although it took him three more tries to break his maiden, Depasser was on the upswing once going up in trip to about 1 1/8 miles, and he scored at Chukyo Jan. 15 by seven front-running lengths. 

The aforementioned El Paso’s trainer, Ryo Takei, also has Seventh Letter who just broke his maiden at Tokyo Jan. 30. By Copano Rickey, a champion dirt horse in Japan from the male line of Sunday Silence, Seventh Letter was improving from a debut fourth. 

Jasper Great among Mori brigade

Veteran trainer Hideyuki Mori sent out Japan’s first Kentucky Derby runner, Ski Captain, who finished 14th in 1995. Mori returned to the Triple Crown scene in 2021 with France Go de Ina, seventh in the Preakness (G1) and eighth in the Belmont (G1). His three nominees for 2022 are Jasper Great, Hana Kiri, and Pink Dia, all Kentucky-breds bought at auction. 

Jasper Great ran himself into the Breeders’ Cup picture with a 10-length conquest of an Oct. 9 newcomers’ event at Hanshin. But the Juvenile at Del Mar proved beyond him, as he never got involved after a slow start and wound up 10th of 11.

A first-crop son of the late champion Arrogate, and a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Power Broker, Jasper Great theoretically could have more to offer in time. The $200,000 Fasig-Tipton yearling has gone backwards, though, since his Breeders’ Cup venture. Jasper Great was 12th behind the aforementioned Ho O Roulette at Nakayama and last of seven in the Jan. 22 Wakagoma S. on the Chukyo turf. 

Hana Kiri, a Tapit half-brother to 2013 Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner Tamarando and Grade 3 scorer Ward ‘n Jerry, brought $325,000 at Keeneland September. The Mori trainee, who was fifth to Consigliere on debut, has won just once from six starts. He stalked and pounced at Chukyo Dec. 5, but has been well beaten as a longshot in ensuing allowances on the Hanshin dirt and Chukyo turf.

Stablemate Pink Dia failed to break his maiden in five tries on the elite Japan Racing Association circuit, placing three times. He finally got his first win when dropping to a lesser track, Kasamatsu, on Jan. 12. Pink Dia’s pedigree is much better than his performances. The $150,000 Fasig-Tipton yearling is by Speighstown out of a Tapit half-sister to Grade 1 winner Crisp (herself dam of multiple Japanese dirt stakes scorer Danon Pharaoh). 

The remaining four Japanese nominees likewise need to step up on what they’ve shown so far to be competitive on the trail.

Ju Taro, by Arrogate out of Grade 3-placed Bodacious Babe (by Mineshaft), crushed a Hanshin newcomers’ race Nov. 13. But the Hiroshi Kawachi trainee has been beaten as the favorite in his two allowance tries, placing second at Chukyo and regressing to ninth Jan. 29 at Tokyo. 

Finishing fourth in that Tokyo allowance was Success Laurel, who had scored in a newcomers’ race at Tokyo Nov. 27. A son of Mastery and Grade 3-placed multiple stakes scorer Courtesan (by Street Sense), Success Laurel was a better second in a Feb. 13 allowance over the same track’s metric mile.

Osteria, by Drefong, won a Hanshin newcomers’ event, but the weakness of that race was reflected next time at Chukyo. Ignored as a 100-1 longshot, Osteria trailed a 14-horse field in the same Jan. 8 allowance where Ju Taro was runner-up. 

Space the Ripper, by Sinister Minister, retreated to seventh in a Jan. 29 newcomers’ race at Chukyo.

Island Falcon tops other international nominees

Of the other internationally-based hopefuls, Godolphin’s Island Falcon catches the eye after a good-looking score on the Meydan turf Jan. 21 during the Dubai Carnival. The Saeed bin Suroor pupil is likely to try dirt in the Saudi Derby. By the successful sire Iffraaj, a scion of the Gone West branch of the Mr. Prospector male line, Island Falcon is out of a mare by Dubawi, whose offspring tend to handle dirt.

Absolute Ruler and Enthrallment both represent Irish trainers. 

Donnacha O’Brien, a son of Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien, nominated Absolute Ruler for the Coolmore/Westerberg partnership. By War Front and out of the Group 1-winning Galileo mare Together Forever, Absolute Ruler captured his debut over a mile on Dundalk’s Polytrack last August. He stepped up in class for the Champions Juvenile (G2) on turf at Leopardstown and finished a close third. But Absolute Ruler has not been seen since flopping as the favorite back at Dundalk for the Oct. 1 Star Appeal S. 

The legendary Dermot Weld, who dispatched Go and Go to surprise the 1990 Belmont, has made Enthrallment eligible for the Triple Crown. A 1 1/8-mile maiden winner at Tipperary second time out on Oct. 4, Enthrallment is a half-brother to multiple Irish stakes victress Red Stars. The Newtown Anner Stud homebred is by Fastnet Rock, an Australian champion by Danehill and a renowned international sire, with his progeny including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner Pizza Bianca. Enthrallment’s dam is by Galileo and out of a Darshaan mare, so there’s not an obvious dirt angle to the pedigree.