Cafe Pharoah looks to remain on top of Japan Road in Unicorn Stakes

Jun 19, 2020 Kellie Reilly/

About nine hours after Kentucky Derby (G1) points leader Tiz the Law contests the Belmont S. (G1), his counterpart on the Japan Road, Cafe Pharoah, bids to increase his total in Sunday’s Unicorn S. (G3) at Tokyo. 

The Unicorn, held over a metric mile, has produced high-class dirt performers over the years. With the Kentucky Derby postponed to Sept. 5, the opportunity presented itself to add the Unicorn to the Japan Road schedule, and the summer highlight now offers points on a 40-16-8-4 scale.
Cafe Pharoah, an unbeaten son of American Pharoah, was last seen landing the Feb. 23 Hyacinth over this same track and trip. Recovering from a slow start in his stakes debut, the Kentucky-bred finished strong to bank 30 points on the Japan Road. 
Although Cafe Pharoah skipped the next scoring race, the Mar. 28 Fukuryu, he was flattered in absentia when Herrschaft, who had been fifth in the Hyacinth, sprang the upset. The Fukuryu was worth 40 points to the winner, but Herrschaft is not Triple Crown nominated and reportedly not on the Derby trail. That leaves Cafe Pharoah as the de facto leader. 
Cafe Pharoah picks up a new rider in Australian Damian Lane while facing new challenges in the Unicorn. The Noriyuki Hori trainee is drawn widest of all in post 16 and meets a few notable opponents for the first time — fellow Triple Crown nominees Dieu du Vin and Full Flat along with undefeated filly Lecce Baroque.
Lecce Baroque has crushed males in her two starts, both going about 7 furlongs at Tokyo, in virtually identical fashion. The daughter of Uncle Mo blasts straight to the lead and draws off in the stretch. The extra furlong shouldn’t pose a problem for the $525,000 OBS March purchase, who keeps Christophe Lemaire aboard in post 5. 
Dieu du Vin captured the first leg of the Japan Road series, the Nov. 23 Cattleya Sho. Not seen again until April, he showed little when switching to turf for the Arlington Cup (G3). Dieu du Vin was a different horse back on the dirt last time out, extending his record to 3-for-3 at this track and trip. Mirco Demuro will guide the well-bred son of Declaration of War from the rail.
Full Flat, who didn’t score any points when fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), took a substantial step forward in his latest international venture. In the Saudi Derby on the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup undercard, the Speightstown colt defeated British shipper Mishriff and Godolphin’s Final Song. While Full Flat hasn’t run in the interim, the placegetters have both run well at Newmarket. Mishriff dominated the Newmarket S. and the filly Final Song was a surprisingly good fourth in the 1000 Guineas (G1).
Hyacinth runner-up Tagano Beauty, another Triple Crown nominee, comes off a recent third to Dieu du Vin. Other entrants are Satono Rafale, who has won two straight; Meisho Bengal, smashing in his first start on dirt; Machaon Blanc and Kids Agacha, both unplaced in listed stakes last out; Aurora Tesoro and Lovely Angel, the respective fourth and sixth from the Cattleya Sho with mixed results since; and last-out allowance winners Kitano Octopus, Apollo Abelia, Kenshinko, Sunrise Hope, and Thunder Blitz
Post time for the Unicorn is 2:45 a.m. (ET) late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. The series concludes with the July 8 Japan Dirt Derby with the same 40-16-8-4 points structure. 
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