The Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby continues in Sunday’s Hyacinth S. at Tokyo, where Triple Crown nominees comprise nearly half of the 14-horse field. With an increased points structure of 30-12-9-6-3 to the top five, the Hyacinth will remake the Japan Road leaderboard.
The listed stakes is held over the same metric mile as the featured February (G1), which serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). The action gets underway Saturday night stateside on TwinSpires.com, with the major events coming after midnight early Sunday morning. The Hyacinth is scheduled for 12:25 a.m. as the ninth race, and the February is the 11th at 1:40 a.m. (ET).
Here are four talking points for the Hyacinth:
1. Omatsuri Otoko and Perriere have earned points on the Japan Road leaderboard.
Omatsuri Otoko and Perriere are both coming off solid placings in the most recent Japan Road race, the Dec. 14 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki.
Triple Crown-nominated Perriere was third that day as the favorite, but he made a bold move on the turn before flattening out late. He’d won both prior starts, a newcomers’ race at Sapporo over highly-regarded Yuttitham and a Tokyo allowance. A return to Tokyo could help Perriere rebound.
Omatsuri Otoko, not an early nominee to the Triple Crown, had similarly captured his previous dirt starts including the Hyogo Junior Grand Prix. He almost extended that streak last time, only to be nailed in deep stretch by Derma Sotogake (who will be running in Saudi Arabia next weekend).
2. Goraiko, Omega Tuxedo, and Meta Max represent trainers with past Kentucky Derby runners.
Aside from their Triple Crown nominations, this trio sports connections who have been known to pursue the Derby.
Goraiko is trained by Koichi Shintani, whose Crown Pride captured last year’s UAE Derby (G2) on the way to competing in the Kentucky Derby. Omega Tuxedo’s trainer, Mikio Matsunaga, had fan favorite Lani on the trail in 2016, likewise punching his ticket to Churchill Downs via the UAE Derby.
Both Crown Pride and Lani lost the Hyacinth, however. Lani finished fifth, and Crown Pride wound up sixth, while using this as a tune-up for Dubai. Will the pattern hold this time?
Goraiko, 2-for-2 since adding blinkers, has not raced since scoring in the Nov. 3 JBC Nisai Yushun. Omega Tuxedo was a debut winner at this track and trip, but he’s been beaten in his two ensuing allowances.
Meta Max broke his maiden with a terrific late rally at Kokura last out for trainer Hideyuki Mori, who sent the first Japanese shipper to the Kentucky Derby, Ski Captain, in 1995. Although he’s facing much tougher rivals here, the $1.1 million son of Into Mischief finished fast to win that about five-furlong dash in his first dirt try.
3. Eclogite and Great Sand Sea are among several other last-out winners in the field.
Triple Crown nominee Eclogite, up the track behind Perriere two starts back, responded to first-time blinkers to take a Chukyo allowance. Also looking to build on recent allowance tallies are Tsukai Real and Z Lien, who are not nominated.
Other promising types without Triple Crown nominations are Great Sand Sea and Crockford, both stepping up in class from maiden wins. Great Sand Sea, by Into Mischief, landed a newcomers’ race at Tokyo Nov. 19, while Crockford won second time out at Nakayama on Christmas Eve.
4. Monde Plume and Dondengaeshi employ the turf-to-dirt angle.
Monde Plume never factored in 17th in the Dec. 28 Hopeful (G1) on turf. But he should be happier reverting to dirt, where he’s 2-for-3. That lone loss came at this track and trip, though, in a November allowance.
Dondengaeshi won twice on turf, but after a pair of unplaced efforts in stakes, he now tries dirt. The son of 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) champion Drefong could find new life on the surface switch.