Takashi Muraki’s Ruggero switched from turf to dirt for Saturday’s Cattleya Sho at Tokyo, the first race on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, and found the surface agreeable when prevailing in a three-way finish.

The nearly 4-1 third choice in the wagering, Ruggero was well placed in an outside stalking position by jockey Keita Tosaki. Down the stretch, he was wearing down the longtime leader Morito Yubu, who then appeared to duck to his left, hit the rail, and unseat his rider.

Ruggero got first run on the 24-1 Mic Ben Hur and the 5-2 Meiner Yukitsubaki and held them off by a half-length on the wire. By finishing the metric mile allowance race Cattleya Sho in 1:38.20, he earned 10 points to top the new “Japan Road” leaderboard.

Runner-up Mic Ben Hur (4 points) had his nose in front of the fast-finishing Meiner Yukitsubaki (2 points), a son of 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) champion I’ll Have Another. The top three pulled 3 1/2 lengths clear of Bronze Kay (1 point) in fourth.

The disappointment of the race was 4-5 favorite Weltall, a non-threatening fifth. Longshots Apostle and Lady of the Lake rounded out the order of finish after Morito Yubu’s mishap.

Ruggero has now won two of four starts. The Yuichi Shikato trainee made a winning debut on the Niigata turf in July, but after a third at Nakayama and an eighth in the Saudi Arabia Royal Cup (G3) at Tokyo, it was time for a surface switch.

Like so many Japanese Thoroughbreds, Ruggero descends from the male line of U.S. Hall of Famer Sunday Silence, the 1989 Derby and Preakness star. Ruggero is by Kinshasa No Kiseki, Japan’s champion sprinter of 2010, and his paternal grandsire, the Sunday Silence stallion Fuji Kiseki, was the unbeaten Japanese champion two-year-old colt of 1994. 

Both Kinshasa No Kiseki and Fuji Kiseki raced on turf, as did Ruggero’s dam, Silver Cup, winner of the Italian classic Premio Regina Elena (G2) as well as the 2006 San Gorgonio H. (G2), Buena Vista H. (G2), and Santa Ana H. (G2) at Santa Anita. Silver Cup is by Almutawakel, winner of the 1999 Dubai World Cup (G1) on dirt.

For more details and analysis, see the Cattleya Sho recap on Brisnet.com