Japan Derby Road Ends; Master Fencer Leads TC Nominees
Whether Series Will Yield Derby Runner Remains To Be Seen
By Dick Downey
Among Japan-based horses nominated to the Triple Crown, a new points leader on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby emerged at Nakayama on Sunday when Master Fencer (JPN) finished second in the Fukuryu Stakes, the last race of the series.
The 1 1/8-mile, two-turn race was won by Der Flug (JPN) by 1 1/2 length over Master Fencer after the two of them went five and six wide coming out of the far turn to overtake the rest of the field in the stretch. Master Fencer was the only horse among the Fukuryu field of eight that was early-nominated to the Triple Crown.
The Fukuryu was timed in 1:53 2/5.
For finishing second, Master Fencer was awarded 16 points on the Japan Road, pushing his total to 19, and surpassing the 14 points that had been accumulated by fellow Triple Crown nominee Derma Louvre (JPN). Derma Louvre's connections opted to exit the Japan Road to the Derby and finished fourth in the UAE Derby on Saturday, which was worth 10 points on the traditional Derby Road.
Overall Japan Road points leaders, but not early-nominated, are Der Flug with 40 points for winning the Fukuryu; Oval Ace (JPN), who got 30 after winning the Hyacinth Stakes; and Nova Lenda (JPN), winner of the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, with 20 points. The points don't count unless the horse is Triple Crown-nominated.
No word yet on whether any of those three will be late-nominated to the Triple Crown. The deadline is Monday, April 1. If late-nominated, the points count. If not, Master Fencer is the points winner. Whether he is intended for the Kentucky Derby isn't known yet. If not, Churchill Downs will invite the next one in line which, at this point, is Derma Louvre.
Master Fencer is by Just a Way, out of the Deputy Minister mare Sexy Zamurai. He's trained by Koichi Tsunoda and was ridden in the Fukuryu by Hiroyuki Uchida. He's a homebred owned by Katsumi Yoshizawa.