Churchill Downs Racetrack on Friday announced that two races have been added to the “Japan Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby," the series of races that could produce a starter in America’s greatest race.
The extended Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, which carves out a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate for a horse from Japan, will include the Unicorn Stakes (G3) on June 21 and the Japan Dirt Derby on July 8.
The Unicorn will be contested at one mile on dirt at Tokyo Racecourse and the Japan Dirt Derby will be run at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles at Oi Racecourse. The points for the top four runners in each race will be 40-16-8-4.
“We are thrilled that our great partners with the Japan Racing Association and the Tokyo Metropolitan Racing Association helped us identify two important races for our Road to the Kentucky Derby extension, one at JRA’s Tokyo Racecourse and the other with the esteemed group at Tokyo City Keiba,” said Mike Ziegler, executive director of racing for Churchill Downs Incorporated.
“We’ve seen international interest grow in the Kentucky Derby since our partnership with the JRA was formalized in 2016, and we’re encouraged that this year’s Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby could produce another meaningful starter.”
Last year, Master Fencer (JPN) finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and, later, was fifth in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Other Japan-based horses to run in the Kentucky Derby: Ski Captain (14th in 1995) and Lani (ninth in 2016).
“Worldwide, we are experiencing very difficult times caused by COVID-19. Even in this situation, I sincerely hope one of our horses will emerge from the renewed format of the series to qualify and add extra excitement to this year's rescheduled running of the 146th Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, as Master Fencer did last year."
Four races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby have been run. Eight Triple Crown nominees have already earned points in the series: Café Pharoah (30), Vacation (20), Tagano Beauty (12), Dieu du Vin (10), Yaugau (6), American Face (4), Longonot (3) and Daimei Corrida (1).