Danon Premium, Epoca d'Oro Face Off in Japanese Derby

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 24th, 2018

If you’re a fan of talented three-year-old Thoroughbreds and top-quality Triple Crown races, then you’re in for a treat on Sunday morning!

While the countdown to the June 9th Belmont Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park continues, you can tune in to the action at in to watch the prestigious Group 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), one of the most prestigious races in the country.

A huge field of eighteen horses will contest the 2,400-meter turf event, which is the second leg of Japan’s Triple Crown. But while the field is large, two horses—Danon Premium and Epoca d’Oro—stand above the others in terms of accomplishments and figure to dominate the wagering.

Epoca d’Oro was a relatively unheralded runner just six weeks ago, but after he rallied to post a 14-1 upset in the 2,000-meter Satsuki Sho (Jpn-I)—the first leg of Japan’s Triple Crown—he gained newfound respect and will seek to reiterate his position among Japan’s best three-year-olds with a strong performance in the Japanese Derby. Should he win on Sunday, he’ll have a chance to become Japan’s first Triple Crown winner since Orfevre in 2011; fittingly, Epoca d’Oro is a son of Orfevre.

But standing between Epoca d’Oro and Derby glory is Danon Premium, who boasts such an impressive record that he is expected to be a heavy favorite to defeat the Satsuki Sho winner. A son of the legendary Deep Impact, Danon Premium is unbeaten and essentially unchallenged in four starts thus far, which includes a clear win in the 2,000-meter Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Jpn-II) in March. Unfortunately, Danon Premium missed the Satsuki Sho with a minor injury, but Teruhiko Saruhashi—assistant to trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida—told the Japan Racing Association that the colt has recovered well. “He had to miss the Satsuki Sho because of the stone bruise, so his target then became the Derby. We’ve concentrated on getting him back into top condition, and there’s no issue at all with the injury he sustained.”

Nine of the beaten runners from the Satsuki Sho, including runner-up Sans Rival, will attempt to turn the tables on Epoca d’Oro. One of the most notable, at least to U.S. racing fans, is Gendarme, a son of the top U.S. turf stallion Kitten’s Joy. Gendarme could only finish ninth in the Satsuki Sho, but he did run third behind Danon Premium in the Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho and second in the Group 1 Hopeful Stakes last December, so he deserves a chance to rebound on Sunday.

Blast Onepiece, powerful winner of the 1,800-meter Mainichi Hai (Jpn-III) in March, and Go for the Summit, who prevailed in the Aoba Sho (Jpn-II) over this course and distance last month, are among the newcomers with a chance to contend.

The Tokyo Yushun is the tenth race of the day at Tokyo, with a post time of 2:40 a.m. Eastern.