Handicapping the Hyacinth on the Japan Road to Kentucky Derby

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

February 22nd, 2020

Saturday night’s Hyacinth S. at Tokyo (post time 12:25 a.m. ET) features six Triple Crown nominees seeking points on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, but one looks like a budding star.

#3 Cafe Pharoah, a son of American Pharoah and Grade 2 winner Mary’s Follies, wired a newcomers’ event at Nakayama by 10 lengths. He relaxed on the lead before delivering the coup de grace in the stretch, in the manner of a class act. The form has worked out too, as the distant second came back to romp himself, and even the third won next out. With his inside draw and Mirco Demuro at the helm, Cafe Pharoah figures to use his tactical foot wisely.

Although Cafe Pharoah is 3-1 on the North American morning line, he’s already odds-on in Japan according to Chances are the value will be gone here as well as he makes his first start against winners.

If so, the other 3-1 morning line chance, #12 Tagano Beauty, could drift to a more attractive price. The Henny Hughes colt won his first two, including a last-to-first allowance score at this track and metric mile trip where he toppled a hot favorite in Serein. (That’s the filly who went to Dubai with a plan of making the UAE Derby [G2] and Kentucky Oaks [G1] but ran third in Thursday’s UAE Oaks [G3]). Tagano Beauty hasn’t had the same success in his ensuing starts on turf, but his fourth in the prestigious Asahi Hai Futurity (G1) is a solid piece of form, and he’ll be happier back on dirt. Post 12 isn’t a concern for the deep closer.

#6 Meisho Tensui (12-1) is better than his odds imply, making him a strong candidate for inclusion in the wagering strategy. Sporting a 2-for-2 mark at Tokyo, he beat Daimei Corrida in a local allowance, and that rival subsequently placed third in the Cattleya Sho (the first Japan Road scoring race). Meisho Tensui has been competing well in stakes, rallying for second in the Hyogo Junior Grand Prix at Sonoda and finishing fourth in the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun (the second Japan Road points race). Although not nominated to the Triple Crown, he’s proven capable at this level and eligible to perform his best on this track.

#10 Yaugau (4-1), second to Serein on debut, has won his next two and gets Christophe Lemaire. Still a bit green when scoring at Sapporo, he was more workmanlike resuming from a four-month break at Nakayama. Yaugau has a fantastic pedigree, being by Gold Allure and out of a Tiznow mare from the family of Chief’s Crown, and the only question is whether he’ll peak here or need more time to flourish. #8 Longonot (7-1) is 2-for-3, his lone loss coming when sixth in Yaugau’s allowance, but the forward type might have a fight on his hands with Cafe Pharoah. Pedigree handicappers will note that the Godolphin homebred is a Pyro half to 2014 Dubai World Cup (G1) winner African Story.

#11 Nile River (10-1), like Cafe Pharoah an American Pharoah colt who captured a newcomers’ race, isn’t garnering anywhere near his level of market confidence. Overnight in Japan, he’s 23-1. If not as flashy, Nile River shaped with great promise at this track and trip, and he’s worth a look especially at a price.

As of this writing, the unbeaten filly #13 Reine Blanche (15-1) is the fourth choice in Japan behind Cafe Pharoah, Tagano Beauty, and Yaugau. The well-bred daughter of Kurofune from Miesque’s family has beaten males in both of her starts, but the midpack runner could be hung out wide throughout from post 13.