Keying Dark Repulser in Japan's Hyacinth Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 17th, 2018

If you’re planning to stay up late on Saturday night (perhaps to catch another exciting night of the Winter Olympics) you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on the simulcast from Tokyo Racecourse in Japan.

The highlight of the night, at least for North American racing fans, is the 1,600-meter (about one mile) Hyacinth Stakes, the final prep race on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. Three of the nineteen starters have been nominated to the Triple Crown, including #9 Ruggero, who makes his first start since winning the Cattleya Sho (the first of Japan’s Derby prep races) over this course and distance on November 25th.

Ruggero’s performance that day was solid, especially considering that he lost some momentum when one of his rivals fell in the homestretch, and he clocked the final three furlongs in a respectable :36.90. However, the strength of the Cattleya Sho field has since come into question; runner-up Mic Ben Hur has been beaten in three subsequent allowance races, as has third-place finisher Meiner Yukitsubaki.
With this in mind, I’m going to take a stand against Ruggero and side with #15 Dark Repulser. The well-bred son of Hard Spun is 2-for-2 at Tokyo, having won a 1,400-meter newcomers race on October 14th by a bit less than a length before winning an allowance race over the same distance a month later.

Off this sharp start to his career, Dark Repulser shipped to Kawasaki to contest the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, the second of Japan’s Kentucky Derby prep races. Facing a tough field that included the well-regarded Le Vent Se Leve and Don Fortis, Dark Repulser settled just off the early pace while starting from post three and ran an even race to finish fourth, a fine form line that stands out in the Hyacinth.
Jockey Keita Tosaki, who rode Ruggero and Dark Repulser in their last starts, will stick with Dark Repulser for the Hyacinth. I’m a little concerned about the wide draw for Dark Repulser, though there is a very long run to the one turn in the Hyacinth, which should give Tosaki time to guide Dark Repulser closer to the inside and save some ground.

Others that figure to attract wagering support are #4 Meisho Opus, a decisive winner of his last two starts sprinting 1,400 meters; #7 Great Time, never out of the exacta in four starts going 1,800 meters; #13 Sumahama, who defeated Great Time in a Kyoto allowance race last month; and #6 Danke Schon, winner of a 1,600-meter allowance race at Tokyo last month in a solid time.

I’ll play those four in the exacta with Dark Repulser.

$10 to win on #15 Dark Repulser $3 exacta: 15 with 4,6,7,13 ($12) $2 exacta: 4,6,7,13 with 15 ($8)

Post time for the Hyacinth is 12:25 a.m. Eastern (early Sunday morning). Good luck!