The storming run by Japan-based colt Lani at the Belmont Stakes has inspired a series of races in his home country that could annually produce a starter in the Kentucky Derby, from 2017 onwards.
Churchill Downs Incorporated has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to create the ‘Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby’, which will include two one-mile (1600m) dirt stakes races at the famed Tokyo Racecourse.
“This series provides a path for the top three-year-old in the country to participate in the ‘greatest two minutes in sports’,” CDI’s president and chief operating officer Bill Mudd said in a statement.
“We saw sizeable international interest through Lani’s participation in this year’s Triple Crown and we’re thrilled that, through this partnership, we can add to the worldwide popularity of the Kentucky Derby.”
Lani, a grey Kentucky-bred Tapit colt owned by Koji Maeda, made an electric charge down the long final straight to run third at the 148th Belmont Stakes in June, the final leg of U.S. racing’s Triple Crown series for three-year-olds.
“Beginning next year, Japanese horses aiming to run in the Kentucky Derby can run in designated races in the series at home in Japan to be awarded points to get this ticket to the starting gate,” JRA president Masayuki Goto said.
“It is with great pride that ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ will reach Japanese racing fans and it is my earnest wish to sing it with a traditional Mint Julep in my hand, together with Japanese horsemen and all the many fans next year at Churchill Downs.”
The ‘Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby’ will feature the Cattleya Sho for two-year-olds, to be run at Tokyo Racecourse on Nov. 26, with the Hyacinth for three-year-olds set for the same venue in early 2017.