02/16/2017 3:56PM

Final chance for Derby points in Japan

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There’s a Kentucky Derby prep race Sunday – on the other side of the world.

The Hyacinth Stakes, over about one mile on dirt at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan, is the second of two races in the so-called Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. The two-race sequence was introduced for this year by Churchill Downs to allow a Japan-based horse to qualify for the Kentucky Derby field, which is capped at 20 runners.

The Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby is not part of the North American series of races offering Derby qualifying points. Whichever Japanese horse accumulates the most points in the two-race series in Japan qualifies for the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Japanese colt Lani raced in the Kentucky Derby last year after qualifying for the race by winning the UAE Derby in Dubai.

The Hyacinth offers points awarded 50-20-10-5 to the race’s first four finishers, and among the race’s 15 entrants is Mont Saint Legame, who already has earned 40 points in the Japan series by virtue of his win in November in the Cattleya Sho. Caucus, who finished second in that race and earned 16 points, is the only other points-earning Cattleya Sho finisher back for the Hyacinth. Both horses are Triple Crown nominees, as are Adirato, Epicharis, and Foggy Night.

Mont Saint Legame, by Came Home, won both of his starts last year at 2 and makes his 3-year-old debut Sunday. In the Cattleya Sho, Mont Saint Legame stalked the pacesetter, took over at the top of the homestretch, and won by about one length over Caucus, running 1,600 meters on a track rated muddy in 1:37.80.

Caucus’s two races this season, sixth- and fifth-place finishes on dirt, have not flattered Mont Saint Legame, however, and the Hyacinth could well be won by a horse who didn’t even start in the Cattleya Sho.

Epicharis, another colt making his 3-year-old debut, went 3 for 3 in an all-dirt 2-year-old campaign and captured a Group 3 over about 1 1/8 miles in his most recent start.

Foggy Night, who is by Tapit and out of Champagne d’Oro, has raced only once, winning a 1,600-meter dirt maiden race last November at Tokyo.

Adirato lost three times on turf but has won both of his dirt starts and, unlike many in the Hyacinth, has raced already at age 3.

Post positions for the race were to be drawn Saturday.