11/23/2017 6:01PM

First race in Japan's Kentucky Derby prep series includes I'll Have Another colt

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Meiner Yukitsubaki, a colt by 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, is part of a projected field of eight in Saturday’s $170,894 Cattleya Sho at Tokyo Racecourse, the first race of a three-race series that could produce a Japan-based runner for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5.

The qualifying series was introduced last year, but there was not a Japan-based runner in the Kentucky Derby in May. A similar series will begin in Europe this winter, with one berth available to a horse that earns points in races in England, France, and Ireland.

After Saturday’s Cattleya Sho, run at a mile on dirt, the series continues in Japan with the Zen Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki on Dec. 13 and the Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo in February. The Cattleya Sho and Nisai Yushun are worth 10-4-2-1 points for the first four finishers, while the Hyacinth Stakes is worth 30-12-6-3.

One invitation will be extended to a Japan-based runner among the horses with the four highest point totals.

There have been two Japan-based runners in the Kentucky Derby, mostly recently Lani, who finished ninth in 2016. Lani, who won the 2015 Cattleya Sho before the Japanese qualifying series was launched, earned a berth in the Kentucky Derby by winning the United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai in March 2016.

Meiner Yukitsubaki won a maiden race in his debut in June and was fourth in an allowance race on Oct. 14.

Other contenders in the Cattleya Sho are Apostle, who has been third in two stakes; Weltall, a maiden race winner in his only start at Tokyo on Oct. 9; and Ruggero, who was eighth in the Grade 3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup on turf and will have his dirt course debut on Saturday.

I’ll Have Another was sent to Japan for stud duty at the end of the 2012 season.