The 2018 Hyacinth Stakes was the final stop on the 2018 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, and offered 30 points to the winner meaning that whoever crossed the finish line was likely to book their entry to the biggest American Classic. Sumahama earned that right but has yet to confirm if he will make the journey across the Pacific to join the three-year-old class over here. As far as talented Japanese trained runners go, Sumahama has the goods and proved it over the weekend.
Sumahama has also evolved after front-running during his first two wins. He went off as the 5/2 favorite and drafted patiently before shooting to the front of the homestretch to cover the mile distance in 1:38.50.
“Until his previous start, he had a habit of weaving during the race, but today he ran smoothly, and that was more than I expected,” jockey Yusuke Fujioka said. “About the race distance for him, there was no problem running in a mile race. I think that he would have no problem running in 1,800 meters and upward races.”
Trainer Ryo Takahashi also highlighted the more strategic choices made by Fujioka and Sumahama at the Hyacinth. “In his last two races, he led the races, but today he kept in the second position during the race and he could manage the race well.”
Finishing third, however, was 2017 Cattleya-Sho winner Ruggero who now sits second behind Sumahama with 16 derby points of his own. If Sumahama decides to forgo the derby, then the place would be offered to Ruggero. There’s also another route for Ruggero to take – he’s nominated for the 2018 UAE Derby, which is part of the 2018 Dubai World Cup undercard. That race offers 100 points on the derby trail and would automatically berth the winner to the first leg of the Triple Crown as well.
As for Sumahama, Takahashi remained coy about shipping his newly minted star overseas. “We will check his condition and decide his next race,” the trainer said. “But until now he could perform the tasks step by step, so we hope he will go on to bigger and better things.”
It doesn’t get bigger or better than the Kentucky Derby for three-year-olds. We’ll keep you posted.