Japan’s Belmont (G1) hope, Epicharis, entered quarantine Thursday, one week in advance of his arrival in New York for the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
The winner of his first four career starts for trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara, Epicharis had clinched a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) by capturing the February 19 Hyacinth at Tokyo. But the Carrot Farm colorbearer’s target of choice was the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, a destination confirmed after his near-miss to Thunder Snow last time out in the March 25 UAE Derby (G2).
Epicharis recorded a work Wednesday at the Japan Racing Association’s Miho Training Center. With assistant trainer Masaaki Minamida in the saddle, the Gold Allure colt negotiated five furlongs in 1:05.2 – on the woodchip track that goes uphill.
“I am pleased with his work,” Hagiwara told NYRA publicity, adding that Epicharis posted fractions of :12.6, :36.8, and :50.7.
“He looks fine and he moved sharply. He has been doing well.
“Considering the long trip to Belmont via Anchorage and Chicago, I will give him one more timed work in Japan at the same course on Sunday and the last one will be at Belmont on Tuesday or Wednesday the week of the race.”
Epicharis is due to fly out of Japan Wednesday. With the whole journey taking 24 hours, it will be next Thursday by the time he crosses the threshold at Belmont Park.
Regular pilot Christophe Lemaire will come in for the Belmont, arguably the shrewdest U.S. Triple Crown option for Epicharis. His relentless galloping style likely translates better to the 1 1/2-mile circuit than to the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, and as if that weren’t enough, NYRA has sweetened the pot this year with a $1 million bonus for a Japanese-based winner of the Belmont S.
Japanese fans will also have an historic opportunity to bet on the Belmont through a separate, non-commingled pool – the first time that pari-mutuel wagering in Japan was opened up to a U.S. Triple Crown race. It’s a good thing that Japanese racing fans are dedicated and enthusiastic because the Belmont S. post time is very early on the morning of Sunday, June 11, over there – 7:37 a.m. (JST).