Japanese-bred dual stakes winner Epicharis is scheduled to make his North American debut on June 10 in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in New York.
Epicharis earned an automatic berth into Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs thanks to a three-quarter length victory in the Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on February 19.
The Gold Allure colt shipped to Dubai following that about one-mile contest and just missed by a head when second to Kentucky Derby runner Thunder Snow in the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) on March 25 at Meydan.
However, Epicharis’ connections, the U. Carrot Farm racing syndicate, decided to skip the 143rd Run for the Roses and instead point to the final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes.
“When he arrived in Japan from Dubai, he was bit tired from traveling and we wanted to give him enough time, thus we had to pass on Kentucky Derby and (May 20) Preakness Stakes ([G1] at Pimlico), though he was awarded (a spot in the) starting gate in Kentucky Derby as the winner of the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby,” trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara explained. “Now, he is completely recovered and he is doing well, so we decided to try the Belmont Stakes. He is bred to stay and, the way he races, I believe 1 1/2 miles at Belmont suits him.
“I am very honored to participate in the Belmont Stakes. Epicharis ran well at the U.A.E. Derby and proved himself deserving of the Triple Crown challenge.”
Epicharis was unbeaten as a juvenile in Japan, romping in all three of his starts by a combined 25 lengths. He suffered the first loss of his career in the U.A.E. Derby, and is likely to keep regular rider Christophe Lemaire in the irons for the June 10 “Test of the Champion.”
The dark bay colt is following in the hoofsteps of Lani, who ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown last year following a nice win in the U.A.E. Derby. Lani gradually improved his placing in each race until finally just missing by 1 1/2 lengths when third in the Belmont Stakes.
Epicharis is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park and enter quarantine on June 1. He is eligible for the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) inaugural $1 million bonus to any Japanese-based winner of the Belmont Stakes.
“Since we met Mr. Martin Panza at Tokyo in February, he has been very helpful and we knew NYRA was dedicated to have him running,” Hagiwara said. “It gave us much confidence to try for the ‘Test of the Champion.’ We really appreciate him.
“Epicharis is arriving in New York on June 1, via Anchorage and Chicago, and I will be in New York on June 2. I am very excited and am looking forward to the challenge.”
Post time for the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for 6:37 p.m. (ET) and the post position draw is set to take place Wednesday, June 7, at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.