January 29, 2022

Der Flug takes flight in Fukuryu, Japan Road to Kentucky Derby finale

Sunday’s Fukuryu S. at Nakayama concluded this season’s Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, and the result fit the pattern of the three prior scoring races: the victorious Der Flug is not nominated to the Triple Crown.

Should connections opt to make him eligible, Der Flug would win the Japan Road with the 40 points he garnered in the Fukuryu. Runner-up Master Fencer, who was previously fourth in the Hyacinth, has the most points of the Triple Crown nominees based in Japan with a total of 19. Next on the list of Triple Crown-nominated points scorers is Derma Louvre (14 points). Instead of pursuing an invitation via the Japan Road, Derma Louvre tried Saturday’s UAE Derby (G2) and finished fourth.

Tsuru Nishimori’s Der Flug ranked as the 3-5 favorite here after winning his first two starts over this track and about nine-furlong trip. The son of Behkabad romped in a newcomers’ race December 2, followed up in a January 13 allowance, and readily passed this stakes test.

Trained by Nobuhiro Suzuki and confidently handled by regular rider Akihide Tsumura, Der Flug bided his time at the back of the pack early along with Master Fencer. But Der Flug had more gears to advance entering the far turn, while Master Fencer was under pressure to cover his move and already worked hard to gain a contending position.

Der Flug swept by early leader Gold Lagoon and the stalking filly Rhein Carina. So did Master Fencer, before proving unable to keep pace with the winner’s rally. Der Flug drew 1 1/2 lengths clear at the wire and clocked 1:53.2.

Master Fencer, best of the rest by three lengths, banked 16 points applicable to the Japan Road. His total of 19 includes 3 from his Hyacinth fourth. None of the other Fukuryu runners are early Triple Crown nominees. The respective third- and fourth-place finishes by Rhein Carina and Black Warrior would be worth 8 and 4 points.

Nova Lenda had captured the second scoring race, the December 19 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, but was only fifth in Sunday’s finale. The other two points-race winners did not compete in this one. Make Happy, successful in the Cattleya Sho November 24, was unplaced in the next two, and Oval Ace has not run back since capturing the February 17 Hyacinth at Tokyo.

Der Flug, now a perfect three-for-three, is out of the winning French Deputy mare Pai Guniang from the family of Grade 2-winning sprinter Kanoya Zakura.