With the top three Japan Road points scorers Der Flug, Oval Ace, and Nova Lenda declining, the Kentucky Derby (G1) invitation went to the next on the list, Triple Crown-nominated Master Fencer, and owners Katsumi and Yasuyo Yoshizawa accepted the offer.
Most recently second to Der Flug in the March 31 Fukuryu S. at Nakayama, Master Fencer was also fourth to Oval Ace in the previous scoring race, the February 17 Hyacinth S. at Tokyo. He earned a total of 19 points. Japan Road leaders Der Flug (40 points), Oval Ace (30), and Nova Lenda (20) were not nominated to the Triple Crown, and connections opted to pass on the opportunity.
But the Yoshizawas were delighted to let Master Fencer take his chance.
“It is an honor to be able to participate in one of the world’s greatest races,” Katsumi Yoshizawa said.
“In Japan, kids in grade school have a yearly athletic competition that the whole family and close friends all get very excited about. They hope when their children perform they do well but, of course, parents most of all want their children to come back safely. That is how I feel about Master Fencer. I hope he comes back from the race safely most of all. I feel lucky to be able to race my horse in Kentucky.”
Yoshizawa is the proprietor of his private training facility by the same name with three locations around Japan as well as a school to train Japanese horsemen.
Master Fencer is trained by retired jockey Koichi Tsunoda. Since switching careers in 2011, his top performer is Grade 2 vixen Bel Canto who also competed in the 2016 Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup night.
The first horse to take advantage of the Derby ticket offered by the Japan Road since its 2017 inception, Master Fencer is also the first Japanese-bred to try the Run for the Roses. The Derby’s two prior Japanese-based participants, Ski Captain (14th in 1995) and Lani (ninth in 2016), were bred in Kentucky.
Now that the Japan Road invitation is finalized, the identity of the European Road winner awaits Thursday’s Cardinal Conditions race at Chelmsford. If that invitation is also accepted, 18 Derby berths would remain for American-based sophomores.
More background and analysis of Master Fencer can be found in the international scouting report on TwinSpires.com.