Saturday, March 2, 2024

Japan’s Mandarin Hero Pointed to Santa Anita Derby

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A year and a half ago, Japanese horses traveled to Southern California to run in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, and Marche Lorraine  and Loves Only You  came away victorious. 

Now another Japanese shipper is preparing to race on California soil. Mandarin Hero is pointed to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 8 at Santa Anita Park, according to a tweet from Japan’s National Association of Racing and confirmed in a press release from Santa Anita Park. NAR is responsible for various local horse racing events throughout Japan, compared to the more well-known Japan Racing Association circuit, comprising the country’s top racecourses.

A son of Shanghai Bobby  trained by Terunobu Fujita for owner Hiroaki Arai, Mandarin Hero went 4-for-4 as a 2-year-old, capped by a victory in the Haiseiko Kinen Nov. 16. He returned as a 3-year-old with a runner-up finish Feb. 23, his lone defeat in five races, all on dirt at Oi Racecourse.

Santa Anita indicated the 3-year-old would arrive in Los Angeles March 29 to begin his on-site preparation for the 1 1/8-mile race.

“We’re gratified to have this horse coming in for the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby,” Santa Anita’s director of community services and special projects Pete Siberell said. “I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Oi Racecourse a number of times, and thanks to the folks at U.S. Equine, we have enjoyed a 30-year relationship as sister tracks.

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“Both Oi Racecourse and Santa Anita have sent horses to compete in major races over the years which has enabled both Japanese and American citizens to bet on them. We see racing trending in an international direction and we share Oi’s desire to increase field size and promote wagering globally.”

The Santa Anita Derby offers Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points on a 100-40-30-20-10 basis to its top-five finishers if Triple Crown nominated, which Mandarin Hero is. Not having participated on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, Mandarin Hero would likely need at least a top-three finish in the Santa Anita Derby to have sufficient points for a follow-up appearance in the May 6 Kentucky Derby based on historical point trends.

San Felipe Stakes (G2) winner Practical Move  is expected to be among the top local horses Mandarin Hero would need to outrun in the Santa Anita Derby.

The 86th running of the Santa Anita Derby, which has produced 20 winners of the Kentucky Derby, including 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify  , will be televised on NBC. 

“Any time we can attract horses from abroad, it generates additional interest in a race of this magnitude,” Santa Anita director of racing and racing secretary Jason Egan said. “Given Japan’s recent successes in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and in other top-level events around world, it is extremely exciting to have Mandarin Hero compete here in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. 

 “We hope this serves to open the door further to additional international runners at Santa Anita in the future.”

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