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Can Forever Young Become The First Horse To Win The Kentucky Derby From Japan?

Andy Newton
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Forever Young is the horse from Japan carrying their big Kentucky Derby hope in 2024 as the unbeaten star from the Far East looks to ruffle a few US feathers and become the first Japanese horse to win the first leg of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs on May 4.

The Japan Road To The Kentucky Derby Explained

Until more recent years having a non-US horse in the Kentucky Derby was tricky.

Yes, it wasn’t prohibited but with the final entries made up of horses that have to obtain points by winning certain Kentucky Derby prep races, that were run in the US, meant it was really hard for international runners to qualify.

However, the landscape slightly changed in 2017 after the Japanese-bred Lani ran well in the three Triple Crown races that year included a 9th in the Kentucky Derby. Plus was also 5th in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes.

This led Churchill Downs to partner with the Japan Racing Association and come up with a ‘Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby’ to make it easier for Far East horses to qualify and also give the race a more international feel.

At first just two races were included – the 2 year-old Cattelya Sho and the 3 year-old Hyacinth Stakes. But, in 2018 more races were added that included the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun (2yo) and Fukuryu Stakes (3yo).

Then, once these contests had been run, the horse with the most points was awarded a place at the Kentucky Derby. While if that horse decided not to run it would be offered down to the horse with the second most points, and so on.

Forever Young Looking To Become The First Kentucky Derby Winning Horse From Japan

Forever Young silks The $1m UAE Derby, which Forever Young landed earlier his season (watch below), is another non-US race that carries the carrot of having big Road to the Kentucky Derby points, with 100 going to the winner.

Therefore, that haul of points is enough to see Forever Young qualify for the May 4 race and will head to Churchill Downs unbeaten 5-from-5 and as one of the big fancies with the Kentucky Derby racebooks.

If he can win the 150th edition of the Run For The Roses, Forever Young will become the first horse from Japan to take the prize and only the sixth non US-bred horse in the history the Kentucky Derby.

Prior to that UAE Derby win, Forever Young also took the Saudi Derby this season (watch below) so is actually on a Derby three-timer ahead of his trip to Kentucky.

T O Password Could Also Fly The Kentucky Derby Flag For Japan

Another runner from Japan could be T O Password, who won the Fukuryu Stakes this season at Nakayama racecourse (watch below) and is the horse that have earned the most points from the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby this season.

The Daisuke Takayanagi-trained horse is 2-from-2 from his opening races and Japan horse racing fans will be hoping he can make the trip to Churchill Downs too.

How Many Non US-Bred Kentucky Derby Winners Have There Been?

The quick answer is – not many.

Since the Run For The Roses was first run in 1875, it’s no shock the bulk of the Kentucky Derby previous winners have been bred in the US.

However, there have been a sprinkling of non US-bred winners – with the first Omar Khayyam, who was a colt from England in 1917. 42 years later in 1959 saw another UK-bred winner in Tomy Lee, while in 1971 the Triple Crown hero Canonero II came from Venezuela.

The other two winners not from the homeland were Northern Dancer (1964) and Sunny’s Halo (1983), but they didn’t come far as were both bred in Canada.

  • 1917: Omar Khayyam
  • 1959: Tomy Lee
  • 1971: Canonero II (Triple Crown winner)
  • 1964: Northern Dancer
  • 1983: Sunny’s Halo

Forever Young Horse Profile

  • Runs: 5
  • Wins: 5
  • Last Race: 1st UAE Derby (30th March 24)
  • Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi
  • Jockey: Ryusei Saki
  • Owner: Susumu Fujita
  • Career Earnings: $2,049,451
  • Breeding: Real Steel / Forever Darling

WATCH: Forever Young Making It 5-from-5 When Winning The UAE Derby

WATCH: Forever Young Leaving It Late To Win The Saudi Derby 

Forever Young Horse Betting Odds To Win The 2024 Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby odds 2024 tell us that the impressive Florida Derby winner Fierceness and the recent Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Sierra Leone are disputing the favorites berth – both around +300.

The main Japanese runner Forever Young is coming in next best with the best US Kentucky Derby sportsbooks at +800.

This means a $10 win bet on Forever Young at these Kentucky Derby odds (+800) will return a profit of $80 (plus your $10 stake back).

Note: Odds are subject to change

Derma Sotogake and Mandarin Hero Flew The Japanese Flag In 2023

12 months ago, Japan had two more big Kentucky Derby hopes in Derma Sotogake and Mandarin Hero, however, both fell short.

Derma Sotogake did best of the pair in 6th as and was sent off 78/10 in the betting. While Mandarin Hero (175/10) was only 12th (watch below).

Other Japanese Horses To Have Run In The Kentucky Derby

The 2024 Kentucky Derby horses from Japan – Forever Young and T O Password, plus last year’s entries Derma Sotogake and Mandarin Hero – are, however, not the only ones to have tried to win the Run For The Roses in the past.

Ski Captain (1995)

The first Japanese horse to run in the Kentucky Derby, despite being bred in Kentucky. Back then there were no Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby points, but he got into the race after winning a G3 and being placed in a G1 in Japan. He went onto finish 14th in the Kentucky Derby that year.

Lani (2016)

Okay, not actually bred in Japan, but his trainer, jockey, owner and dam were all Japanese, with the horse bred in Kentucky. His first five career races were all in Japan and won thr 2015 Cattelya Sho 2 year-old race. However, made it into the 2016 race after winning the UAE Derby. He went onto finish 9th in the Kentucky Derby and backed that up with a 5th in the Preakness Stakes and a 3rd in the Belmont Stakes. He became the first Japan-based horse to run in all three Triple Crown races.

Master Fencer (2019)

The first Kentucky Derby horse to be actually bred in the country. He also became the first horse to make it into the race from the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby as the 2017 and 2018 winners didn’t want to make the trip over. The horse went onto finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby – finishing the race off well.

Crown Pride (2022)

Won the UAE Derby which gave him the points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby that year and was sent off as a 17/1 chance. The horse ended up in a speed duel in the race with Summer Is Tomorrow, which set that year’s Run For The Roses up for a closer – Rich Strike.

Andy Newton
Andy Newton

Andy Newton is a horse racing handicapper who specializes in key race trends for the biggest events in sport around the world. His statistical approach to finding winners is one that has paid off time and time again. Check out the latest trends and Kentucky Derby stats from Andy on the site.