The coach of Japan’s Mandarin Hero has high goals in the Santa Anita Derby

Japan coach Terunobu Fujita was in Santa Anita to conquer the country ahead of his historic Class 1 participation Santa Anita Derby on April 8 with Mandarin hero.

Fujita, 46, will be the first trainer from Japan’s National Association of Racing to start a horse in the US when Mandarin Hero competes after the 1 1/8 mile Santa Anita Derby. Japan’s NAR Circuit consists of regional circuits that mostly run on unpaved tracks. It is generally considered a step below that of the better known Japan Racing Association, which races primarily on grass.

Keep track of tiered bets HRN:
Schedule | Mission Tracker | Stakes Results

Mandarin Hero, shown above in purple colors, was 4-for-4 as a 2-year-old last year and in a start this year he was a quick second in a 1 1/8 mile effort on February 23. All five of his races were held at Tokyo’s Oi Racecourse.

Oi Racecourse and Santa Anita have had a sister track relationship for decades. Every October, Santa Anita partners with Oi to host a Japanese Family Day in Arcadia with the Tokyo City Cup (G3). In turn, Oi hosts a Santa Anita week every November, where the main event is the Santa Anita Trophy.

In 2018, a program was introduced whereby horses at Oi could earn qualifying points for the Santa Anita Derby through certain races. Mandarin Hero dominated the series in this campaign.

While enjoying Saturday’s races alongside the circuit, Fujita said: “It was my dream to have a horse run in the Santa Anita Derby.

“I knew right after Mandarin Hero’s first win that I wanted to come to Santa Anita,” he added.

This wasn’t Fujita’s first trip to Santa Anita. In 2010, just as he was opening his stable in Japan, he spent a week in Santa Anita “to look around and study American racing”.

Mandarin Hero is scheduled to land at Los Angeles International Airport on March 29 after a 10-hour direct flight from Tokyo on US Equine. Assuming there are no quarantine issues, Mandarin Hero should be at the Santa Anita compound on March 31.

Owned by Hiroaki Arai, Mandarin Hero is a dark bay Japanese first crop colt by Shanghai Bobby, the 2012 North American Champion two-year-old males. Shanghai Bobby spent his first five seasons at the Kentucky Stud before being sold to Japanese interests in the year 2018

Fujita said Arai was initially reluctant to send Mandarin Hero to the US

“I asked the owner late last year, ‘Can we go to Santa Anita?’ He didn’t want to come,” Fujita recalled. “But after the last race of Mandarin Hero, he said, ‘Let’s go.’

“This was big news in Japan,” added Fujita. “I’m very proud of that.”

During his first five starts, Mandarin Hero’s running style was always off pace. In the Santa Anita Derby, Fujita plans to field a jockey from the local colony.

“He has really good acceleration on the last straight,” said Fujita. “I think he probably can’t handle the early pace, but he really enjoys chasing other horses.”

If Mandarin Hero finished first or second in the Santa Anita Derby, he would likely earn enough qualifying points to advance to the Kentucky Derby.

“That would be a dream come true,” said Fujita.

Also on the Santa Anita Derby card are the Santa Anita Oaks (G2), Charles Whittingham (G2) and the Echo Eddie and Evening Jewel for Calfornia-breds.


Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button