Mont Saint Legame wins the 2016 Cattleya Sho

Mont Saint Legame wins the 2016 Cattleya Sho

Katsumi Saito

Mont Saint Legame in Kentucky Derby Picture

Mont Saint Legame picks up Japan points toward Kentucky Derby.

Mont Saint Legame tracked the pace in the Nov. 26 Cattleya Sho at Tokyo Racecourse, went by outside the leader in mid-straight, and claimed a 1 1/4-length victory, becoming the leading Japanese contender for the 2017 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Trainer Koji Maki said he is interested in taking the chestnut son of Came Home to Louisville, "if possible." But he said it is too early to make such a commitment.

"That's certainly our hope," said Churchill Downs Inc. president Bill Mudd of a possible Derby start by the winner. Mudd and officials of the Japan Racing Association participated in the victory ceremonies in front of the massive Fuji View grandstand the day prior to the running of the Japan Cup (Jpn-I).

"We'll do everything we can to make that trip as easy as possible," Mudd added.

Mont Saint Legame earned 40 points toward a possible Kentucky Derby start. Caucus earned 16, Blanc Eclat 8 and Lavapies 4. The Cattleya Sho is the first of two races on the Churchill Downs-designated "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby," which is separate and distinct from the established 35-race "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series.

The second Japanese scoring race, the Hyacinth, will be run next year and awards points on a scale of 50-20-10-5. The horse with the most accumulated points is eligible for a spot in the Derby starting gate. 

Last year's winner of the Cattleya Sho, Lani, a Kentucky-bred colt by Tapit , went on to win the UAE Derby (UAE-II), defeating the highly regarded filly Polar River. He then finished ninth in the Run for the Roses, fifth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and third in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (gr. I) before returning to Japan.

Blanc Eclat, a Kentucky-bred Hansen colt ridden by Ryan Moore, made the early pace in the Cattleya Sho and appeared to have more in the tank. But when he hit the uphill climb at mid-stretch, he stalled and could do no better than third, behind the winner and second-placed Caucus, a Street Sense  colt bred by Darley Japan. Lavapies finished fourth.

Mont Saint Legame, with Takuya Kowata in the irons, ran 1,600 meters (about one mile) on the dirt course in 1:37 4/5. He now is 2-for-2 with both victories coming at Tokyo. The colt was bred by Kawashima Bokujo and is owned by Shinichi Yamashita.