Epicharis, a grandson of Sunday Silence, earned a guaranteed spot in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (G1) with a victory in the Feb. 19 Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse.
With the win Epicharis is now undefeated in four starts and it gave him 50 qualifying points in Churchill Downs' Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby standings. Mont Saint Legame, who earned 40 points for his victory in the first of the qualifying races in November, came in 10th in the Hyacinth but remains in second place in the rankings.
With Christophe Lemaire up, the bay colt saved ground through the 1,600 meters (about one mile) while racing just behind the pace. He got through on the inside in the late going and went on to win by a three-quarter-length margin over Adirato.
Caucus, a Street Sense colt owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, finished second in the November race but 13th Sunday.
A spokesman for U Carrot Farm, which owns Epicharis, said no decision has been made about sending the colt overseas, although the UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan March 25 is a possibility.
"We are considering a possible run in Dubai at the moment and will take things one race at a time," he said.
Lemaire, however, said he feels Epicharis would be a viable contender in Louisville.
"I think he would do well, because he has got some speed at the start," Lemaire said. "Today, if I had wanted to, I could have been in front and he traveled very easily.
"It is quite important to get a good position early without rushing the horse in the Derby, and this colt could do that well, I think. Concerning his abilities, he is still undefeated and showed his class in this prep race, defeating horses who had already had a start this year. I was very happy with him. Hopefully we'd be able to do as well on American dirt."
Should U Carrot Farms decline the Derby bid, Mont Saint Legame's owners would inherit the option. Adirato, with 20 points, would gain the option should the top two decline, but if he also declines, no other horse on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby would be eligible.
Epicharis won at first asking in August in a race restricted to first-time starters, followed that with an allowance win in Tokyo Oct. 15, and completed his juvenile season with a victory in the Nisai Yushun at Hokkaido Nov. 1. He won his first three races by a combined 25 lengths. The Hyacinth was his first start of the year and he was heavily backed by enthusiastic Japanese fans.
The colt was bred by Masatsugu Kamada. His sire, Gold Allure, is by Sunday Silence and his dam, Stapes Mitsuko, is by Carnegie.