U. Carrot Farm's Japanese-bred multiple stakes winner Epicharis arrived at Belmont Park June 1 ahead of his North American debut in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1) June 10.
Arriving on the grounds shortly before 3 p.m. ET, Epicharis was greeted by exercise rider Masa Aki—who is also the assistant trainer to Kiyoshi Hagiwara—and groom Yoh Akima at Belmont's Barn 5, where he will complete his isolation and quarantine, a process that usually lasts between 36-48 hours.
By Gold Allure, a son of 1989 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Sunday Silence, Epicharis remained at Japan Racing Association's Miho Training Center in Japan a little longer than originally scheduled because of mechanical repairs on the aircraft, which delayed his May 31 departure by about 10 hours. The entire trip took approximately 24 hours, his connections said, with a layover in Anchorage, Alaska, before landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport Thursday afternoon.
Hagiwara is expected to arrive June 2, while Epicharis should clear quarantine June 3 and is scheduled to train over the main track. He is slated to put in a final breeze for the Belmont June 6 or June 7, Hagiwara said last week.
Epicharis was undefeated as a 2-year-old in his homeland, where he won his first three starts by a combined 25 lengths. As a 3-year-old, he stamped himself a legitimate Triple Crown contender with a victory in the Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo in February. He suffered the only loss of his budding career with a hard-fought second to Thunder Snow in the March 25 UAE Derby Sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) at Meydan Racecourse.
Epicharis will be eligible for NYRA's $1 million bonus offered to any Japan-based winner of New York's most prestigious race. Introduced for the 2017 Triple Crown season, the entire $1 million bonus would be awarded to the winning Japanese horse's connections in addition to the $800,000 winner's share of the purse for the last and longest leg of the Triple Crown.
Additionally, the 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion" will be the first U.S. Triple Crown event available for pari-mutuel wagering in Japan. Japanese wagering on the Belmont Stakes will be conducted through a separate, non-comingled pool.
Epicharis will join Koji Maeda's Lani as the first back-to-back Japanese competitors in the Belmont's storied history. Lani generated international interest as he competed in all three legs of last year's Triple Crown and turned in his best showing with a late-closing third to Creator in the Belmont. Christophe Lemaire has been aboard for all five of Epicharis' starts and is expected to retain the mount for the Belmont.