Cattleya Sho | Kentucky Derby Prep Race

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Cattleya Sho (JPN)

Cattleya Sho (JPN) Race History

The Kentucky Derby trail has proven to be a highly successful method for preparing to run in the Kentucky Derby. Thus, the Road to the Kentucky Derby organizers have extended the prep races overseas. The Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby was introduced for the 2017 prep season and includes the Cattleya Sho in November and the Hyacinth early in the new year.

Horse in the United States compete in the Kentucky Derby prep races to collect any number of tiered points. The first series of races offers a point split of 10-4-2-1. The second tier allots 50-20-10-5 points and a handful of the biggest races for three-year-old colts award 100-40-20-10 points.

The top-four horses in each Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race will be awarded a 40-16-8-4 point split. After the conclusion of these two races, the horse with the most points will advance to be among the 20 Kentucky Derby contenders.

One reason for including the Cattleya Sho and the Hyacinth is that they are designed for the appropriate age class on a dirt surface. The majority of top level Thoroughbred races in Japan are run on turf. For example, the Japanese Triple Crown actually consists of three races – the Satsuki Sho, Tokyo Hushun and Kikuka Sho – which are all run on turf. The mainstay of turf contenders makes it hard to assess competence for the American Triple Crown series.

The most well-known winner of the Cattleya Sho is Lani, an American-born horse who raced out of Japan under Mikio Matsunaga during the 2015-16 campaign. Lani endeared racing fans with his goofy and unpredictable attitude, and was equally difficult to read at the racetrack. He topped out with a 3rd place finish in the Belmont Stakes in the United States, following finishing 9th in the Kentucky Derby and 5th in the Preakness Stakes for 2016. He has since returned to Japan.

Not many horses travel across the Pacific to race in North America and those that do, don’t have a history of performing at the top levels of American racing. There have been previous contenders that have run in the Kentucky Derby, or other legs of the Triple Crown, but few finished within winning position.

With the continued growth and success in breeding and racing abroad, it may be only a matter of time until we see a Kentucky Derby winner hail from Japan. Breeding in Japan strongly follows the footsteps of Sunday Silence who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1989. Sunday Silence was Japan’s leading sire for 13 straight years from 1995 through 2007. Deep Impact, a son of Sunday Silence, has led many years since.

By building stronger pedigrees at the classic distance, with an affinity to dirt, it is only a matter of time before strong contenders regularly arrive in the Kentucky Derby field.

Cattleya Sho (JPN) Past Winners







M. Matsunaga



Domingo City

Y. Tamura



Red Bar Spin

M. Sakaguchi



Daiwa King Con

S. Masuzawa



Gaily Snowman

A. Tsurudome



Dantsu Energy

K. Yamauchi


*Prior to 2004 the race was run at 1,800 meters or 9 Furlongs