Forever Young – Kentucky Derby Context

April 22nd, 2024

The highest-ever rated dirt two-year-old in Japan, Forever Young may be the one to buck recent international trends in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The undefeated colt stamped his ticket with a comfortable tally in the UAE Derby (G2), a race that has failed to produce a top four finisher at Churchill Downs from 18 alumni, but none had the reputation of Forever Young. Winner of his first three starts in Japan, Forever Young gained worldwide attention when recording an impressive win in December’s Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, displaying good tactical speed while romping by seven lengths over a mile. He’s built for longer distances but showed his versatility when opening 2023 in the one-mile Saudi Derby (G3), overcoming a poor start to record a gutsy win from off the pace. Forever Young raced closer to the action in the 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby, stalking just behind the early leaders before launching his bid on the far turn. And given his aversion to kickback in previous starts, he’ll probably look to establish positioning just behind the early leaders and in the clear during the opening stages of the Kentucky Derby. Forever Young has taken his track with him so far, winning over five different dirt ovals, and he rates as a viable contender to become the first international shipper to win the Kentucky Derby since Cannonero II in 1971.

Owner: Forever Young will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Susumu Fujita.

Trainer: Recognized numerous times by the Japan Racing Association (JRA), Yoshito Yahagi is one of the most prominent trainers in Japan, conditioning 2020 Japanese Tripe Crown winner Contrail and leading the JRA by prize money and wins multiple years. The 63-year-old trainer continues to make an impact on the international stage as well, shipping in to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) with Loves Only You and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) with March Lorraine in 2021 and capturing major events in Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Saudi Arabia. Forever Young will be his first Kentucky Derby starter, although Continuar shipped last year before scratching.

Jockey: Ryusei Sakai will make his first Kentucky Derby appearance. An up-and-coming jockey in Japan, the 26-year-old currently ranks in the top 10 in the overall jockey standings at home, and he’s guided Grade 1 winners on dirt and turf. Sakai has been up for all five of Forever Young’s starts.

Breeders/Sales: Bred in Japan by Northern Farm, Forever Young sold for about $725,000 as a yearling at the Japan Racing Horse Association’s Select Sale and will be the first Kentucky Derby representative for his breeder. Four Japanese-bred horses have competed in the Kentucky Derby, with a pair of sixths the best result (Master Fencer in 2019 and Derma Sotogake in 2023). 

Sire: Forever Young is from the second crop of Japanese Group 2 winner and 2016 Dubai Turf (G1) hero Real Steel, a son of two-time Japanese Horse of Year and great sire Deep Impact, a son of 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner and breed-shaping Japanese sire Sunday Silence. Real Steel is a full brother to Loves Only You.

Dam: The first stakes winner from the Grade 2-winning Forever My Darling, a daughter of Congrats, Forever Young is closely related to Kentucky Derby starter Sierra Leone on his dam's side. Forever My Darling counts Grade 1 winner Heavenly Love, the dam of Sierra Leone, as a half-sister, and both mares hail from multiple stakes winner and Grade 1 runner-up Darling My Darling, who is by Deputy Minister, the broodmare sire of 2007 Preakness winner Curlin and Belmont (G1) winners Jazil (2006), Rags to Riches (2007), and Sarava (2002). As a broodmare sire, Congrats has yet to make an impact on the Triple Crown, but one of his daughters is responsible for 2020 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil. Congrats is by the great sire A.P. Indy.

Top Brisnet Speed: NA
Top Brisnet Late Pace: NA