Kentucky Derby Contender Profile: Herrschaft

March 30th, 2020

As the old saying goes, slow but steady wins the race. It might not be accurate in every instance, but it’s certainly worked wonders for Herrschaft, whose slow-but-steady progress this season has launched the chestnut colt onto the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Bred in Kentucky by Colts LLC, Herrschaft is a son of Will Take Charge, the U.S. champion 3-year-old male of 2013. Produced by the Mr. Greeley mare Love Ava Love, Herrschaft sold for $110,000 as a weanling before he resold the following year for $200,000 to Kanayama Holdings, after which Herrschaft traveled to Japan to race under the care of trainer Kenji Nonaka.

Nonaka has performed fine work with dirt runners, including 2019 February (G1) winner Inti, and Herrschaft has slowly blossomed under Nonaka’s guidance. After he finished fourth in his debut at 1,800 meters, Herrschaft cut back to 1,400 meters and delivered a decisive maiden victory at Kyoto, where he tracked the pace and pulled clear to win by four lengths.

Herrschaft continued to sprint over the winter. He finished fourth and first in a pair of 1,400-meter allowance races, then stepped up in class and distance for the 1,600-meter Hyacinth S. at Tokyo, the third leg of the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. With Derby qualification points on the line, the competition was fierce, and Herrschaft could only produce a mild rally down the homestretch to finish fifth.

However, a change in tactics made a substantial difference for Herrschaft when he stretched out to 1,800 meters for the Fukuryu S. at Nakayama, the fourth leg of the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. Sent straight to the lead by jockey Yusuke Fujioka, Herrschaft carved out fractions of :23.80, :49.50, and 1:14.60 before he kicked clear with authority. He never gave his rivals a chance down the lane and eased across the finish line 2 1/2 lengths clear in 1:53.40. The victory secured Herrschaft 40 Kentucky Derby qualification points.

Herrschaft isn’t the flashiest colt on the Derby trail, and the Fukuryu attracted an easier field than the Hyacinth, which raises questions about Herrschaft’s ability to beat the best 3-year-olds in Japan. And since Herrschaft hasn’t yet been nominated to the Triple Crown, it remains to be seen whether his connections will set their sights on Churchill Downs.

But Herrschaft does have one factor in his favor — his slow-but-steady nature. Much like his late-maturing sire, Herrschaft is improving with time and distance. His frontrunning Fukuryu score was a big step in the right direction, so the best might still be ahead for this up-and-coming colt.