Valiant Derma Sotogake runs to 6th in Kentucky Derby after stuttering start; Mandarin Hero 12th
Mandarin Hiro (center)
Derma Sotogake was left to rue a bad jump from the gate and to think what if after finishing sixth in the 149th Kentucky Derby on Saturday (May 6).
The other Japanese runner in the 18-horse field, Mandarin Hero, came in 12th. Continuar was also scheduled to run but became one of five scratches ahead of the US$ 3 million race at Churchill Downs, where eighth choice Mage ridden by Javier Castellano prevailed in 2 minutes, 1.57 seconds over the 2,000 meters. The top betting favorite, Angel of Empire, was third.
Derma Sotogake had had a tough draw, starting from the No. 17 gate, but the climb became even steeper for the Hidetaka Otonashi-trained colt when he brushed his stall as the gun went off for the Run of the Roses.
Jockey Christophe Lemaire made every effort to recover but the early setback was too much to turn around for Derma Sotogake, who was forced to travel towards the back and from the outside down the final straight. Otonashi did not bother to mask his disappointment following the race, given the form his horse was in.
“It goes without saying that it was an important race but the start was everything,” Otonashi said. “The plan was to race towards the front but we never even got the chance. It was just impossible to come back from where we were positioned.
“Last year the race slowed on the stretch but this year, we needed to be aggressive from the beginning and I would have preferred that he raced closer to the pace to be honest. Lemaire said the horse felt good and he thought they had every shot but we were just too far back. It all came down to how we started the race.”
Lemaire’s mount went off as the third overall choice. Derma Sotogake tied Master Fencer’s finish in 2019 for the best result ever by a horse from Japan. He was the fifth challenger from the Japan Racing Association to run in the Kentucky Derby; Crown Pride was 13th last year.
Derma Sotogake will pass on the next Triple Crown race - the May 20 Preakness Stakes - and return home.
“He was not very quick out of the gate but we made our way up the field. We had good position going into the next to last turn and rounding for home,” Lemaire said looking back on the race. “He was very responsive so I thought he might quicken better than he did but it didn’t happen. He competed until the very end.”
Mandarin Hero became the first horse from the National Association of Racing (NAR: Racing by Local Governments) to run in any of the American Triple Crown races after he was bumped up into the field when Lord Miles pulled out.
Coming off an impressive second place in the Santa Anita Derby, hope floated for the Terunobu Fujita-trained Mandarin Hero, who started well but simply could not keep up as the race picked up.
“I held on to hope that we would be drawn into the field, and he got the work in he needed before the race. I was pleased about that,” said Fujita, who revealed the next start for his colt would be the Japan Dirt Derby on July 12. “It would have been nice if we had finished in the top five so the result is disappointing, but I’m glad we were given a shot.
“He was well behaved from the paddock to the warmups to the start. He seemed fine. He broke well and managed good position during the trip so I watched with the belief that he would finish strong. He ran his heart out even though his face was covered in dirt. I only have gratitude.”
Official Result (PDF: Equibase)
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