2024 News

May 6, 2024


Japanese Racing sighs as Forever Young dramatic third in Kentucky Derby; T O Password fifth
Forever Young
Forever Young

T O Password
T O Password

So close, yet so far.

Forever Young missed out on history by a whisker as the Japanese colt placed third after an epic photo finish in the 150th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Down on Saturday (May 4).

The $5 million (USD) race, a record purse for the Derby, came down to a three-way bobbing of the heads seized by Mystik Dan by a nose over Sierra Leone, the most expensive horse in the field of 20 at $2.3 million.

The Yoshito Yahagi-trained Forever Young - who went off as the second betting favorite - was another nose back in third in the tightest finish since 1947, and certainly one of the most dramatic in the race’s history.

Forever Young, by Grade 1 Dubai Turf winner Real Steel out of Forever Darling, produced the best result ever by a Japanese horse at the Derby, bettering Master Fencer in 2019 and Derma Sotogake last year who both finished sixth. Since Ski Captain in 1995, six horses from Japan have taken their shot in the Run for the Roses.

The other JRA entry, T O Password trained by Daisuke Takayanagi, also impressed, closing out the 2,000-meter race hard to come in fifth.

The look and words of esteemed eight-time overseas G1 winner Yahagi said it all about how close they were to rewriting the record books in one of the most revered races in the world. It was the first defeat for Forever Young in six career starts.

“I just have one thing to say - frustration,” said Yahagi, who was visibly shaken after his horse flirted with history. “The horse was fantastic. He ran his heart out. To run the way he did in conditions that are far from easy for a Japanese horse, I simply tip my hat.

“But as close as we got, I really wanted to see us win. We must take our lessons from this and I am absolutely convinced this is something we can build on. I hope we can make him become the best racehorse on the planet. To all those who supported us, I just want to offer my apologies for coming up so short.”

Jockey Ryusei Sakai was equally despondent by the stinging outcome not only for Team Yahagi but all of Japanese racing.

“It hurts, full stop. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to ride in this amazing race. The horse was in great condition and seeing how close we were, I would have liked to win it,” he said.

The Kentucky Derby got under way with long shots Track Phantom and Just Steel pacing the early going. Forever Young, leaving from the No. 11 stall with the Kazushi Kimura-ridden T O Password to his outside, stumbled off the blocks. The Japanese pair traveled towards the back.

Rounding for home in front of the largest crowd at Churchill Downs since 2018 of 156,710, Sakai pushed Forever Young on the outside with Sierra Leone right next to him. Mystik Dan slipped through along the rail where he would find a clear path towards the wire.

But Forever Young and Sierra Leone didn’t make it easy for him, charging towards the line with a fury to force the photos that took minutes to judge. The winning time was 2 minutes, 3.34 seconds.

T O Password, by Copano Rickey out of T O Rachel, took the tape by a distance but Takayanagi appeared to be pleased by the effort from his colt, who only raced for the third time in his promising career.

“If he had a bit more experience, I think it would have led to a better start and positioning during the race, and it showed in the end,” the trainer said. “The plan was to sit somewhere in the middle - though obviously not out in front.

“He was a little worked up before the race but was all right by the time he was in his seat at the paddock. If he can continue to race the way he did today, he should be able to more than perform in Japan going down the road. It was only his third start, he should mature emotionally from hereon.”

Echoing the trainer was Kimura who said:

“The horse gave it everything he had. He was strong down the stretch. When I first worked him, he acted like a kid at times. But he grew up. He didn’t break as he usually does in Japan because of his experience, but he adjusted during the trip and did a good job of chasing, finishing strong. I think we can expect a lot from him if he can build on this.”

In another race featuring a Japanese runner at Churchill Downs over the weekend, T O Saint Denis, also ridden by Sakai and trained by Takayanagi, came in second behind First Mission in the G2 1,700m Alysheba Stakes on Friday.


Official Result (Kentucky Derby, Equibase)

Official Result (Alysheba Stakes, Equibase)


Please refer to the following website for further details.
Churchill Downs Racecourse
Kentucky Derby


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