Katsumi Yoshizawa's homebred Master Fencer improved on his eye-catching sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby with a rallying fifth in Saturday's Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets at Belmont Park.
Trained by Koichi Tsunoda and piloted by Julien Leparoux, Master Fencer settled last of 10 along the rail at the half-mile call and was gradually tipped out to the three-path, gaining a position by the stretch call. Angled six-wide down the lane, Master Fencer continued to gain ground on his rivals, finishing just a head short of the more prominent Tax.
The Japanese-bred son of Just a Way will leave New York on Thursday and return to his native Japan to rest up and prepare for a fall campaign.
“I had a really good time here and enjoyed the experience,” said Yoshizawa. “I learned a lot for next time.”
Training assistant Yosuke Kono, who traveled with Master Fencer through the Triple Crown run, which included an extended stay at Keeneland following the Derby, said Master Fencer was in good order on Sunday morning.
“He came back from the race in very good condition. He's obviously tired after running, but there's no issue with him and we're very happy,” said Kono, via translator Kate Hunter. “I wish he'd been a little closer to the front at the top of the stretch, so he would have more of a chance to use his closing speed.”
Kono said the American Triple Crown provided a great learning experience.
“The whole experience was very different from what we would have in Japan, both race wise and training wise, because the racetracks in Japan are ship-in only,” said Kono. “So, it's taken a lot of effort to think about different ways to train him up and to be prepared for the races. Thinking about that, and tweaking those processes, will be very important if we hope to win here during the American Triple Crown.”
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