Japanese Contender Master Fencer Adjusting To American Vibe At Keeneland

by | 04.26.2019 | 2:13pm
Master Fencer will be first Japanese-bred to run in the Kentucky Derby and first Japanese-based runner since Lani in 2016

Katsumi and Yasuyo Yoshizawa's Master Fencer (JPN) – who in eight days could become the first horse bred in Japan to race in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) – arrived at Keeneland about 6 p.m. Thursday to continue preparations for the 145th running of the $3 million race at Churchill Downs.

Master Fencer came to Keeneland, said shipping agent/manager Mitsuoki Numamoto, to give him a quiet atmosphere in the days following his first international trip.

The colt is to leave for Churchill on Monday, when the owners and trainer Koichi Tsunoda are scheduled to arrive in Louisville.

While at Keeneland, Master Fencer is expected to perform only light training.

“(Exercise rider Yosuke Kono) wants him to get used to the American circumstances – horses, track and so forth,” Numamoto said.

On Friday about 6:45 a.m., Master Fencer and Kono were on Keeneland's 5-furlong all-weather training track and galloped twice around by themselves before jogging about 1½ times around with a lead pony.

Master Fencer, who has two wins in six career starts, earned Derby qualifying points in two races that are part of the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. He was fourth in the 1-mile Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo on Feb. 17 and turned in a fast-closing runner-up finish in the 1 1/8-mile Fukuryu Stakes at Nakayama on March 31. He is the lone Triple Crown-nominated horse in the top four on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The colt's journey to the Kentucky Derby continued when he flew from Tokyo, stopped in Anchorage, Alaska, and arrived in Chicago early Monday afternoon. He spent the next 42 hours in mandatory quarantine at Arlington Park near Chicago and yesterday was vanned seven hours to Keeneland.

“He's surprisingly laid back given the fact he's never traveled abroad before,” said Kate Hunter, Japan-based recruiter for Churchill Downs and the Triple Crown. Hunter also is the Japan representative for Keeneland sales.

Master Fencer represents the first crop by Japanese champion Just a Way, a grandson of 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence. Katsumi Yoshizawa, a frequent patron of Keeneland sales, purchased the colt's dam, Sexy Zamurai, by Deputy Minister, for $110,000 at Keeneland's 2005 September Yearling Sale. Out of the stakes-winning Broad Brush mare Powder, Sexy Zamurai is a half-sister to Grade 2 winner One Caroline.

Master Fencer's fourth dam is 1995 Broodmare of the Year Northern Sunset (IRE).

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