January 28, 2023

Cafe Pharoah goes last to first in Hyacinth on Japan Road to Kentucky Derby

Cafe Pharoah wins the Hyacinth
Cafe Pharoah overcame a slow start in the Hyacinth on the Japan Road (Yuki Shimono)

When a speedy front-runner breaks dead last in a large field, it usually spells disaster. But the exciting Cafe Pharoah demonstrated rare versatility in Sunday’s Hyacinth S. at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan, shrugging off a complete reversal in racing tactics to rally and win for fun.

Having led all the way to win his debut at Nakayama by 10 lengths, Cafe Pharoah was favored at 11-10 to beat 13 rivals in the 1,600-meter Hyacinth, the penultimate leg of the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. But when the gates opened, Cafe Pharoah hesitated and broke dead last, conceding his rivals at least 10 lengths in the early going while briefly losing touch with the field.

But the early pace was modest, with the filly Ultramarine carving out fractions of :24, :49, and 1:14.10, so midway through the race Cafe Pharoah began to advance under jockey Mirco Demuro. With a sustained rally, Cafe Pharoah worked his way back into contention while racing four or five wide around the turn.

Entering the long homestretch, Cafe Pharoah had his sights set on the leaders, and when Demuro asked the bay colt for his final bid, Cafe Pharoah surged to the front. Despite his challenging trip, the favorite had plenty left in the tank, sprinting the final 600 meters in a quick :35.20 to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths over the late-surging Tagano Beauty.

Cafe Pharoah stopped the timer in 1:37.70, the fastest running of the Hyacinth since multiple Group 1 winner Gold Dream clocked 1:35.40 in 2016. Yaugau and Longonot rounded out the top four, while Herrschaft, Meisho Tensui, Ultramarine, Taisei Policy, Daimei Corrida, Reine Blanche, Jet Max, Morino Break, Nile River, and Chimera Verite completed the order of finish.

Owned by Koichi Nishikawa and bred by Paul P. Pompa, Cafe Pharoah is a son of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, whose best foals so far have been excelling on turf. Similarly, Cafe Pharoah’s dam is the More Than Ready mare Mary’s Follies, winner of the Boiling Springs (G3) and Mrs. Revere (G2) running 1 1/16 miles on grass. Mary’s Follies previous foals include Night Prowler and Regal Glory, both multiple graded stakes winners on turf.

Despite his grassy pedigree, Cafe Pharoah seems thoroughly at home racing on dirt. With his victory in the Hyacinth, the Noriyuki Hori-trained colt earned 30 Kentucky Derby qualification points, placing him firmly atop the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Tagano Beauty secured 12 points for his runner-up effort, placing him third in the standings.

The four-race series concludes on Mar. 28 with the 1 1/8-mile Fukuryu Stakes at Nakayama.