HOW HE GOT HERE
Crown Pride will be making his United States debut in the Kentucky Derby after beginning his career three-for-four overseas. Debuting in October at Chukyo Racecourse in Japan, he sat an excellent stalking trip inside of rivals before taking over around the turn and drawing clear down the lane. Although running greenly and pulling hard on the rider at times, he displayed clear talent and saw out the 1 1/8 miles beautifully. He replicated that effort in a handicap second time out the following month, going the same distance at Hanshin Racecourse, and scored yet another open length victory over lesser horses.
Following close to a three month break, he returned in the Hyacinth S. (L), a “Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race. Crown Pride encountered trouble in bunches in this race. First and foremost, after making his first two starts around two turns and going 9 furlongs, he cut back to one turn and a flat mile. As a big, rangy colt who clearly relies on the extra distance as his strong suit, this configuration change put him at a big disadvantage before the gates even opened. Then, the gates did open, and after breaking a touch slow and off balance, Crown Pride found himself last in a very large field, very far from the stalking position he was accustomed to. As he tried to advance up the backstretch into more favorable positioning, he ran up on the heels of a horse who was also dealing with some traffic trouble. All of these issues, in addition to the cutback in distance and dealing with a wide trip, caused Crown Pride to run a dull 6th, beaten 3 1/2 lengths.
Despite the tough race, the connections pressed on to Dubai for the UAE Derby (G2), hoping to still secure a spot in Louisville. Here, he worked out the perfect trip under rider Damian Lane. After another start that saw him a touch slow, he regrouped and established excellent stalking position within striking range of the leaders. Crown Pride made a bold, sweeping, and confident move on the turn, fought down the lane with eventual runner-up Summer Is Tomorrow, and drew clear in the dying stages to gain 100 Points towards the Kentucky Derby.
HOW HE FITS HERE
Crown Pride is the wildest of cards in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Given he only has foreign experience, there is no true overlapping form to rely on and compare him to his fellow competitors. The only real option is Gilded Age, the Withers S. (G3) third-place finisher who did run in the UAE Derby, but didn’t seem to handle the track at all that day. A frequent positive you’ll hear in regards to Crown Pride’s Derby chances is the success of Japanese-based runners on the international stage. From Breeders Cup, to Saudi Cup, and then to the Dubai World Cup, the Japanese have absolutely made their mark in the past year. It’s even more impressive when you consider how many of those winners weren’t in the best of form in their home country, but blossomed when shipping elsewhere. I think it’s very fair to use the “well the Japanese runners…” logic with Crown Pride. It also helps that Crown Pride IS actually in good form. He has been ultra consistent, dealt with what feels like a hundred excuses in his only loss, and will certainly take to the 1 1/4 miles just fine.
My only real knock on Crown Pride, other than not knowing how classy he actually is, is his ability getting out of the gate. He has a chronic problem of breaking slowly. In his three wins he was able to establish ideal positioning despite that, but of course it played a big factor in his only loss. Breaking slowly in the Kentucky Derby has never been a good thing, however, with the new full-field gate now in use, the margin for error is even smaller than before. We saw that to the fullest effect with Rock Your World and Essential Quality last year.
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 24, 2022
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
Christophe Lemaire, Japan’s winningest rider over the past five years and considered by many to be the world’s best at his craft, will hop aboard Crown Pride for the first time in the Kentucky Derby. Although he’s never ridden the Derby before, all one has to do is watch his brilliant efforts in Saudi Arabia and Dubai to figure out that it won’t be an issue. Crown Pride is trained by Koichi Shintani. A relative newcomer to the Japanese training scene, Shintani ranks in the teens of the Japanese trainer standings when it comes to wins and earnings. Crown Pride was Shintani’s first career group/graded stakes winner.
There isn’t much to Crown Pride’s pedigree. His sire, Reach the Crown, won a couple graded stakes as a runner but had only thrown one graded stakes winner from six total crops prior to Crown Pride. On the dam side, Emmy’s Pride, by King Kamehameha, didn’t amount to much on the racetrack and hasn’t produced anything of note outside of our UAE Derby winner. However, Crown Pride comes from the Sunday Silence line on both ends of the pedigree, and as previously mentioned he will handle the Derby distance perfectly fine.
Crown Pride is a gigantic unknown, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He has talent and could very well be undefeated if it wasn’t for the most excuse-laden race one could find. He has a very capable rider and is unbeaten around two turns and going 9 furlongs or longer. But, he also hasn’t faced any horses who match the top level horses in the Derby. Could he take them down when facing that type of company for the first time? Sure! But that would leave you banking on a very large “if” instead of a true, quantifiable reason. As I said, he’s an unknown. A mystery. An enigma. Yet as the Japanese have proven in recent months, they’re just fine with those labels, and they’ll be happy to take down America’s best on it’s biggest stages.