The Dubai World Cup, featuring the great Arrogate taking on an international cast of challengers, is the main event on Saturday in the desert. One of the highlights of the undercard, though, is the UAE Derby. It's a $2 million race, so it's going to be interesting no matter what. And it is a rare three year old race that allows horses from both the northern and southern hemisphere to race each other - southern hemisphere three year olds are six months or so older than northern hemisphere three year olds and are considered fours year old in North America.
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More interesting than both of those factors, though, is that this is a full 170-point Kentucky Derby prep race - the first one of the year. That means that the winner and the runner-up will have enough points to travel to Kentucky for the big race if they choose. There are 16 horses here for the test, coming from the U.S., Japan, South America, and Europe to face the locally-based runners. Needless to say, it's a diverse and fascinating field.
Here's a look at how thing shape up for this race, scheduled for 9:25 a.m. ET on Saturday (There is no on-track wagering, so odds are from Bovada ):
Thunder Snow, 8/5: This colt won a very significant Grade 1 race in France at the end of his juvenile year to make a statement on the world stage. Then he headed to Dubai and absolutely dominated a stakes race on this same track. He's among the top youngsters in Europe, and he has shown he can win on this track. That is going to make him tough to beat - though he'll have to be on his best form for this very tough field.
Epicharis, 13/2: It's a little odd to see this colt here because he has already earned his spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate if he wants it. For the first time this year there was a spot up for grabs for the top points earner in a two-race series in Japan, and this colt dominated the Hyacinth in February to claim that title. It was an impressive effort, but reports are that he wasn't fully fit for that race and that he is in stronger form here. If nothing else, this is a very exciting opportunity to see how the best of Japan measures up to one of the best of Europe on neutral ground. I like his chances.
Adirato, 50/1: We'll be brief in this one. He set the pace in the Hyacinth before being overwhelmed by Epicharis in the stretch. He wasn't good enough that day, and I struggle to imagine him being good enough here.
Master Plan, 13/2: This one is interesting. Todd Pletcher ran out of prep races to enter in the U.S., so he headed halfway around the world with this colt. It's a bold move. The colt ran second to stablemate Tapwrit at Gulfstream in the Pulpit Stakes in December. Tapwrit locked up his Derby invite by winning the Tampa Bay Derby, so that's a good omen. Pletcher has been very successful in prep races this year, which is another thing in favor of this horse. This is only his second start of the year, though, and this is a long way for a North American three year old to travel. I doubt he's good enough for this spot, and this price seems comparatively very low.
Lancaster Bomber, 7/1: Regular readers of horse racing coverage here may remember that I was very high on this colt in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last year. He almost came through there, finishing second. That, though, was the last time he ran. He also has never run off the turf. He's a classy and impressive horse, but that feels like a whole lot to overcome against this strong field.
Spirit of Valor, 16/1: Like Lancaster Bomber, this colt is trained by Aidan O'Brien. Also like his stablemate, he doesn't seem ready for this spot. He has only three career starts, and the third - a runner-up finish in a mid-level stake in Ireland - was on Oct. 23. This is a huge step up in class of a serious layoff. No thanks.
Vettori Kin, 33/1: This colt and He Runs Away (50/1) are both South American-bred, so they aren't eligible for the Derby even if they win. They will also be carrying 10 points more than the other colts and 14 more than any fillies because of their age advantage. The most noteworthy factor about this horse is that American Ken McPeek is the new trainer, and he will be bringing this horse stateside after this event. It's hard to believe that either of these horses will be particularly relevant here. They wouldn't be relevant at even weights.
The Locals: There are eight Dubai-based runners in this field. This race is the third leg of the UAE Triple Crown. Thunder Snow took the first leg, and then Cosmo Charlie (16/1) grabbed the second. He's back for more here. Qatar Man (25/1) was second in that race and will try this spot, too. Their efforts in that race were overshadowed by the fact that heavy favorite Fawree (8/1) went nuts at the start and threw his jockey. Fawree's mind has been worked on since, and if he can keep it together he's the most interesting local entrant. Bee Jersey (a very intriguing 33/1), owned by Canadian diamond mining billionaire Charles Fipke, hasn't won in three starts, but he has finished second to both Thunder Snow and Fawree so he's a contender as well. Top Score (14/1) and Fly at Dawn (14/1) have been in the mix through the winter but don't seem to measure up or offer anything close to value at this price. Two fillies, Nomorerichblondes (50/1) and Midnight Chica (100/1), round out the field, but they just don't seem to be good enough to take seriously.
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