The Kentucky Derby Prep With an Unenviable History

Pinehurst-UAE Derby

Since 2000, 16 UAE Derby alums went to the US for their shot at the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle and a blanket of roses.

Pinehurst-UAE DerbyPInehurst and Flavien Prat won the Saudi Derby a month ago. They’ll go for the Middle East double in Saturday’s UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. (Image: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Douglas de Felice)

That included trendy dark-horse picks like Mubtaahij in 2015 and Mendelssohn in 2018, two horses who drew plenty of money on Derby Day. Mubtaahij went off at 14.40/1, not in the neighborhood of favorite (and winner) American Pharoah at 5/2.

But there were only six horses in the 18-horse field who went off at shorter odds. In 2018, Mendelssohn was a bigger bettor’s darling. After winning that year’s UAE Derby, he left the Churchill Downs starter’s gate as the 6.80/1 third choice behind Justify (2.90/1) and My Boy Jack (6.70/1).

Mubtaahij finished eighth. Mendelssohn? After getting jostled at the start and bumped further going into the turn, he finished dead last in the 20-horse field. Jockey Ryan Moore eased him up in the far turn and he wound up 73 1/2 lengths behind winner Justify.

UAE Derby offers plenty of points

You get the idea. Saturday’s UAE Derby on the Dubai World Cup undercard at Meydan Racecourse offers 100-40-20-10 Derby points, enough to put the winner and runner up safely in the May 7 Derby. But based on alumni history in this race, it offers bettors a poisoned chalice.

Not only is the UAE Derby 0-for-16 in producing a Derby champion this century, it is 0-for-16 putting one of its alums on the board. Master of Hounds in 2011 provided the best finish by a UAE Derby alum. He finished fifth to Animal Kingdom.

And yet, three American runners are in Dubai, attempting to kick dirt in history’s face by parlaying a UAE outing into Derby glory. Actually, one of those — favorite Pinehurst — is a Bob Baffert charge, which makes him ineligible for the Derby due to that trainer’s suspension.

Surprise, surprise: a Baffert charge is favored

Pinehurst is anywhere from 3/1 to 4/1 on various overseas books, not surprising given his Baffert connections, his victory in last month’s Group 3 Saudi Derby and his upwardly trending speed figures. He front-ran the Saudi Derby field in that one-turn, approximately one mile race for his third win in five races.

Before that, the Twirling Candy colt ran his fastest race, clocking a 102 Equibase Speed Figure, in Santa Anita’s Grade 2 San Vicente. Alas, that produced only a runner-up finish to Forbidden Kingdom.

Baffert asks Pinehurst and Flavien Prat to go about 1 3/16 miles, the longest trek of his career and an eighth-of-a-mile further than his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile trek last December. There, Pinehurst finished fifth, his worst showing in five races (3-1-0).

Two other Americans shipping in

The other two US imports are Get Back Goldie and Gilded Age. The son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, Get Back Goldie is the longest shot among the 16 entries on the overseas board. You can get him at anywhere from 25/1 to 50/1. He won a conditional race at Meydan last month, then finished sixth in an ungraded stakes at Meydan March 5.

Gilded Age is listed anywhere from 8/1 to 10/1. The son of Medaglia d’Oro comes in off a third in last month’s Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct.

The best UAE Derby international choices are Combustion, Sekifu and Azure Coast. Currently the second favorite at anywhere from 4/1 to 6/1, Japan-based Combustion comes from Godolphin’s powerful and endless stable. The son of 2007 Derby winner Street Sense arrives off a stakes victory at Tokyo Racecourse.

Sekifu nearly caught Pinehurst last time out

Another Japanese product, Sekifu finished second to Pinehurst by only a half-length in the Saudi Derby. He’s listed between 9/2 and 6/1 overseas.

Azure Coast, another Street Sense product who runs primarily in the Middle East, arrives off his Group 3 victory in the UAE 2000 Guineas last month. You can find him anywhere from 11/2 to 8/1.

Author: Justin Graves