The first of this weekend’s trio of Derby Preps that many people considered ‘weak’ on paper compared to what we had been watching from week to week up to this point was the UAE Derby. We did get to see our first prep that awarded 100 points to the winner in the UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup Day from Meydan Racecourse. It was one of the most exciting Derby preps thus far when favorite THUNDER SNOW(IRE) headed EPICHARIS(JPN) at the top of the lane and that was just the beginning of an exciting stretch drive that saw THUNDER SNOW(IRE) veer out with about a half furlong to the wire, then he rallied back to catch EPICHARIS(JPN) right on the wire to win by nose. Amid all the chaos which his jockey Christophe Soumillon blamed on the tracks left by the starting gate and the huge video board next to the toteboard in the infield, THUNDER SNOW finished the 1900 meters (roughly 1 3/16-Miles) in 1:57.76 a stakes record on the Meydan dirt course. Before we look at the other two Derby preps, let’s breakdown how the UAE Derby will affect the Kentucky Derby field.
So us handicappers looking towards the Kentucky Derby need to determine whether or not the horses we watched set a stakes record on the Meydan dirt course are worthy of win bet consideration on May 5th. The simple answer would be to say no because no horse has ever shipped from Dubai to win a Kentucky Derby. For that matter, I believe no horse from Dubai has ever hit the board in the Kentucky Derby, but don’t take my word on that, I am just going based on my memory which can be a bit foggy at times. This year however, I think that if the top two finishers of the UAE Derby decide to ship to Louisville than they definitely deserve consideration. And it’s not just because of the speed of the UAE Derby on a muddy track this past weekend. If you watched the race itself, you can see the talent of both of these young 3-year-olds. I was actually more impressed with the horse that had already earned a Derby berth, EPICHARIS. He didn’t have to ship to Dubai, but his trainer, Kiyoshi Hagiwara took the route of getting an extra prep against much tougher competition. He proved to me to be a serious front running threat in the Kentucky Derby, but one thing is a fact, he is going to have to run faster in Kentucky to get the front, and he is going to have to improve.
Third place finisher of Todd Pletcher, MASTER PLAN, must be considered, if you look at the TRAKUS information that is made available for free on the Dubai World Cup website. He was getting faster during the final 200 meters of the race. If he makes the Kentucky Derby field, he must be considered as a serious threat.
What to make of THUNDER SNOW? He won the race, but he raced extremely green and will likely face new obstacles in Kentucky. I expect him to be a bit flustered by the crowd and whether or not he can get settled and warm up appropriately before the start of the race must be seriously considered. I would be worried about it if I liked this horse. He is going to hear over 100,000 fans roaring out of the gates and once they hit the top of the stretch. Will that spook him again? It’s definitely possible.
Here is how I rank the three horses that hit the board coming out of the race
#1 – EPICHARIS (JPN) / MASTER PLAN (USA) – TIED
#3 – THUNDER SNOW (IRE)
At this point, I think MASTER PLAN might be the better bet. It depends on how EPICHARIS takes the flight over to America and whether he decides to come. There is a chance his connections could decide to bypass the Derby altogether. Same thing is said for Thunder Snow, but Saeed bin Suroor has wanted a Derby winner forever, I don’t see him passing this chance up.