UAE Derby Prep Results
As usual for the UAE Derby, horses come in from all over the world.
The races with the most last-out runners were both in the Middle East, the Al Bastakiya at Meydan, and the Saudi Derby (G3) at King Abdulaziz. Though Saudi Derby top two Commissioner King and Havnameltdown are not in the UAE Derby, third- through fifth-place finishers Derma Sotogake, Es-Unico, and Continuar are. The three from the Al Bastakiya include winner Go Soldier Go, second-place Mr Raj, and sixth-place Lahresh.
Tall Boy, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas at Meydan, also presses on to the UAE Derby; he is the only one in the field who raced there last out. Ah Jeez, like Tall Boy, trained by Doug O’Neill, comes in out of a victory in a conditions race at Meydan.
Looking outside the Middle East, Perriere most recently won the Hyacinth, on the Japan road to the Kentucky Derby; Goraiko also presses on from a fifth-place finish in the Hyacinth. Dura Erede, another Japanese horse, was last seen winning the Hopeful (G1) at Nakayama on December 28. Cairo comes in from a win in the Patton Stakes at Dundalk in Ireland, while Worcester (the lone maiden in the field) was last seen running third in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.
UAE Derby Contenders
These are the contenders in the 2023 UAE Derby, organized by post position:
Es-Unico: This Brazilian-bred is a Grade 2 winner in Uruguay, and owns a good second-place finish behind Tiger Nation in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial in January. He is a Southern-hemisphere three-year-old, though: he has had an extra few months to develop compared to the rest of the field, but he also has to lug an extra 10 pounds due to that age difference, the only one in the field with that heavier weight.
Ah Jeez: He was a cut below the West Coast turf horses when running in America for trainer Doug O’Neill, but a two-month winter freshening had him ready to win a conditions race at Meydan in his three-year-old debut. His tactical speed is a positive, and he should be able to stretch out past that seven furlongs, though he has class to prove.
Cairo: Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won this race three times and has another live contender with Cairo. The son of Quality Road has yet to try dirt, but his sire is an excellent dirt producer, and his trainer has a good feeling about which horses can translate their form to the Meydan dirt. Cairo’s consistency is also a plus; he has never finished worse than second, and his tactical speed means he can carve a trip.
Continuar: He showed ability in Japan as a two-year-old, with the only blemish in three starts being a nose second to Derma Sotogake in the Mochinoki Sho at Hanshin in November. However, he came up a bit flat in the Saudi Derby, finishing fifth in that race. Perhaps he can improve second off the lay and with a bit extra ground underneath him, given his good nine-furlong form as a juvenile, though he still has to prove he trained on.
Derma Sotogake: It took him four tries to break his maiden last year, but he hasn’t run a bad race since. He rattled off a pair of stakes wins in Japan to end the year, including nosing out Continuar in the 1 1/8-mile Mochinoki Sho in November, and then finished a good and gaining third in the Saudi Derby last out. It proved he could ship. The extra distance is a plus, though his late-running style is a question since Meydan can be speed-friendly on the biggest days.
Dura Erede: Among the large Japanese contingent, he is at the top of the group in terms of class. He won the Hopeful (G1) in game fashion as an 89-1 outsider, getting up for a nose in the 1 1/4 mile race. In fact, he is the only horse cutting back in distance for this race. He has to prove he has kept up in development and can fire sharp off the lay, but he has the class and stamina.
Go Soldier Go: A solid presence through the Carnival meeting, Go Soldier Go has won his last two races, both at the same 1 3/16-mile distance as the UAE Derby. However, watch the track bias: he is a deep closer who doesn’t tend to get the best start, meaning he is probably going to have a lot of ground to cover late.
Goraiko: He won two straight to finish the year last year, but he came up flat in his sophomore debut in the Hyacinth. Perhaps he needed the race, or perhaps the mile distance was too short for him. He could improve second off the lay, but make sure you’re getting a price.
Lahresh: He broke his maiden in an allowance romp over Go Soldier Go two starts back over the same course and distance as this race, though finished a belated sixth in the Al Bastakiya next out, 6 3/4 lengths behind Go Soldier Go. If he gets a bit closer to the pace than he was, something more like the trip he got two back, he could improve. Though, he also has to prove that victory wasn’t just a function of the off track.
Mr Raj: He rallied after a slow start to break his maiden three back, but has run well from closer to the early pace in his last two, including showing a good stalking style in the Al Bastakiya and missing by only a head to Go Soldier Go. He is an improving horse and interests for a piece of the exotics off of that last effort.
Perriere: He has never run a bad race in four starts, most recently finishing well to take the Hyacinth on February 19, a race on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. Distance is a question, as he has yet to try longer than the 1 1/16 miles of his debut race. He also has to turn the tables on Derma Sotogake, who beat him by a length two back. But, the betting action he has continuously taken in Japan is encouraging.
Tall Boy: This Doug O’Neill charge looked like he had a lot of growing up to do in four starts in the United States, and then looked in the UAE 2000 Guineas that he was a horse who had taken that step forward. He was a maiden facing the well-touted Shirl’s Bee in that race, carved out a tracking trip, and won by a length. Jockey William Buick returns to the irons from that outing, though he might end up getting overbet in US pools due to trainer name recognition.
Worcester: Bob Baffert sends him to Dubai for a million-dollar race despite the fact that he is still a maiden. He came close in a maiden sprint two back and was only two lengths beaten by stablemate Newgate in the Lewis on February 4. Baffert and Dettori have been doing well at Santa Anita, and he has the tactical speed to be up close on a day when that may be necessary, though the post may make it hard to get early position.
UAE Derby Past Winners Past Performances
In the last ten runnings of the UAE Derby (which stretch back to 2012, as the race was canceled in 2020 due to COVID), the only race that has been the last-out start for more than one winner was the Hyacinth at Tokyo. Lani (2016) came out of a fifth-place finish in the Hyacinth, while Crown Pride (2022) had run sixth.
Two of the last ten winners of the UAE Derby last raced at Meydan: Mubtaahij (2015) came out of a win in the Al Bastakiya, while Thunder Snow (2017) won the UAE 2000 Guineas. Rebel’s Romance (2021) came out of a fourth-place finish in the Saudi Derby.
Two recent winners come out of European races. Mendelssohn (2018) came out of a win in the Patton at Dundalk in Ireland, the same race his trainer Aidan O’Brien sends Cairo in from this year. Toast of New York (2013) came out of a win in a novice at Wolverhampton.
Three others come out of graded stakes in America. Daddy Long Legs (2012) had last run twelfth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), while Lines of Battle (2013) was seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Plus Que Parfait (2019) rebounded off a thirteenth-place showing in the Risen Star (G2).
UAE Derby Card
The UAE Derby is the fifth of nine races on the all-group-stakes Dubai World Cup card at Meydan on Saturday, March 25. The featured race is the ninth and final, the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) for older handicap horses. The card also features the $6 million Sheema Classic (G1) for turf routers, the $5 million Dubai Turf (G1) for middle-distance turf runners, the $2 million Golden Shaheen (G1) sprinting on dirt, the $1.5 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) at six furlongs on grass, the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G2) for stayers, the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) for dirt milers, and the $1 million Kahayla Classic (G1) for Arabian horses.
Meydan Racecourse was built to replace Nad al Sheba, a less modern venue. Meydan opened in 2010, and the sprawling venue includes a golf course, 5-star hotel, and a horse racing museum. There are 285 rooms at the hotel, which overlooks the track. The Meydan meeting runs from November through March each year, with the Carnival portion running January through March, and then trainers go off to places like the United Kingdom, Germany, and South Africa to pursue the rest of the season.
UAE Derby FAQ
Q: When is the UAE Derby?
A: The 2023 UAE Derby takes place Saturday, March 25 at 5:50 p.m. Gulf Standard Time, or 9:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. It is the fifth of nine races on the Meydan card.
Q: Where is the UAE Derby?
A: It takes place at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the UAE Derby?
A: Trainer Saeed bin Suroor has the most wins in the UAE Derby: eight, between 2000 and 2017. He does not have a runner in this year’s edition. Among trainers in the 2023 renewal, Aidan O’Brien leads with three wins. He sends out Cairo this year.
Q: Who is the favorite for the 2023 UAE Derby?
A: Cairo, for three-time UAE Derby-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the 2023 UAE Derby. He comes in off of a win in the Patton Stakes at Dundalk, the same race that fellow Aidan O’Brien trainee Mendelssohn used as a final prep in 2018.
Q: Who is the best UAE Derby jockey?
A: Christophe Soumillon leads all jockeys with three victories in the UAE Derby, most recently in 2017. Among jockeys with a call in this year’s edition, Ryan Moore (Cairo) and Frankie Dettori (Worcester) lead with two wins each.
Q: Who won the 2022 UAE Derby?
A: Crown Pride won the 2022 UAE Derby for trainer Koichi Shintani and rider Damian Lane. Lane does not ride this year’s edition, but Shintani returns with Goraiko, who will be ridden by Yuga Kawada.