Extensive notes about nine of the 12 entries in the Group 2 UAE Derby.
Dice Flavor – U.S. invader Dice Flavor had an easy canter on Meydan’s all-weather Tapeta surface on Thursday morning and is coming up to the race in good order according to his trainer Paddy Gallagher -- despite a setback ahortly after arriving in Dubai last weekend.
“After he landed here, he got a bit dehydrated,” explained the California-based conditioner. “Fortunately, it came and went pretty quickly. Ever since then, he’s been acting good. He’s galloped the last four or five days and he cantered well this morning.”
The winner of the Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields will be facing his toughest task to date in the UAE Derby. Gallagher isn't sure of the race shape and says he will leave strategy up to Jose Valdivia, Jr.
“It’s tough to know how the race will play out,” he said. “We’ll play it by ear and I’ll leave it up to his jockey. The horse has been improving a little with each start and he’s had a chance to run on this type of surface in California. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if he’s up to the task.”
He's Had Enough – The Doug O’Neill-trained He’s Had Enough had an easy gallop and then stood in the gate at Meydan on Thursday morning. Assistant trainer Leandro Mora, who has been supervising the O’Neill horses since they arrived in Dubai, commented on the temperament of their Derby contender.
“He’s a big baby,” he said with a chuckle. “He still thinks like a baby. He likes to play; he likes to bite. He sometimes doesn’t concentrate, and I think that may be why he’s lost a couple of races. There’s nothing else we can do now. He’s athletic. The Kentucky Derby is just around the corner, and ‘Derby Fever’ is here.”
The O’Neill team hopes to earn enough points Saturday to get into the Kentucky Derby. The UAE Derby is worth 170 points, of which 100 will go to the winner; 40 to second; 20 to third; and 10 to fourth.
“We already have six points from the second in the Breeders’ Cup and the third in the Lewis at Santa Anita,” Mora said. “He needs to at least finish second to get in to the Derby. This is a good challenge, and the O’Neill stable is known for taking challenges. Sometimes we try to swim against the current – but we’ve done it sometimes.”
Mario Gutierrez has the mount on Saturday. Gutierrez of course rode I’ll Have Another to victories in 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and has been aboard He’s Had Another for his last five starts.
“He gets along with this horse so why take him off when the big races come up.” Mora said.
Keiai Leone – Trainer Katsuichi Nishiura commented, “As I flew into Dubai this morning, I saw him for the first time during his trip. He looked very well and relaxed. I am pleased that he has enjoyed the camp. The surface of Tapeta will suit him.”
Jockey Hideaki Miyuki commented, “I was worried that he could adjust to the new surroundings since he got in, however he was very relaxed and fit, which I thought he has improved a lot mentally. He usually works very well at home, and he never changed here, and I think he will handle the all-weather track. This is the first experience to race in Dubai for both of I and the horse, but he has enough talent to overcome and I have to bring his best performance.”
Lines of Battle – Together with his four stablemates, the Aidan O’Brien-trained 3-year-old trotted within the quarantine barn ahead of his imminent appearance on the main track at Meydan.
“Everything is fine; we couldn't be happier with all the horses,” said O'Brien's travelling head lad, Pat Keating. “They are due to go out on the Tapeta on Friday.”
Lines of Battle and He's Had Enough are the only two in the race nominated to the Triple Crown.
Law Enforcement – The 3-year-old looking brighter and showed plenty of energy when covering one circuit of the main track under Richard Hughes. He had also shed the hind-leg bandages he wore the previous two mornings.
“He was mad-fresh, which is how we want him,” Hughes said. “The journey here takes as much out of them as two bits of fast work, but he has freshened up good. He was like an elastic band out there.”
Now Spun -- Mahmood Al Zarooni trains, and Mickael Barzalona, will ride. He'll run with a shadow roll.
Successful inn two of his three starts, he had an easy victory despite showing signs of inexperience in the listed Meydan Classic over a mile on turf at Meydan on Feb. 28. He won a mile maiden, also on turf, at Leicester on Oct. 16 and made his debut on Polytrack fifth in a similar race at Wolverhampton the month before.
Mahmood Al Zarooni said: “The horse is really doing well. He is a nice sort, and there is improvement in him. He has not had enough experience yet, and I hope his turf form will translate to Tapeta.”
Secret Number -- Saeed bin Suroor trains, Silvestre de Sousa will ride.
He's two for two. He went away from his rivals in the listed Al Bastakiya on March 9 over this course and distance. The half-brother to Dubai Destination and Librettist took a Polytrack mile maiden at Kempton Park, UK, on Oct. 24.
Saeed bin Suroor said: “Secret Number has run twice in his life, winning a maiden and a listed race. He is improving all the time and doing really well. He is unbeaten, and I am sure he has the class to run a big race.”
Shuruq -- Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, and Paul Hanagan will ride. She'll be equipped with cheek pieces.
Shuruq was Godolphin’s ninth winner of the Group 3 UAE Oaks over this course and distance on Feb. 28 when scoring very well by four lengths. A close second in the listed UAE 1000 Guineas, also on Tapeta at a mile, she made all in a seven-furlong Kempton Park maiden on Polytrack last October.
Saeed bin Suroor said: “Shuruq won really, really well in the UAE Oaks. She is running over the same course and distance which she seems to stay well. She is ready to go again, and I am hopeful of another good performance but it is a tougher race as she takes on the colts.”
Snowboarder -- Trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, to be ridden by William Buick. He'll run with a shadow roll.
He's won three times in eight starts and was second or third otherwise. Seventh on the final bend, Snowboarder came through to have every chance, keeping on in third 3 3/4 lengths behind Secret Number, in the Al Bastakiya.
Mahmood Al Zarooni said: “I think Snowboarder will be fine in this race. Last time Mickael (Barzalona) lost his whip in the final furlong, and this is a horse who needs encouragement. I think he will run a better race this time, as there is a little bit of improvement in him. He always tries his best which can be seen from his consistent record. One day he will win again.”