DUBAI: The winners of the UAE Derby sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) and UAE Oaks sponsored by Al Naboodah Construction Group (G3) have arrived at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, for their respective tilts in the US $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1) and $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks on Saturday and Friday, respectively.
Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s Aidan O’Brien-trained Mendelssohn, winner of the UAE Derby by 18½ lengths to the good of said UAE Oaks winner –Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi’s Rayya– arrived at Churchill Downs from his Ballydoyle base in County Tipperary, Ireland, on Monday evening at approximately 9:50 p.m. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner immediately entered quarantine in Barn 17 and is expected to clear by late Wednesday afternoon.
Pat Keating, head traveling lad representing O’Brien reported that the son of Scat Daddy shipped well, as did his stablemates, fellow Dubai World Cup night alumni Threeandfourpence, Seahenge and Deauville.
“Everything is fine and they settled in great,” Keating said. “We couldn’t be happier with them.”
Threeandfourpence, who was ninth in the UAE Derby in his lone dirt try on Dubai World Cup night, returns to the grass in Saturday’s $300,000 American Turf (G2). Group 2 winner Seahenge, fifth in the same race, is slated to run in the $300,000 Pat Day Mile (G2) and Grade 1 winner Deauville, seventh in the 2017 Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1), is entered in the $500,000 Old Forester Turf Classic (G1).
The Coolmore quintet’s first appearance during morning training at the Louisville oval will be Thursday morning after an anticipated Wednesday afternoon quarantine clearance.
Rayya, who shifted barns from Dubai-based Doug Watson to California-based three-time Dubai World Cup winning trainer Bob Baffert immediately following her aforementioned runner-up effort against males, has made positive impressions since arriving Monday afternoon around 2:00 p.m. The daughter of Tiz Wonderful galloped about 2000m on Tuesday morning during the special 7:30-7:45 a.m. training session.
Since shifting to her new Santa Anita Park home, the chestnut four-time Meydan runner and two-time Dubai winner has recorded two breezes in preparation for her Kentucky Oaks attempt. The first of those was a sharp 1200m drill from the gate in tandem with 2017 Kentucky Oaks winner and champion Abel Tasman, who returns to racing on Friday, as well, in the La Troienne Stakes (G1).
Rayya was joined on her trip by Kentucky Derby favourite Justify, as well as Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) runner-up West Coast. The latter bounced off the ramp and into the barn full of himself and gushing with energy, hinting that his trip to Dubai took little out of him. He is a possible for June’s Stephen Foster (G1), the same race 2017 Dubai World Cup runner-up Gun Runner used as his first race back last year before landing Horse of the Year honours.
“It was an uneventful flight and they all look great,” said Jimmy Barnes, top assistant to Baffert. “Rayya is moving along forwardly. She fell into our training program perfectly and she looks like she’s heading in the right direction. We’re excited about running her, also.
“(Abel Tasman) is a tough one to work against and that gives you a gauge of where you’re at with (Rayya),” Barnes continued. “We’ve had her a short time, but she came in in great shape, which helped us. I think just making that one trip over (from Dubai) and back helped a lot with her. We’re excited about it. She looks beautiful. Post seven is a good post.” Sports Desk