• A round-up of the main prep races – plus ante-post prices generally available generally available in Britain
By Nicholas Godfrey
16-1 Ete Indien (Patrick Biancone/Florent Geroux)
Gulfstream Park (Feb 29): Fountain of Youth Stakes G2 $400,000, 1m½f, dirt
Sire: Summer Front
Likely target: Florida Derby (March 28)
Now this was an impressive front-running display from the outside gate of ten in the main Florida Derby prep. That said, alongside an imperious 8½-length winning effort came a number of interesting angles with Kentucky in mind – not least the fact that Ete Indien paid a nice compliment to Classic favourite Tiz The Law, who beat him by a comfortable three lengths a month ago in the Holy Bull.
Ete Indien, aboard whom Florent Geroux deputised for the injured Luca Panici, is a second Derby hope for trainer Patrick Biancone, who runs Sole Volante in next weekend’s Tampa Bay Derby in a bid to clinch the necessary qualifying points to earn a guaranteed place in the Churchill Downs starting gate.
Less positively, any such hopes for longtime fancy Dennis’ Moment now look less than promising. Described as a “superstar” by trainer Dale Romans, the hot favourite was a complete flop at Gulfstream, offering no response when asked to challenge a half-mile out and fading to last of ten. It would be no surprise if something was amiss.
Patrick Biancone (trainer): “Good horses can overcome everything and I think he’s an exceptional horse. We look forward to the future. I want to see how he comes back, how he works the next time. He’ll need to improve a little bit to be able to win the Florida Derby. We’re here in Florida, he’s training in Florida and we love Florida. I think we’ll take a shot if he’s in good form.”
??? Full Flat (Hideyuki Mori/Yutaka Take)
King Abdulaziz, Riyadh (Feb 29): Saudi Derby (ungraded) $800,000 1m, dirt
Likely target: UAE Derby (March 28)
For once, I can write without any shred of worry that I might be making a mistake when I suggest that no horse has ever taken this particular route to the Kentucky Derby. Perhaps that’s why British bookmakers have yet to cotton on.
There was, though, much to like about the Japanese contender’s winning performance on the Saudi Cup undercard, where he broke alertly from the widest gate in a 14-runner field before sitting handily outside the pace and taking command in the stretch. Other horses on the card wilted down the long Riyadh stretch but not this one as he scored by 2¼ lengths from an international field.
While Saudi Arabia may not appear the most obvious route to Louisville, there is method in the Japanese madness. Full Flat is Triple Crown-nominated – so is late-running runner-up Mishriff – and he’s already run in the States with a respectable effort to finish fifth after stumbling at the gate in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Moreover, while there were no Derby qualifying points on offer for Saturday’s success, there are plenty at the UAE Derby, which offers his next target. Japan’s Lani used that race as a springboard to becoming a player in the 2016 Triple Crown, when he ran in all three legs and finished third in the Belmont. There may be more stamina questions with this one.
Yutaka Take (jockey): “Last year he went to America for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and ran well, so I am pleased to make the most of what he had learned there. We are heading to the UAE Derby next, and then if everything goes well as planned, the Kentucky Derby must be one of our options later on.”