Dubai: Charlie Appleby’s high-class filly Divine Image can clinch a unique UAE Triple Crown by winning the $2.5 million UAE Derby (Group 2), sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group, the richest Classic in the world, on Saturday.
The daughter of Scat Daddy won the Group 3 UAE Oaks on February 21 and followed up by landing the Listed Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday, March 9, both wins coming in impressive fashion under the guidance of Appleby’s stable jockey William Buick.
Victory in Saturday’s race can set up an American programme for Divine Image, with the UAE Derby being regarded as a major preparatory race for the Kentucky Derby. The winners of the last two runnings of the 1900-metre contest at Meydan, Thunder Snow and Irish-trained Mendelssohn, contested the American Classic.
Swift Rose ran a very good race to finish second in the UAE Oaks, when she showed that she enjoyed racing over this distance, but she will need to be ridden handy again to show her best.
Godolphin’s Saeed Bin Surour, who is the most successful handler in the UAE Derby with eight wins, is represented by Swift Rose (Pat Cosgrave), who bids to emulate Khawlah, the dam of Godolphin’s 2018 G1 Epsom Derby hero Masar, who became the first filly to win the UAE Derby in 2011.
The Godolphin handlers said they were looking forward to maintaining the stable’s dominance in the race.
Appleby explained: “We were very pleased with Divine Image in the Al Bastakiya and she is a filly, who is improving all the time.
“I think it was important to run her on Super Saturday to give her a bit more experience, mentally more than anything else.
“She is coming up against a couple of different rivals compared to her latest start, but we feel that she is going to be a major player again,” he added.
“She is a great finisher. She’s very talented, learning on the job.”
Bin Surour added: “Swift Rose ran a very good race to finish second in the UAE Oaks, when she showed that she enjoyed racing over this distance, but she will need to be ridden handy again to show her best.”
The Godolphin pair take on some progressive types including Meydan specialist Walking Thunder, British hope Jahbath, the American shipper Stubbins and Van Beethoven, who represents last year’s UAE Derby-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien.
O’Brien said of his contender: “On the dirt and up in distance from his last run over a mile at Dundalk, we think Van Beethoven can be competitive.”
With new jockey Frankie Dettori replacing the banned Connor Beasley, Walking Thunder, is considered her main adversary after his second-place finish in the UAE 2000 Guineas.
The William Haggas-trained Jahbath is bidding to give Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, a first win in the UAE Derby.
Jahbath prepped for his Dubai test with a pair of wins on the all-weather at Kempton and Southwell. He is unbeaten this season.
American raider Stubbins will have to overcome post No. 12 to get his ticket to the Kentucky Derby, but connections believe he has the speed to make a big impression here.
Fellow US-based Plus Que Parfait is drawn in four and Tommy Molloy, the assistant trainer to Brendan Walsh, said: “He’s feeling great and doing absolutely wonderful since he arrived from South Florida. He’s full of energy so we’re over the moon.”
The field also features Derma Louvre, Gray Magician, Manguzi, Golden Jaguar, Parfait, Superior, Razeena and Al Hayette.
1. Divine Image