Plus Que Parfait
Plus Que Parfait, ridden by Jose Ortiz, winning the UAE Derby. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Former Godolphin rider Brendan Walsh demonstrated what a stint with the world’s most powerful stable can do for your career as he saddled Plus Que Parfait to a stunning victory in the UAE Derby.

Walsh quit riding school in Ireland to join Kildangan Stud, owned by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, before his travels brought him to Dubai as work rider.

The Irishman then return to the United States and took out a trainer’s licence in 2012.

This UAE Derby was the biggest win of his career, and Godolphin can take some credit for it as it gave the Irishman a grounding that would bring him to this high point.

Doing the steering aboard Plus Que Parfait was Jose Ortiz, who was winning his second race on the night following Coal Front in the Godolphin Mile.

The winner rallied strongly to cross the line three-quarters-of-a-length clear of Gray Magician, ridden by Joel Rosario for trainer Peter Miller.

Manguzi — the only runner on the card for former UAE champion owner Ali Rashid Al Rayhi — ran an absolute cracker under Fernando Jara, to take third only a neck behind Gray Magician.

Walsh, struggling to control his emotions, said: “This is an unbelievable feeling, everybody on my team has done a fantastic job, both here in the UAE as well as back home.

“Plus Que Parfait flew under the radar coming into the race despite being the highest rated horse, but everything came right tonight.”

Oritz paid tribute to his horse and said: “Plus Que Parfait helped me a lot. He got me into a good position, he took me there.

“He broke a bit slow but I was able to save all the ground on the first turn. I followed Frankie (Dettori riding Walking Thunder). He is a great rider and I was waiting for the right moment and when I asked him to go he was there for the whole time.

“I’m very pleased because I didn’t get a lot of kickback in the race. I am very happy for everybody that had worked extremely hard with this horse back home and over here, and the trainer did a very good job.”

A representative of Imperial Racing, the winner’s connections, said: “It is a fantastic win, we have been trying to win this race for many years. “We have been close and now we had the right horse to do it.

“It was a brilliant job by whole team and Brendan was fantastic for us in Kentucky. For Ortiz it is the first time for him in Meydan but he is world class and he has once again proved it.”

Godolphin were attempting to win the race for the ninth time with the filly Divine Image, who was sent off as the international favourite, following a string of strong performance during the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival.

But the daughter of Scat Daddy weakened three furlongs from home and trailed in at the back of the field.

The UAE Derby is the richest Derby in the world with prize money of $2.5 million and is now a major preparatory race for the Kentucky Derby.

The last two winners of the Derby, Thunder Snow and Mendlessohn competed in the American Classic.

— with inputs from N.D. Prashant

Place| Horse (Country) | Trainer | Jockey
1 | PLUS QUE PARFAIT (USA) | B Walsh | Jose Ortiz
2 | GRAY MAGICIAN (USA) | P Miller | Joel Rosario
3 | MANGUZI (FR) | A Al Rayhi | Fernando Jara
4 | DERMA LOUVRE (JPN) | H Toda | Christophe Lemaire
5 | SWIFT ROSE (IRE) | S bin Suroor | Patrick Cosgrave
6 | STUBBINS (USA) | D O'Neill | Flavien Prat
7 | WALKING THUNDER (USA) | A bin Harmash | Lanfranco Dettori
8 | SUPERIOR (USA) | A bin Harmash | Connor Beasley
9 | VAN BEETHOVEN (CAN) | A O'Brien | Ryan Moore
10 | RAZEENA (CAN) | D Watson | Patrick Dobbs
11 | JAHBATH (GB) | W Haggas | Jim Crowley
12 | AL HAYETTE (USA) | I Mohammed | Fabrice Veron
13 | DIVINE IMAGE (USA) | C Appleby | William Buick
14 | GOLDEN JAGUAR (USA) | A bin Harmash | Oisin Murphy