The marquee event at Meydan Racecourse overseas will of course be the Dubai World Cup, but the track will also host the 2016 UAE Derby which is amongst this weekend’s pair of Kentucky Derby Prep Races. The other is the Louisiana Derby at Fairgrounds Park. Both races are the first to offer a 100-40-20-10 point split in the lead up to Triple Crown season.
Leading the fray will be three-year old filly Polar River who is undefeated in four races over the past four months. She broke first in her maiden, before following that up with a conditions victory in January. Polar River then won the UAE 1000 Guineas over a mile in February and has most recently claimed victory at the UAE Oaks (GR3). All four of those races were held at Meydan Racecourse.
Challenging the presumed favorite will be Frank Conversation, an American born horse owned by Reddam Racing and trained by Doug O’Neill. Leandro Mora, who is one of O’Neill’s assistants, has been overseeing much of his training. “We’ve got derby fever,” Mora exclaimed. “He’s got ten points piled up, so if we finished second or win we would probably get enough points to make it. And that’s Paul Reddam’s and our dream.”
Acquiring a truck load of points in the UAE Derby would go a long way in securing Frank Conversation’s hopes of heading to Churchill Downs in May. A winner out of Golden Gate Fields at both the California Derby and El Camino Derby, Frank Conversation placed 5th at the Los Alamitos Futurity in a race won by Mor Spirit. He has certainly improved, and beating Polar River on her home turf would go a long way in proving what Frank Conversation is worth down the derby trail.
The odds against Frank Conversation got a bit steeper when it was announced he would be riding on the rail by opening in the first gate. Fortunately, the $2 million UAE Derby only has a small field so it may simply come down to a test of speed over the 1 3/16 mile distance. Polar River will run out of the second gate.
Mikio Matsunaga’s unproven three-year old colt, Lani, is also drawing very strong interest. He won his maiden at Kyoto last November and has not competed since. Lani covered that 1 1/8th mile maiden in a time of 1:52.70, but it remains to be seen how he reacts to horse’s that hold the caliber of Frank Conversation and Polar River.
Rounding out the field are Yale Dori, On The Rocks, Lazzam and Yu Change.
The 2016 UAB Derby will post at 9:35am EST on Saturday morning.