A full field of three year olds lines up in Dubai on the rich Sand Castle Festival card, this group with a chance to win a golden ticket straight to Kentucky for the Bluegrass Derby. The nine furlong dirt race has a purse of $1,500,000 and has attracted some very hot contenders and a lot of speed. Let’s take a look at the field.
#1 Doppio Oro 15/1
Doppio Oro is by Medaglia D’oro but he was bred in the southern hemisphere, in Australia. He enters off two straight victories in local bred allowances, both at nine furlongs. He has yet to break the triple digit speed mark but there is no reason to suspect he won’t, his last race he ran a 99. Overall his record is three wins and three seconds in seven starts with his only off the board finish coming in a sprint. He really seems to want more distance and if he doesn’t make the Derby field he may just be a danger in the New Yorker. Aside from being by Medaglia D’oro Doppio Oro was produced by the grade one winning Seeking the Gold x A.P. Indy mare Berzerk Gold. From twelve foals to race Berzerk Gold has been a very productive mare. She has one grade two winner by Curlin, five listed winners and three stakes placed runners. She is also a sister to two graded winners, one by Woodman and another by Hussonet.
#2 Above Threshold 9/2
A winner of three straight races, Above the Threshold is the hot horse and a deserving favorite. His first two starts in sprints saw him finish on the board before moving to a mile and a sixteenth to break his maiden. His trainer had enough confidence in that win to jump directly into a listed at the same distance and the results were the same. The race was a residency restricted stakes race with twenty horses in the field, many with more experience than Above Threshold and yet the colt took everything in stride and won with a 106 speed. He returned in an open listed and did the same thing, winning with another 106 speed. Above Threshold won his maiden wire to wire and in his subsequent wins he has not always been the leader at first call but he’s never been far off. The son of Tapit was based on the graded placed / stakes winning hemare Mo Pye Mo Problems by Uncle Mo x Storm Cat. Mo Pye Mo Problems was a very talented runner, winning one listed with a 120 speed. His best distances seemed to be 8.5-9f but with Tapit on top Above Threshold should have no trouble getting the ten furlongs he wants to see in the Bluegrass Derby.
#3 El Sabiando 15/1
The lightest raced horse in the field is El Sabiando with just four starts. Three of those came in sprints where he won twice and was second once in his listed debut. Last month he tried a mile for the first time in another listed where he won wire to wire with a 98 speed. This will be a big step up for the colt, and there is other speed in the field. He’s obviously talented and could certainly take a big step up here but with as much as he’s done in such a brief period of time he may be ready for a step back also. The Dunkirk colt was produced by a Sea the Stars x Seeking the Gold mare who has produced three foals of which two are stakes winners.
#4 Pinche Dwight 14/1
Pinche Dwight was a somewhat average two year old, winning once and placing three times from four starts. He was given some time off over the winter and he returned in a nine furlong local bred allowance which he won by two lengths with a 99 speed. He returned in a similar race to win again with a 100 speed. Pinche Dwight is by First Defence, a son of Unbridled’s Song out of Honest Lady who currently stands in South Korea. His name has been mentioned several times in this year’s Kentucky Derby trail as his grandson Hidden Scroll, produced by his best American bred runner Close Hatches has been impressive in Florida. Pinche Dwight was produced from a Frankel x Kingmambo mare.
#5 Discomfortable 7/1
Discomfortable is a scratchbred son of Curlin x Storm Cat x Street Cry. He has yet to win a stakes race but already this year he has run in two graded stakes. He started the year with a third in the Grade Three Giant Slayer Classic where he went to the lead early but faded to third in the stretch. He did run a 102 speed that day. In his most recent start he was fourth in the Grade Two Moises Alou Cap. He never quite made the early lead that day although he was battling in second for much of the early running. He regressed to a 98 speed in that spot but that may have been a good thing and he could pop a big number here.
#6 My Awesome King 5/1
My Awesome King was last year’s Eclipse Champion Two Year Old Turf Colt. The Breeders’ Bowl winner made his first start as a three year old on the dirt. It was a logical move, trying to see if the very talented colt could be a Derby contender and he did not disappoint. My Awesome King stalked the early lead before making a sustained run in the Grade Three Giant Slayer Classic to sweep to the lead while holding off a determined closer to win with a 104 speed. My Awesome King is bred to do just about anything as the champion is a son of Awesome Again out of champion King Kamehameha x Dubawi mare Queen Kam. A multiple grade one winner on the turf, Queen Kam won her biggest race in the ten furlong Saint Larry and was also third in a graded race at twelve furlongs. Her first son, King Kam Sepoy is also a grade one winner although he seems best at a mile.
#7 Forestrike 11/1
Forestrike has spent his last six starts in graded stakes and hit the board in three of them. Surprisingly it was only his most recent start that came at a route. He shipped from North America to run in the local prep for this race, the Dubai 2000 Guineas at one mile. He tried to wire the field that day but was unsuccessful, getting reeled in to finish second with a 103 speed, easily the fastest he’s ever run. Forestrike is a son of Forestry out of the stakes winning Smart Strike x Northern Dancer mare Honor and Glory. Of her six foals to race one is a stakes winner and two others are stakes placed.
#8 Hunter Moon 11/1
Hunter Moon broke his maiden in his second start in October of last year. He ran a 92 speed that day, certainly a very high number even late in the year. He did it running wire to wire and he really just opened up and outclassing the field. Since then he has run in three listed stakes. In the second of those three races he made the lead early on and was just run down late to be second. In the other two races he battled early on but never got an open lead and he faded late. His top speed came in his last start when he ran a 95. The scratchbred son of Admire Moon x Broad Brush x Ela-Mana-Mou has quite a bit of talent but the feeling here is that perhaps his true path lies on the turf.
#9 The Music Man TB 22/1
The Music Man TB looks like a steal today after his current connections picked him up in a $45,000 claiming race last September. The colt had racked up a decent record to that point – 6-2-2-1 but all his races had come in sprints. After the barn change he was immediately entered in a listed going a mile and a sixteenth and he won coming from mid pack to fly by the rest of the field with a 94 speed. He’s not done as well in his two more recent starts, both in graded stakes and he did not show that closing kick in either start. There is a caveat here. His last race came on January 26th and he finished twelfth, beaten sixteen length. One wonders if he suffered a setback in that race and needed the more than two month break to return to form. If he does come back swinging he could make a nice rally in a field with a lot of speed. He’s a son of the hot sire Maclean’s Music out of a Malibu Moon x Runaway Groom mare.
#10 Forest Whitaker 13/1
If you need to see a horse who really blossomed as a three year old look no further than Forest Whitaker. While a very nice two year old (he was a listed stakes winner sprinting and was third in a grade three in his first route attempt) he has blown away the competition in two starts this year. He made his first start in January going 9.5f against a field of nine. He lolly-gagged his way through the early part of the race in ninth, almost thirteen lengths behind the leader at the second call but once he unleashed his kick he circled the field and won by two lengths with a 97 speed. Things were pretty similar in his next start except the stakes were much higher – he was entered in the G1 Vermont Is 4 Lovers at nine furlongs. He didn’t quite make it back to last early on but he was thirteenth, behind by fifteen lengths at the second call. Nevertheless the result was similar with a lightning quick move taking him to first by a length and a half and a 102 speed. Hes a son of Take Charge Indy out of the Mausalama x Sillery mare Hot Forest.
#11 What Ever Ya Like 6/1
What Ever Ya Like’s dam is on a hot streak. Stakes winner Deputy Cat is by Deputy Minister x Storm Cat and her last two foals are both grade one winners. One is Buzzing Quality by Quality Road a champion sprinter and the next is Fade Back to Black by Tapit. That filly earned her grade one stripes going seven furlongs. Along comes the Union Rags colt What Ever Ya Like and apparently he likes to route. Last season he won the G3 Buckeye Juvenile at a mile and a sixteenth before beaten less than a length in both the G1 Sparkling Wine and Breeders’ Bowl. He made his three year old debut in the G1 Vermont is 4 Lovers and nearly stole the race, taking the lead late before being run down by Forest Whitaker.
#12 Edinbrugh Castle 11/1
Edinburgh Castle made his first six starts on the turf. And no wonder, a son of the mighty Kingman out of a Giant’s Causeway x Montjeu mare. That mare was graded placed and a stakes winner on the grass named Get a Load of Me and her first foal was a grade two winner on the grass. But Edinburgh Castle has run lights out in his last two starts on the dirt. He began 2019 with a conditioned allowance win against fellow English-breds. There were only five horses in the field but he crushed the field coming from fourth early on to win going away. The effort was enough to give his connections the confidence to move him up to the grade two Moises Alou Cap at a mile and one sixteenth. He was much further back early on in that race and the distance was a half furlong less than his previous race but he acquitted himself well closing stoutly to finish second, beaten only a length and a quarter. He ran a 102 speed that day but it did come just three weeks ago. That might be a quick turnaround time for a three year old on the Derby trail.
#13 Frantic Empire 19/1
Frantic Empire is another who has done well in routes and yet another who wants to be on the front end early. He has yet to win a stakes race or run a triple digit speed and coming from the thirteen hole may make things more difficult for him than some of the inside horses in similar situations. He is one of the more experienced horses in the race with ten starts. Of his four route races he has won twice, both in one ile allowances. He also ran third in a listed stakes in December with a 95 speed. He’s a son of Classic Empire out of a Mineshaft x Ack Ack mare who has already produced a grade three stakes winner.
#14 Lebron’s Here 20/1
Lebron’s Here is by the young sire Kobe’s Back out of what might appear to be an unassuming mare by Uncle Mo x Kingmambo named The Flaming Moe. But if you look deeper into his pedigree you can find Bluegrass Derby winner Gimlet Neat and champion Cabasarehere among other graded winners. Lebron’s Here has only ventured outside of Maryland-local competition once and that was his most recent start. He jumped right into the deep end trying the grade three Gary Asher Memorial Stakes and while he only finished sixth he closed well for it and ran a 98 speed. Like others in the field he made his last start just three weeks ago and that may be asking a lot for a young horse.
Good luck to the field!