DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Trainer Brendan Walsh had always held Plus Que Parfait in high regard, even despite his two disappointing efforts so far in 2019, and on Saturday, he rewarded his trainer’s faith by pulling off the 8/1 upset in the UAE Derby (G2) Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group at Meydan Racecourse.
Breaking from post 4 under Jose Ortiz while sporting blinkers for the first time, Plus Que Parfait was able to settle comfortably along the inside in midpack while Swift Rose led Stubbins and Manguzi through the first turn and down the backstretch. The top trio turned for home running three abreast, while behind them, Ortiz tipped Plus Que Parfait off the rail and began charging home.
Splitting between Manguzi and a weakening Stubbins, Plus Que Parfait surged once in the clear. Gray Magician made a three-wide bid along the outside of Manguzi but ultimately came up short in the end. Plus Que Parfait crossed with a 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:58.42 for the 9 1/2-furlong event over the fast main track.
“I have a nice horse,” said Ortiz, who also won the Godolphin Mile (G2) earlier on the card in his first career Dubai World Cup start. “He was running well, and around the turn, I was trying to find spaces. I was happy that I saved the whole ground in the race, and when I was able to find a way through, he responded really well, so I am very happy and very happy for Brendan. He deserves it. Brendan, he works so hard and he gave me so many shots and we haven’t been lucky, and now I was able to deliver for him. To win means a lot. It’s tough to come all the way and win, and I have been blessed to have two winners, so I am very happy.”
Gray Magician defeated the filly Manguzi by a 1/2-length for second. Much farther back, Derma Louvre came charging hard down the middle of the track to take fourth over a weakening Swift Rose and Stubbins. Walking Thunder finished sixth ahead of stablemate Superior, whom jockey Connor Beasley – regular rider of both – chose over Walking Thunder. Van Beethoven raced five-wide in the first turn and seven-wide down the backside, so when the real racing began, he had nothing left to give and finished ninth. Razeena took 10th ahead of Jahbath and Al Hayette. The 9/5 favorite Divine Image was acting up before loading into the gate and ran out of gas before turning for home and finishing 11th ahead of only Golden Jaguar to complete the order of finish.
The UAE Derby is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Plus Que Parfait earned 100 points for the win, with Gray Magician receiving 40 for second, Manguzi 20 for third, and Derma Louvre 10 for fourth.
Plus Que Parfait’s win was his first since breaking his maiden at second asking on October 7 at Keeneland and improved his record to 7-2-1-2. The 3-year-old ridgling son of Point of Entry took home $1.5 million for the first-place finish, greatly increasing his lifetime bankroll to $1,590,400 for owner Imperial Racing.
“This is huge – Jose gave him such a great ride and what a night for him with two winners,” said Walsh, who spent nine years working for Godolphin’s Dubai team before breaking off to become a trainer. “This has been the plan for quite a while and his owners are based out here. We said, if things didn’t work out to get to the Kentucky Derby, then we would come here. He had a bad day the last time he ran, but we didn’t hold it against him and it has worked out. Brilliant.”
Plus Que Parfait returned $19.60 to win, $7 to place, and $6.40 to show. Gray Magician brought back $8 to place and $6.80 to show, while Manguzi paid $16.40 to show.