Meydan: The $2 million GII UAE Derby at about 1 3/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 10-40-20-10)
Like it or not, a race some 7,393 miles away from Churchill Downs could very likely send two horses to the Kentucky Derby, and with Coolmore’s #4 MENDELSSOHN and Godolphin’s #5 GOLD TOWN (GB) having designs on the race, this year’s UAE Derby takes on its most significance to date. The nod goes to the latter, who must stretch out and try to negotiate a second turn but looked awesome winning the local prep, the GIII UAE Two Thousand Guineas last month for Appleby, and, as a son of Street Cry (IRE), is certainly bred to relish some additional ground. The former just didn’t impress while all-out to win his last, the 32red Patton Stakes at Dundalk over Polytrack, a race that was littered with some overmatched stablemates (two of which, #9 Threeandfourpence and #6 Seahenge, are back today), so while it’s hard to fault anything O’Brien does, and equally hard to fault a son of Scat Daddy who is a half-brother to the future Hall of Famer Beholder, Mendelssohn is worth playing against in his dirt debut. Don’t sleep on #3 RERIDE at a nice price, as he gets Castellano and enters off a win in Sunland Park’s Mine That Bird Derby, a result that was flattered when second-place finisher Runaway Ghost returned to win their GIII Sunland Derby with ease, so this son of Candy Ride (ARG) could prove the spoiler for Asmussen if the top pair struggle with the distance and/or the dirt. There’s little doubt the filly #1 RAYYA will need to run the race of her life to beat the boys, but her win in the GIII UAE Oaks over the track/distance was solid, and she’s plenty proven over the track, and this daughter of Tiz Wonderful is no doubt in top form for Watson, so she could hover around for a minor share.
#5 Gold Town (GB)