The path to the Kentucky Derby (GI) for Todd Pletcher’s Master Plan has led him straight to the desert, where he takes on 15 other 3-year-olds in the UAE Derby (GII) at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night. Among the notable runners lining up to face him are Epicharis, Thunder Snow and Lancaster Bomber.
An $850,000 two-year-old purchase by Al Shaqab Racing, Winstar Farm LLC, and China Horse Club, Master Plan was fourth in his Saratoga debut on the grass last summer and returned two months later to break his maiden over the Gulfstream Park West turf. In his next start, he was second, a length behind eventual Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner Tapwrit in the Pulpit Stakes on a sloppy track. In his most recent start, the son of Twirling Candy won the OBS Championship Stakes on a synthetic track.
U Carrot Farm’s Epicharis is unbeaten in his first four starts with a combined winning margin of 26 ¾ lengths. The Kiyoshi Hagiwara-trained son of Gold Allure is already qualified for the Kentucky Derby via his win in the Hyacinth Stakes but this race will provide a good read on whether his Japanese dirt form is good enough to compete on more proven dirt circuits. He was joined on the trip from Japan by Adirato, who was the runner-up in the Hyacinth Stakes.
Godolphin Racing’s Saeed bin Suroor-trained Thunder Snow holds the distinction of having graded wins on both dirt and turf. He won the Grand Criterium International (GIT) in France last year at two and was a romping winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas (GIII) last out in his dirt debut. Though his connections are confident in their colt’s ability, the 13-post is concerning. Godolphin has also entered Top Score and Fly at Dawn in the race; the latter is trained by Charlie Appleby.
Aiden O’Brien has entered a pair for Coolmore in Lancaster Bomber and Spirit of Valor, who is also owned by Stonestreet Farm. Lancaster Bomber was overshadowed by his more highly regarded stablemate, Churchill in Europe, last year and finished out his season with a fast-closing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GIT). In his dirt debut, the son of War Front will have O’Brien’s right-hand man Ryan Moore aboard for the first time. Another son of War Front, Spirit of Valor has never won past six furlongs and never raced beyond seven furlongs, but the $850,000 weanling purchase is held in very high regard by his connections.
Fawree, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and trained by Mike de Kock, has required the help of a behavioral specialist to be ready for this race after he bolted at the start of the Al Bastakiya in his most recent outing. Notorious for his poor behavior in the gates, the de Cock camp is confident that the work they have done on the colt in the past few weeks will drastically improve his performance on Saturday.
South American Grade 1 winners Vettori Kin and He Runs Away, Al Bastakiya winner Cosmo Charlie, the fillies Midnight Chica and Nomorerichblondes, as well as stakes-placed runner Qatar Man and Bee Jersey round out the field for the UAE Derby.
Carded as the fourth race on the program, the $2 million UAE Derby has an approximate post time of 5:25 pm (9:25 am ET).