This year it will be the Joseph Allen and Coolmore runner, Lines of Battle who will line up to do battle on the First Saturday in May. A solid winner of the Group 1 UAE Derby at a mile and 3/16ths five weeks ago, the Aidan O’Brien trained colt makes his way to the Derby having already won a longer race than any other entrant has even run in. Unfortunately for the European runner, that may be where the positives end. Now let’s take a look at some of the reasons why another year will come and go without success for the UAE Derby winner. Lines of Battle has never run on dirt, he's only had one start in 2013, his win at Meydan was the slowest in its short history, and he's just this morning arrived to Churchill Downs. The son of War Front already has made one trip to America, and it did not particularly end well, as he faded to seventh behind fellow Aidan O’Brien trainee George Vancouver, while sent off as a 27-1 long shot in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Clearly none of that bodes well for the latest arrival to Churchill Downs, and that is how it has always been. Horses that have raced in Dubai and then come over to run for the roses, have consistently missed the mark. Whether it be the lack of winter work for horses abroad compared to their U.S. counterparts, the distance of ten furlongs, the unfamiliar dirt surface, the raucous crowd, or the serious travel, and all the inconveniences that come with it, horses coming from Dubai, more well thought of than Lines of Battle, have been unable to come close to winning America’s most prestigious race.
This year’s victory in the UAE Derby was the second consecutive for O'Brien, who despite his amazing worldwide success, has yet to make a real dent in the Derby. 2012 saw his Daddy Long Legs parlay his big win in Dubai to finish last in the Kentucky Derby. Also a turf horse able to handle the Tapeta strip at Meydan, Daddy Long Legs actually had a pretty similar form as Lines of Battle comes in with this year. Both colts had some success on turf in Europe as juveniles, before failing in the Breeders’ Cup, although Daddy Long Legs BC attempt came on dirt at Churchill Downs. Despite all of the negative signs, Lines of Battle does have that one main selling point. Not only does he have that one win running long, but his female family suggests class and the ability to handle classic distances. His broodmare sire, Arch produced last year's Derby winner, I'll Have Another, as well as the 2010 juvenile champion, Uncle Mo. Moreover, Lines of Battle’s dam, Black Speck is becoming a star through her offspring. She has produced five winners from only five starters, including three graded stakes performers.
Make no mistake, with a lifetime record of 6-3-1-0 and more than a million in the bank, thanks in large part to his lone race this year, Lines of Battle is a quality race horse, but still, this coming from Dubai to win the Derby thing is one daunting task.
Will a horse from Dubai ever win the Kentucky Derby? Maybe, but my opinion is that it appears highly doubtful that Lines of Battle will be the one to get it done.