Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: UAE Derby a last chance for familiar names

March 28, 2019 09:45am
Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: UAE Derby a last chance for familiar names
Photo: Coady Photography

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.

Two and, depending on how the race unfolds, as many as three horses are set to qualify for the 2019 Kentucky Derby by way of Saturday’s Florida Derby (G1). But it’s not the only race of note on the day for 3-year-olds. 

Two U.S.-based horses with previous experience on the Derby trail — Gray Magician and Plus Que Parfait — will first head postward in its richest ($2.5 million) and longest (1 3/16 miles) race, the Group 2 UAE Derby.

For the rest in the field of 14, Meydan’s Dubai World Cup undercard represents a first chance at earning Derby points. For those two, it’s more of a final chance.

“I think he certainly belongs in this race,” said Peter Miller, who trains Gray Magician, a Graydar colt who ran fourth to launch his 3-year-old season in Santa Anita’s Sham Stakes (G3). “I think the Kentucky Derby is another story. But horses, especially young horses, get good quickly.”


Gray Magician was purchased by Wachtel Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber after his third start and transferred to Miller. On Nov. 24, in his first race for the new barn, the colt won a maiden special weight by 9 1/2 lengths.

Gray Magician hasn’t replicated that form, however, following the Sham with a fifth in the slop in allowance company. He then shipped to take on talented Maryland-bred Alwaysmining, finishing second in Laurel Park’s Miracle Wood Stakes on Feb. 16.

“He would have to show me Saturday night that he belongs in the Kentucky Derby, and then bounce back quickly as well,” Miller said. “If he runs an outstanding race then we would certainly consider it.

“…He’s a very good horse and he’s in good form. It’s a wide-open field this year and that’s why we decided to take a chance.”

A Brendan Walsh-trained son of Point of Entry, Plus Que Parfait entered the season highly regarded having finished a close second in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) to cap his juvenile year. But off-the-board finishes in Fair Grounds’ Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) quickly put Derby dreams on the back burner.


Walsh said a change in scenery to a Florida training center reenergized the colt, whose Imperial Racing ownership has Dubai ties.

“He's feeling great and doing absolutely wonderful since he arrived on Wednesday evening from South Florida,” reported Walsh’s assistant, Tommy Molloy. “I’m very happy with him and the way he shipped over here. He's carrying his weight very well and eating very well. He's full of energy so we're over the moon.”

One other American-based horse, Doug O’Neill-trained Stubbins, is in the field. Among the headliners are Walking Thunder, who’s 3-for-4; Van Beethoven, who runs for 2018 UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn’s connections; and Derma Louvre, a Triple Crown nominee from Japan.

Derby links

 Who’s in, who’s out, and who’s on the bubble? HRN’s Bryan Brinkmeyer runs down the Kentucky Derby points picture.

 Voters in the Kentucky Derby Media Poll consider the big picture “wide open” after a pair of favorites went down in last weekend’s preps.

 Sunland Derby Cutting Humor wasn’t previously thought of as a Derby horse by his connections. Has that changed?

 Anothertwistafate, second in the Sunland Derby, meanwhile has his connections planning on the Triple Crown series.

 Trainer Shug McGaughey says “all systems are go” with Code of Honor, a leading Florida Derby contender, ahead of Wednesday’s entry deadline.

In case you missed it…

Sunday’s Derby Daily report featured trainer Bret Calhoun, who has won 3,000 races in his career and will saddle his first starter on the first Saturday in May, By My Standards.


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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 4, 2019, race at Churchill Downs with a once-a-day update on all things Derby. Get the latest news and chatter, workout reports and a look at fields for upcoming preps all in once place.

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