UAE Derby’s Challenges Within the Kentucky Derby Pathway

The UAE Derby and its Historical Significance

Since the year 2000, a total of 16 UAE Derby alumni have made their way to the United States in pursuit of victory at the Kentucky Derby, hoping to don the prestigious blanket of roses. Among these contenders were some underdogs who garnered attention and support, like Mubtaahij in 2015 and Mendelssohn in 2018. Despite not being favorites, these horses attracted significant bets on Derby Day. However, their journey proved to be challenging, as they faced tough competition and unfavorable circumstances leading up to the races.

In the 2015 Kentucky Derby, Mubtaahij entered with odds of 14.40/1, far from the favored winner, American Pharoah, who had odds of 5/2. Only six horses out of the 18 in the field had shorter odds than Mubtaahij. Similarly, Mendelssohn, in the 2018 Kentucky Derby, was favored by bettors after winning the UAE Derby. He started as the third choice at odds of 6.80/1, trailing Justify (2.90/1) and My Boy Jack (6.70/1). However, both Mubtaahij and Mendelssohn faced challenges during their respective races, resulting in less than ideal finishes.

Mubtaahij finished in eighth place, while Mendelssohn’s race became even more frustrating. Starting off with a rough start and facing further hindrance during the turn, Mendelssohn crossed the finish line in last place, a whopping 73 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Justify. Jockey Ryan Moore, realizing the futility of pushing further, eased up on Mendelssohn during the far turn.

The UAE Derby and Its Unfulfilled Promises

The UAE Derby, held at the Dubai World Cup undercard at Meydan Racecourse, offers substantial Derby points to participants, with a distribution of 100-40-20-10. These points are enough to secure a spot for the winner and runner-up in the upcoming Kentucky Derby on May 7. However, the historical track record of UAE Derby alumni in the American race raises doubts and caution among bettors.

Surprisingly, none of the UAE Derby alumni have managed to produce a Kentucky Derby champion in the 21st century. Moreover, none of these UAE Derby horses have even secured a place on the board, with the best finish achieved by Master of Hounds in 2011, who finished fifth in the race won by Animal Kingdom.

The American Contenders: Pinehurst, Get Back Goldie, and Gilded Age

Despite the UAE Derby’s lackluster performance in effectively producing Derby champions, three American contenders have embarked on a quest to defy the odds and make history. Pinehurst, the favorite among the three, faces a challenge due to trainer Bob Baffert’s suspension, which makes him technically ineligible for the Kentucky Derby. This adds an extra layer of intrigue and motivation for Pinehurst to aim for victory.

Understandably, Pinehurst’s odds range from 3/1 to 4/1 on various international betting platforms. His connections to renowned trainer Bob Baffert, his recent triumph in the Group 3 Saudi Derby, and his continually improving speed figures contribute to his favorable position in the betting market. In the Saudi Derby, Pinehurst led from the start and secured his third victory in five races, showcasing his potential and form.

However, Pinehurst’s path to the UAE Derby victory won’t be easy. The one-mile race in Dubai serves as his longest journey yet, covering approximately 1 3/16 miles. This presents a challenge for the promising colt and raises questions about his endurance and stamina, particularly compared to his performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and other races.

Joining Pinehurst are two other American contenders: Get Back Goldie and Gilded Age. Get Back Goldie, the progeny of the two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile champion Goldencents, enters the race as the long shot among the 16 entries, with odds ranging from 25/1 to 50/1. After winning a conditional race at Meydan, Get Back Goldie followed up with a sixth-place finish in an ungraded stakes event on March 5, adding an element of uncertainty to his prospects in the UAE Derby.

Gilded Age, the son of Medaglia d’Oro, enters the race with odds ranging from 8/1 to 10/1. His most recent outing resulted in a third-place finish in Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Withers. While Gilded Age carries decent expectations, his performance in the UAE Derby will provide a clearer picture of his capabilities and potential for future races.

International Contenders to Watch: Combustion, Sekifu, and Azure Coast

While the American contingent aims to defy the UAE Derby’s historical pattern, several international contenders are ready to assert their dominance and potentially disrupt the anticipated American success. Combustion, currently the second favorite at odds ranging from 4/1 to 6/1, hails from Japan’s esteemed Godolphin stables. This son of the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense, arrives at the UAE Derby following a stakes victory at Tokyo Racecourse, further bolstering his credentials and expectations for the race.

Sekifu, another Japanese challenger, finished second to Pinehurst in the Saudi Derby, trailing by only a half-length. With odds between 9/2 and 6/1, Sekifu presents a strong case for contending in the UAE Derby and potentially surpassing his performance in Riyadh.

Azure Coast, another offspring of Street Sense, primarily races in the Middle East region. He comes to the UAE Derby after securing a Group 3 victory in the UAE 2000 Guineas last month, highlighting his form and readiness for the challenge. Azure Coast’s odds vary between 11/2 and 8/1, reflecting both the intrigue surrounding his potential and the competitive nature of the race.


The UAE Derby fascinates horse racing enthusiasts and bettors alike, offering significant Derby points and attracting both American and international contenders. However, its historical track record raises skepticism and caution regarding the eventual success of its alumni in the Kentucky Derby. Pinehurst, despite the complications due to his trainer’s suspension, aims to defy the odds and emerge victorious, leading the American charge against formidable international opponents like Combustion, Sekifu, and Azure Coast. As the UAE Derby unfolds at the iconic Meydan Racecourse, horse racing fans eagerly await the outcome and the potential surprises that the race may bring.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Have any UAE Derby alumni won the Kentucky Derby in recent years?

No, none of the UAE Derby alumni have secured victory in the Kentucky Derby in the 21st century. Despite their efforts, the alumni’s performance in the American race has been unremarkable so far.

2. What is the significance of Derby points in the UAE Derby?

The UAE Derby offers Derby points to the participants, with a distribution of 100-40-20-10. These points ensure that the winner and runner-up of the UAE Derby secure a spot in the prestigious Kentucky Derby on May 7, providing a direct pathway for their participation.

3. Can Pinehurst compete in the Kentucky Derby despite his trainer’s suspension?

No, Pinehurst’s eligibility for the Kentucky Derby is compromised due to his association with trainer Bob Baffert, who is currently serving a suspension. However, Pinehurst’s presence in the UAE Derby adds an element of intrigue and motivation as he aims to triumph against the odds.

4. Which international contenders pose a significant threat in the UAE Derby?

Combustion, Sekifu, and Azure Coast stand out as formidable international contenders vying for victory in the UAE Derby. Combustion’s impressive lineage and recent stakes victory, Sekifu’s close finish in the Saudi Derby, and Azure Coast’s Group 3 triumph contribute to their credentials and competitive edge.

5. How does Get Back Goldie’s performance in recent races impact his prospects in the UAE Derby?

Get Back Goldie’s performance in his previous races, including a conditional race win and a sixth-place finish in an ungraded stakes event, adds uncertainty to his prospects in the UAE Derby. As the long shot among the entries, his chances of success are viewed with caution.

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Doug I. Jones

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