You can stretch it and call the $2 million UAE Derby a Kentucky Derby prep, but the race today in the Middle East - part of the seven-stakes Dubai World Cup program - features only one Derby contender, Inamorato, the favorite today but a long shot if he makes it to Kentucky.
A son of Tale of the Cat, Inamorato has won both his races and is considered the Dubai-based Godolphin Racing's top prospect for America's spring classics. The Daily Racing Form ranks him ninth among its top 25 Derby candidates, but acknowledges that a horse with only three starts, as he would have May 3, faces an almost-insurmountable task in the Kentucky Derby.
The other stakes today for 3-year-olds, the $60,000 Private Terms at Laurel Park, cannot be called a Derby prep by any stretch of the imagination. None of its six runners has won a stakes.
Next Saturday, however, two races will go a long way toward determining not only the makeup of the field for the Kentucky classic, but also of that for the Preakness.
The Santa Anita Derby in California is the most intriguing stakes for 3-year-olds so far this year, showcasing a half dozen top Derby contenders (Atswhatimtalknbout, Buddy Gil, Kafwain, Domestic Dispute, Ministers Wild Cat and Ocean Terrace). And the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course near Chicago will determine the fate of two Maryland-based Preakness candidates.
The connections of Cherokee's Boy and Foufa's Warrior are planning to run their Maryland-breds in the Illinois Derby, won last year by the then-unknown War Emblem, as a potential springboard to the Preakness. Cherokee's Boy is a five-time winner in 10 starts for Bowie trainer Gary Capuano. Foufa's Warrior is a two-time winner in three starts for Laurel trainer Larry Murray.
Cherokee's Boy was entered in the Gotham two weeks ago at Aqueduct, but Capuano scratched him after he drew the outside 11 post. One other horse scratched because of his poor post, New York Hero, who drew the 10.
New York Hero came back last week and won the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. The Gotham was worth $200,000, the Lane's End $500,000. The Illinois Derby is also worth $500,000. Capuano likes the mathematics of that.
"I'm hoping for the same thing for us," he said.