November 29, 2023

Derma Sotogake tops Japanese superfecta in UAE Derby

Derma Sotogake came close to the track record in the UAE Derby (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Under a masterful change of tactics by jockey Christophe Lemaire, Derma Sotogake wired Saturday’s $1 million UAE Derby (G2), and the 100-point windfall will put the Japanese colt in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby (G1). The Derby dream for the Aidan O’Brien-trained Cairo, however, ended by the far turn at Meydan when the favorite faded to 10th in his dirt audition.

Hiroyuki Asanuma’s Derma Sotogake topped an all-Japan superfecta with fellow Triple Crown nominees Dura Erede (40 points), Continuar (30 points), and Perriere (20 points). Three of them had also won scoring races on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, and according to the rules, their points from the UAE Derby carry over to the Japan leaderboard.

While Derma Sotogake has more than enough to qualify via the main leaderboard, he would top the Japan Road as well. Perriere, previously the Japan Road leader with 36 points, bumped his total to 56 that would make him second on the Japan Road list. That series concluded earlier Saturday with Mitono O winning the Fukuryu S. worth 40 points. But Continuar has 40 points, between his Cattleya S. win and UAE Derby third, plus a hefty bankroll that would keep him above the non-nominated Mitono O on the Japan Road standings.

Derma Sotogake was earning his second career stakes victory, following the Dec. 14 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki. The Hidetaka Otonashi trainee was subsequently third in the Feb. 25 Saudi Derby (G3).

Drawn on the rail at Meydan, Lemaire opted to be aggressive, and Derma Sotogake responded. Sire Mind Your Biscuits had himself starred on Dubai World Cup night twice, but in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in 2017-18. Derma Sotogake has much more stamina, widening his margin to 5 1/2 lengths and coming within hailing distance of Mendelssohn’s track record of 1:55.18 from 2018. The chestnut blitzed about 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.81 and paid $14.50.

“He can break a little slowly,” Lemaire said, “so it was important he began well to use his gate on the rail and he did just that. He traveled nicely on the lead, and he relaxed for me down the backstretch. He was still moving smoothly for me as we came into the homestretch, and once I pressed the button he was very impressive and I could enjoy the finish on him.”

“We didn’t exactly plan to go straight to the lead,” confessed a surprised Otonashi, “but he broke well. We were expecting him to improve and go well but you can never expect things to go that well. We had a different jockey and different ground, so you can never be sure how well it works out, but it did. 

“He will go straight to Kentucky from Dubai. We’ll discuss it, but Christophe will probably keep it – he said he would anyway!”

Indeed, Lemaire was already looking forward to an opportunity to retain the mount at Churchill Downs.

“I hope he goes to America, and I would love to ride him there. How could anyone refuse that?”

Dura Erede chased in second throughout, and fellow stalker Continuar kept on further back in a one-paced third. Perriere got up fourth with Oisin Murphy, who would have preferred a different passage through the race.

“The distance was the problem,” Murphy said. “I wish I sat where Ryan (Moore) was (on Cairo), just following the winner. I did not want to use his energy early and leave nothing for the finish.”

Locally-based Go Soldier Go rallied for fifth, good for 10 points. Next came Mr Raj; Es-Unico; Lahresh; Doug O’Neill’s Tall Boy, who regressed from his UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) win; Cairo; Bob Baffert’s Worcester; Goraiko; and O’Neill’s Ah Jeez.

Cairo was in the right spot if he’d handled the track. Moore got him out of the gate fast and bagged a tactical position, only he was spinning his wheels at the crucial juncture.

“It was his first run on dirt and he just didn’t enjoy himself,” Moore summed up.

Worcester broke slowly for Frankie Dettori, moved up down the backstretch, then dropped back.

“I fluffed the start and struggled from then on,” Dettori said.

Derma Sotogake, who advanced his record to 8-4-0-2, was bred by Shadai Farm in Japan. His dam, the Neo Universe mare Amour Poesie, scored her signature win in the 2013 Kanto Oaks.