On another banner night on the world stage for Japan, Triple Crown-nominated Crown Pride rolled in Saturday’s $1 million UAE Derby (G2) and staked claims to represent his homeland in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The Teruya Yoshida homebred picked up 100 Derby points, more than sufficient for a spot in the starting gate in the Run for the Roses.
Fledgling trainer Koichi Shintani, who was celebrating his first group/graded stakes victory, is up for the Derby challenge himself. But the decision rests with Yoshida.
Although overlooked at 16-1, Crown Pride was coming off a better-than-appears sixth in the Hyacinth S. on the Japan Road, where a troubled start put him out of reasonable contention. The son of Reach the Crown figured to do much better that day, having captured his first two by daylight, and he was back in business with a better passage at Meydan. The added ground of the about 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby also played to his strengths.
Crown Pride appeared to make contact with a rival as he broke from post 10, but it wasn’t a problem as he soon established decent position. Up front, stretch-out sprinter Summer Is Tomorrow beat Pinehurst to the lead and nearly pulled a wire job. Pinehurst dropped back on the far turn and was virtually eased in last. The Japanese pair of Sekifu and Combustion could not maintain their positions, while Summer in Tomorrow’s stablemate from the Bhupat Seemar yard, Bendoog, was loping on one-paced.
But Crown Pride was circling into contention. Under Australian Damian Lane, the dark bay offered a sustained run down the stretch and outlasted Summer Is Tomorrow by 2 3/4 lengths. Crown Pride clocked 1:59.76 to extend his record to 3-for-4 and paid $34.90.
“He stepped out OK but didn’t travel too well thereafter,” Lane recapped, “and it just took a little bit to get him in a rhythm and get him going. I got crowded a little early but as I say he was able to stride through and take up position and it was plain sailing from there really.
“I was confident a long way out and although he made hard work of it in the straight, ultimately he was the toughest out there. He’s a strong, tough horse and saw the distance out well.
“Whenever you jump aboard (a Japanese-trained horse) you can be confident they’re going to be strong and they’re going to run well and it’s just a privilege to be a part of it.”
Second was worth 40 points to Summer Is Tomorrow. Seemar was inclined to consider the Derby, although the Summer Front colt was not an early Triple Crown nominee. Connections have until Monday to decide whether to make him eligible as a late nominee.
“He’s been sprinting before, so pace comes naturally,” Seemar said. “The only thing was that the track was playing for speed as well, so we thought we might have a little crack at it. Turning for home when he was still traveling, I thought he would pick up a little bit more, but without that longer race to condition him he just gave out.
“I’d definitely consider the Kentucky Derby, but I’d have to see if he’s nominated or not first of all. That’s the biggest thing. Why not though? There were some good horses behind him, a couple of Grade 1 horses from America, so now that he’s had that run I think we’d have to think about it.”
Godolphin’s Island Falcon churned on for third, another 1 1/4 lengths adrift, and the Triple Crown nominee took home 20 points. The Saeed bin Suroor pupil was improving on his eighth in the Saudi Derby (G3) in his dirt debut.
Bendoog ran evenly in fourth, good for 10 points. The late-developing son of Gun Runner isn’t Triple Crown nominated, and Seemar has previously said he’ll make into a fine four-year-old.
“Very happy with his run,” the leading UAE trainer said. “He just got on the rail and he got a lot of kickback, but he’s an immature horse and he ran one hell of a race.”
Al Bastakiya hero Quality Boone got up for fifth, followed by slow-starting Reiwa Homare; Kiefer; Sekifu; previously unbeaten UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Azure Coast; Withering; Combustion; Arabian Gazelles; Withers (G3) third Gilded Age, who always lagged near the back; Argentine import Irwin; Get Back Goldie; and Pinehurst.
Crown Pride was produced by the King Kamehameha mare Emmy’s Pride, and his second dam is by the unbeaten Sunday Silence stallion Agnes Tachyon. Thus Crown Pride is inbred to Sunday Silence, since sire Reach the Crown is by Sunday Silence’s son Special Week.