03/30/2015 3:29PM

Road to the Derby analysis: UAE Derby

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Dubai Racing Club/Neville Hopwood
Mubtaahij romps in the UAE Derby on Saturday, giving him enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby.

Group 2, $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby, 1900 meters (approximately 1 3/16 miles), Meydan, March 28, 2015
(100 Derby qualifying points for a win, 40 for second, 20 for third, 10 for fourth)

Winner: Mubtaahij
Trainer: Michael de Kock
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al-Maktoum
Beyer Speed Figure: 95 (estimated)

MUBTAAHIJ earned a trip to the Kentucky Derby with this runaway victory in the United Arab Emirates Derby, worth 100 points to the winner. His presence at Churchill Downs will certainly add international intrigue to the race, and his performance obviously impressed bettors in the final pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager – he was the surprising third choice, behind American Pharoah and Dortmund – but he’s going to have a tall order against what is shaping up as a strong field.

Mubtaahij was one of several runners owned by members of the ruling family of Dubai who fortuitously drew the rail for the night’s proceedings. He used that draw to his advantage, settling just behind a three-horse duel for the lead around the first turn that became a four-horse duel when SIR FEVER ranged up heading down the backside.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

After two of the four early leaders dropped away nearing the head of the stretch, Mubtaahij only had to come around two horses after enjoying an ideal pocket trip. He took over with 300 meters remaining and bounded clear to win by eight lengths, though he never changed leads through the lane.

His final time of 1:58.35 earned an estimated figure of 95 from Andrew Beyer. By comparison, Prince Bishop’s 1,900-meter split en route to the finish of the 2,000-meter Dubai World Cup was 1:56.88, according to Trakus.

It’s hard to know what to make of Mubtaahij. He undoubtedly will be facing far tougher competition in the Kentucky Derby, and it’s difficult to imagine him getting a trip as perfect as he had this night. He does appear to have the kind of tactical speed that could keep him out of some trouble in the Derby, and his trainer is world class. But, for me, the initial hysteria over his performance seems misguided. When you want to show someone the definition of a perfect trip, cue up the video of this race.

MAFTOOL, who ran on for second, is the only other horse in the race who earned enough points (40) to have a legitimate shot at making the Derby field. He broke a bit slowly and was ridden aggressively soon after the start, but had no speed and wound up ninth in the 10-horse field, while about four paths wide, around the first turn. He was then carried out even wider as the field came out of the bend into the backstretch.

Maftool remained wide and received his first crack of the whip with about 800 meters remaining. He steadily made his way nearer to the rail and was in the three path for much of the far turn, then angled further inside and was about two lanes off the rail in upper stretch before coming back to the middle of the track in order to go past the tiring leaders nearing the finish. As with the Mubtaahij, he failed to change leads through the lane.

GOLDEN BAROWS finished third after pressing or setting the early pace. He was extremely keen to get on with it early, throwing his head about. The fractions, according to Trakus, were 26.09 seconds for the opening 400 meters – remember, races there are timed from a standing start – and 50.04 for 800 meters, meaning the second 400 was run in 23.95 seconds. Golden Barows finally settled down during the run down the backstretch while still on or near the lead, and was one of the two who went on with it from the early four-part duel.

Golden Barows was late to change leads in upper stretch and didn’t swap over until about 300 meters remained; the stretch is about 500 meters long. He battled bravely for a minor award and just did get nailed in the closing yards by Maftool.

He is unlikely to come to the Derby, and probably wouldn’t have enough points to get in anyway.

The rest were inconsequential in terms of the Kentucky Derby, as their performances, or points, wouldn’t cut it, even if their connections wanted to run.