Kentucky Derby Roundup: Dunkirk meets his Dunkirk and Regal Ransom crashes a Desert Party in the UAE
A great weekend of horse racing from around the globe—from sandy Dubai to the Sunshine State of Florida—has had profound effects on shaping the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
For the groggy-eyed U.S fans who woke up early to catch the $2 Million UAE Derby, the result was mildly surprising. While Desert Party was expected to defeat Regal Ransom as he had a month prior, it was Regal Ransom who ruined the party by emerging victorious.
The horses are from the same stable and when they faced against each other in a February matchup again in Dubai, Desert Party won by five lengths.
Simon Crisford, who manages both horses for Godolphin, says both horses will be shipped to Kentucky on April 7. While both may qualify for the Kentucky Derby (due to the $2 million purse they contested in the UAE Derby), it is probable only one will actually start.
Some insiders think this will be Desert Party and not Regal Ransom. Desert Party had a less than ideal trip and based on his win in February over this same Regal Ransom, he may indeed be the better horse. In this scenario, one would expect to see Regal Ransom in the Preakness as a result.
Down in Florida this past weekend, a do-or-die situation for the lightly raced though undefeated Dunkirk in the Florida Derby. For Dunkirk, the Florida Derby turned out to be his well, Dunkirk. Dunkirk was edged by Quality Road down the stretch. Still it was only Dunkirk’s third race and he did show a great deal of élan that showed he is an elite three year old.
Still, his paltry $150,000 earnings make him a fringe Kentucky Derby candidate at best. The winner of the Kentucky Derby Challenge in England is guaranteed a spot at the derby and if that winner, Mafaaz, elects to do so then Dunkirk’s ship has truly sailed. In hindsight the owners of Dunkirk would have been advised to race their horse more or have entered him into an easier competition than the Florida Derby—say perhaps the Illinois Derby.
Based on his impressive win at the Louisiana Derby the consensus favorite for the Derby at this point is still Friesan Fire to be followed by which horse—Pampelmousse or PioneeroftheNile—wins the all important Santa Anita Derby this weekend. Then Quality Road’s quality win over Dunkirk should make him an in-the-money candidate for Churchill Downs in May.
"The Sport of Kings!"- Joe Nixon is a freelance writer in Los Angeles