After racing just off the early pace set by three-time Australian Group 1 winner Helmet, Daddy Long Legs spun out of the far turn and scampered to a landmark victory in the Group $2 million UAE Derby, sponsored by The Saeed and Mohammed Al Naboodah Group, a first-ever win in Dubai for champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.
"We’re delighted,” said a beaming O’Brien after being greeted by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in the winner’s enclosure.
Daddy Long Legs rolled under the finish line in 1:58.35 for the 1,900m over the all-weather track that some jockeys said had been playing slow after a hot afternoon. He held a 1 ¼ length margin over French-based runner Yang Tse Kiang.
There was even more to celebrate in the O’Brien camp as 2011 Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Wrote finished third, just three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up and 1 ¼ lengths in front of Mickdaam, who had won the Listed Al Bastikiya over course and distance on March 10.
O’Brien said his plan in bringing Daddy Long Legs and Wrote to Dubai for the UAE Derby was to measure their potential for the Group 1 Kentucky Derby. Both colts ran well enough for further consideration.
“He was a good colt last year and obviously this was his first run of this season. He jumped and he traveled well,” O’Brien said of Daddy Long Legs, who won the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes in England last year before finishing 12th in the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
“Obviously both ran lovely races tonight—Wrote just got a little tired in the final 50 yards,” O’Brien continued of the UAE Derby finish. “We’ll speak to the lads, but I would think (Daddy Long Legs) would be a strong possibility (for the Kentucky Derby).”
Jockey Colm O’Donoghue was jubilant, raising his arms above his head as he entered the winner’s enclosure.
“He competed against the best today and he showed how good he is,” O’Donoghue said. “Hopefully, he can keep improving from this. I think he can.”
Helmet set fractions of :26.13, :50.54 and 1:15.19 before tiring and finishing 12th in the 14-horse field. The two colts who had been campaigned in North America, Team Valor International’s Lucky Chappy and Canadian stakes winner Maritimer were unable to make an impact, with Lucky Chappy finishing seventh and Maritimer 11th.
The race marked the first-ever running of the UAE Derby that was not won by Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor, who did not have a runner this year, or South Africa’s Mike de Kock, who saddled Mickdaam.