December 1, 2022

Pinehurst holds on in Saudi Derby; Dancing Prince gives Lemaire four in Riyadh Dirt Sprint

Pinehurst beats Sekifu in the Saudi Derby (Photo by Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Mathea Kelley)

The Bob Baffert-trained Pinehurst prevailed in the $1.5 million Saudi Derby (G3), and Christophe Lemaire capped a four-win Saudi Cup Day with yet another Japanese shipper, Dancing Prince, in the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3).

Saudi Derby (G3)

Pinehurst entered the UAE Derby (G2) picture by winning for the first time since last summer’s Del Mar Futurity (G1). Fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and most recently second in the Feb. 5 San Vicente (G2), the 6-5 favorite made good use of his speed with new rider Flavien Prat.

Breaking from post 11, Pinehurst accompanied I Am Magic who was energetic early on the inside. Pinehurst didn’t take long, however, to assert leadership. Japan’s Consigliere tracked for hot-riding Lemaire, and Godolphin’s Sovereign Prince ranged nearer turning for home, but neither could overhaul the winner.

The real danger came from deep-closing Japanese contender Sekifu. Rallying in the center of the track and narrowing the gap late, he came up a half-length shy.

“He (Pinehurst) is a very good horse,” Prat said. “We broke well, and I was cruising all the way around, and he responded very well when it was time to move. The track is really safe and I can only say good things about the track. It is my first time here and the whole thing has been a great experience, and it means a lot to win that race.”

“He is all speed,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said of Pinehurst. “He was very good at the gate and did what he needed to do. He got a clean break and if you are going to beat us, you have to pass us, and he was able to stay in the lead the whole way. They (the Japanese) were coming again; well, they had enough for the day, so spread it around! Luckily he had enough heart and stamina to hold off the Japanese.”

Pinehurst negotiated the metric mile in 1:38.12 and paid $4.40. Runner-up Sekifu had three-quarters of a length to spare over Consigliere, in a trifecta of Triple Crown nominees.

“He (Sekifu) was a little bit lazy at the start of the race because he doesn’t like too much kickback,” jockey Cristian Demuro said, “so in the corner I was a little bit outside where he doesn’t get too much. In the stretch, I pulled out to avoid the kickback and he tried hard and showed a good turn of foot, but Bob Baffert’s horse started again. I think he will go at least 1800 meters or longer, no problem.”

Lemaire explained his tactics aboard Consigliere.

“I was with the winner. I let him pass coming to the first corner to give my horse a chance, and then we challenged the winner until the end. He was very generous,” Lemaire said. “There was no excuse.”

Locally-based Alnaader got up for fourth, followed by Sovereign Prince, Kiefer, The Wizard of Eye, Island Falcon, I Am Magic, Perfect Love, Almuthanna, Jacinda, and the tailed-off Noble Truth and Oscula. Also-eligibles Creative Stride and Qarnas stayed in the barn.

Campaigned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, and Madaket Stables, Pinehurst became a millionaire with $1,212,000 in earnings from his 5-3-1-0 line.

“I think he could stretch out next. He’s a horse who went through a lull and we had to back off him a bit, but when we brought them back, he ran a great race last time (in the San Vicente). He’s tough and strong, and I thought he was the kind of horse who could handle this kind of trip and that kind of track. He has a lot of quality and we haven’t seen the best yet of him. I think he will go to Dubai for the UAE Derby after this.”

Pinehurst was bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding. The $180,000 Keeneland November weanling went to his current connections for $385,000 as a yearling at the same venue’s September Sale. The Twirling Candy colt is out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Giant Win, a full sister to Grade 3 scorer First Passage from the family of Grade 1 winners Harmony Lodge and Magnum Moon, as well as multiple Grade 2 millionaire Graeme Hall.

Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3)

Dancing Prince continued the evening’s pattern of showcasing up-and-coming Japanese trainers, giving Keisuke Miyaga his biggest career win in the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint. And Japan was responsible for three-fourths of the superfecta.

Chizu Yoshida’s Dancing Prince was bet down from a 9-2 morning line to 1.30-1 favoritism. That reflected his sharp current form, as well as the relative lack of enthusiasm around the remaining contenders after the scratch of Ginobili.

Dancing Prince gave his backers confidence as soon as he secured the lead. Unfazed by being bumped at the start, the lightly-raced six-year-old had too much speed for his rivals to contain. Dancing Prince raced well within himself, saving energy for the stretch, then skipped clear to a 5 3/4-length romp in 1:10.26 for about six furlongs.

British-based Good Effort tried hard as best of the rest, 3 3/4 lengths to the good of Japanese mare Chain of Love, who was a neck up on defending champion Copano Kicking. Next came Sunset Flash, Switzerland, Gladiator King, Faz Zae, Mortajeh, Dolma, Beehive, Rock Sound, and Rudy Trigger.

Dancing Prince returned $4.60 while enhancing his resume to 13-9-1-1. The bay won six straight after switching to dirt, a skein that ended with a third in the 2020 Capella (G3) in his graded debut. Dancing Prince is starting to build another streak, having won his past two – the Apr. 18 Keiyo S. at Nakayama and the Dec. 12 renewal of the Capella – and made it three in Riyadh.

“This is only our third season training, so this is huge,” said Takuhito Sawae, Miyaga’s assistant. “This is our best moment.”

Lemaire was lost for words to express his four-timer.

“This is unbelievable. I knew this was a very good horse, and it’s easy when you are riding good horses. I’m so happy for connections. I have been in Japan for two years with the restrictions and no travel, so I was fresh tonight! My horses were just too good tonight. I don’t know what to say.”

Jockey Alexis Moreno, who rode Faz Zae, might have put it best.

“He ran OK but this is a different level. Those Japanese horses are like planes.”

Dancing Prince is from the first crop of the lesser-known Pas de Trois, a multiple Grade 3-winning son of Swept Overboard from the sire line of Forty Niner. He is a three-quarter brother to Grade 3-placed stakes scorer Princess Memory, herself by Swept Overboard. Their dam, the Bubble Gum Fellow mare Little Blessing, is a three-quarter sister to Japanese champion Durandal.