February 5, 2023

European raiders prominent in Jockey Club Derby and Oaks

Nations Pride pictured romping in the Feb. 25 Jumeirah Derby at Meydan (Photo by Dhric/AK)

Frankie Dettori, the iconic European jockey, will be in New York Saturday to ride leading contenders in the $1 million Jockey Club Derby (G3) and $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks (G3) at Aqueduct.

Although as lucrative as earlier Grade 1 stakes for three-year-olds held at Belmont and Saratoga over the summer, the Jockey Club Derby attracted a much smaller field of six to go 1 1/2 miles, the longest race in the turf series. Dettori will be aboard the Godolphin homebred Nations Pride, who rebounded from a second-place finish in the Belmont Derby (G1) under Dettori to capture the Saratoga Derby (G1) by 1 3/4 lengths when ridden by William Buick.

“He was well thought of to run in the Derby (G1) at Epsom, but from a physical standpoint he’s just filled his frame a lot more and mentally as well,” said Chris Connett, a traveling assistant to trainer Charlie Appleby. “He really switches off now and is really taking it all in very well.”

Another European raider, albeit one that has yet to race in the U.S., is Ardakan. Based in Germany with Markus Klug, Ardakan won the Italian Derby (G2) in Rome back in May, but was less effective when eighth in the German Derby (G2) in July, though he was beaten a little more than two lengths by the quality Sammarco. More recently, Ardakan finished a respectable third against older rivals in last month’s Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1).

The Jockey Club Derby could turn out to be another tactical affair as Classic Causeway is the lone speed on paper. Shock winner of the Belmont Derby at 26-1 in wire-to-wire fashion in what was his turf debut, Classic Causeway couldn’t pull off a double in the Saratoga Derby, fading to third after setting the pace, but will attempt to take these as far as he can.

Germany will also be represented in the six-horse, 1 3/8-mile Jockey Club Oaks by Toskana Belle, who won last month’s German Oaks (G1) at Dusseldorf by a head for trainer Andreas Wohler. Dettori rides the Shamalgan filly.

The class of the domestic hopefuls is McKulick, who won the Belmont Oaks (G1) over With the Moonlight, who reversed the form in the Saratoga Oaks (G3). Making her turf debut is the Bill Mott-trained Nostalgic, who has struggled against the best of the division on dirt since taking the Gazelle (G3) in April.