Kentucky Derby International Scouting Report: Summer Is Tomorrow
UAE Derby (G2) runner-up Summer Is Tomorrow figures to make an impact on the Kentucky Derby (G1) pace scenario, but can the Dubai shipper stick around for the finish?
Summer Is Tomorrow in historical perspective
Fifteen UAE Derby alumni have tried the Kentucky Derby, but none has made it into the superfecta. The nearest finish is the fifth-place effort by Master of Hounds (2011), who was coming off a near-miss at Meydan.
It’s not just a matter of class or quality of form either. Conditions at Churchill Downs on the day, from an off track and the challenges inherent in a big field to the boisterous atmosphere, have put such standouts as Thunder Snow (2017) and Mendelssohn (2018) totally off their game. Thus the Run for the Roses poses a test beyond the ordinary, especially for the internationals.
An Airdrie Stud product like Zandon
Summer Is Tomorrow is one of two contenders bred by former Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones at his Airdrie Stud, along with Zandon. Needless to say, Zandon has the more obvious Derby profile, both on pedigree and his racing trajectory stateside.
Summer Is Tomorrow’s immediate pedigree would have implied a future on turf. By Summer Front, a millionaire son of War Front, Summer Is Tomorrow is out of a full sister to Grade 1 turfiste Bigger Picture. Himself an earner of more than $1.6 million, Bigger Picture scored his signature win in the 2017 United Nations (G1) in course-record time at Monmouth Park.
But broodmare sire Badge of Silver, before proving himself on turf, was accomplished on dirt. Romping by 10 lengths in the 2003 Risen Star (G3), he added the 2005 New Orleans H. (G2) and Hal’s Hope (G3), and placed in two editions of the Cigar Mile (G1). Summer Is Tomorrow descends from one of the rich families cultivated by the Phipps Stable, tracing to Blitey, ancestress of Hall of Famer Heavenly Prize and Dancing Spree.
“Summer” initially sold for $25,000 as a Keeneland November weanling, but back at the same venue as a September yearling, he failed to sell for a $14,000 bid. Presumably due to his forecast turf appeal, he ended up going to Micky Cleere’s M.C. Thoroughbreds in Ireland’s County Tipperary, where he prepared for a two-year-olds in training sale.
Like 2019 Preakness (G1) winner War of Will, Summer Is Tomorrow was offered at Arqana’s May Breeze Up Sale. Only the 2021 auction was transferred from Deauville to Doncaster, to make it easier amid the COVID protocols. There he commanded €139,200 from Tadhg O’Shea – Dubai’s perennial leading rider – on behalf of owners Michael Hilary Burke and Negar Burke.
Summer Is Tomorrow’s trainer and jockey
Trainer Bhupat Seemar and jockey Mickael Barzalona have topped the standings in their respective jurisdictions.
Seemar was just crowned the UAE champion trainer in his first season with a license. But he’s no rookie. After spending several years stateside with Bob Baffert, he played a key role as assistant to uncle Satish Seemar at Zabeel Stables. Bhupat took over at the helm when Satish was suspended in November 2021 – not for any of the usual reasons for trainer suspensions; Satish had been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in December 2020 because he had trained for Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.
Racing Post reported Nov. 15 that Satish was trying to clear his status with Treasury, but until that is resolved, he had to turn over the yard to his nephew.
The Zabeel team kept humming through the UAE season. Longer than the Dubai Carnival, and including four racetracks in addition to Meydan, the season began last fall and concluded Apr. 1. Bhupat won the trainer’s title with 47 victories from 379 starts (a 12.4% strike rate), according to emiratesracing.com. Another 49 seconds and 36 thirds made for 34.8% in-the-money finishes. The biggest highlight was Switzerland’s score in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on World Cup night, a race previously won by the stable’s lovable veteran Reynaldothewizard in 2013.
Barzalona, Godolphin’s go-to rider in France, won his first Cravache d’Or as French champion jockey of 2021. His marquee wins on the international stage include the 2011 Derby (G1) at Epsom aboard Pour Moi, 2012 Dubai World Cup with Monterosso, and 2017 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) on Talismanic. A regular during the Dubai Carnival, Barzalona can nurse frontrunning types a long way on the dirt, as exemplified by Summer Is Tomorrow in the UAE Derby.
Maiden races at two
Summer Is Tomorrow took three starts at Meydan to break his maiden. Debuting Nov. 18 at about six furlongs, he showed good speed for O’Shea, but could not contain pace rival Taking Names who rolled 8 1/4 lengths clear. "Summer" looked a bit green changing leads while best of the rest. Up another furlong for a Dec. 2 maiden, he never looked comfortable. He still managed to loom into contention, only to weaken in the final furlong to seventh.
Next time on Dec. 23, he was a different proposition. Despite swerving to his left out of the gate, and into a foe, he quickly set himself right, went forward, and picked up strongly to prevail by 4 1/2 lengths. Rawy, his nearest attendant throughout, would eventually go on to take the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial. Summer Is Tomorrow negotiated about six furlongs in 1:12.33. Later on the card, classy elder Meraas, the future Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) winner, clocked the same trip in 1:11.76 (albeit toting nine pounds more).
Conditions races at three
Summer Is Tomorrow likewise lost his first two attempts in conditions races before winning again. On the opening night of the Carnival, Jan. 14, he hooked Brazilian-bred speedball Bet Law and kept up until the stretch, when his slightly older rival pulled way. But he was clearly second-best. Then he ventured to Jebel Ali on Feb. 12, where he flashed his customary speed, but didn’t look as fluent on that track. He tired on the tough uphill finish and got nipped late for third.
As reported by Dubai Racing Channel’s Laura King on thoroughbredracing.com, Summer Is Tomorrow had a physical excuse both times he was out of the exacta. He had a shin issue when seventh as a juvenile, and going into Jebel Ali, he missed some training time with an abscess. When in peak condition, he has run his race.
Back in business at Meydan on Feb. 25, the Summer Front colt broke like a shot to the lead. Rawy tried to go with him, but he was run off his feet as his familiar foe poured it on through the lane. Summer Is Tomorrow was a class apart as he finished the about seven-furlong affair in 1:24.89, geared down in an 8 1/4-length decision.
Two-turn debut in UAE Derby
Although he entered the UAE Derby on the upswing, the stretch-out to about 1 3/16 miles appeared a tall order, especially on the class hike. Granted, the yard’s primary hope, Bendoog, was far from the finished article himself. Indeed, Seemar has said that Bendoog would really come into his own next year. Yet at least Bendoog brought stakes experience at the trip. O’Shea rode Bendoog, and Barzalona picked up the mount on Summer Is Tomorrow.
Any idea that Baffert’s Pinehurst could be controlling speed was swiftly dispelled when Barzalona's mount came out running from post 8. Pinehurst gave way on the far turn and was virtually eased home in last, with the stewards’ report disclosing that he came up lame in his left fore.
Summer Is Tomorrow had everyone off the bridle and struggling, except for Crown Pride, and even he took a while to wear the longtime leader down. Had he gone a route in advance of the UAE Derby, might he have held on better? The time was a slow 1:59.76, but on a surface that was becoming more tiring as the evening wore on. A couple of hours later, Country Grammer needed 2:04.97 to take the World Cup, when frontrunning favorite Life Is Good wilted to fourth.
A World Cup comparison could be instructive. Note that Summer Is Tomorrow went a bit faster passing the half-mile (:47.63) than Life Is Good (:48.03), as the Trakus sectionals reveal. Life Is Good then went faster for longer (1:11.41 and 1:36.74) compared to "Summer" (1:11.81 and 1:37.90), and both slowed appreciably late. Life Is Good clocked his penultimate sixteenth in :7.27 (the 1900-meter mark in the World Cup), and "Summer" needed :7.09 to negotiate his final sixteenth in the 1900-meter UAE Derby.
Final drill at Zabeel
Michael Adolphson’s video of Summer Is Tomorrow’s drill before flying out April 20 is must-see. After initially tracking his workmate, he disposed of his companion and drew off by a substantial margin. Adolphson reports that he blitzed six furlongs in 1:11.80, and Seemar revealed that his final quarter was a swift :23.
Summer Is Tomorrow’s challenge
Considering how much speed Summer Is Tomorrow has shown over a deeper Meydan surface, he’s eligible to be a pace player on a fast track at Churchill Downs, as long as he breaks effectively. The experience of the UAE Derby should serve him well, since he presents an overall pattern of improving with his starts, and learning as he goes.
On the other hand, he will have to endure better pace rivals than Pinehurst, and strong closers beyond Crown Pride. It’s also worth noting that his shipping route via Chicago is putting him in walk-only mode for a few days, without a track for proper training. He was certainly fit getting on the plane, but any alteration of routine a couple of weeks ahead of the Derby isn’t ideal.
The likeliest scenario is that Summer Is Tomorrow affects the Derby outcome by ensuring a legitimate pace, without being involved in the finish himself. Yet he’s taken his connections on an incredible journey that few could have imagined – hence his late nomination to the Triple Crown, after the UAE Derby. The upwardly-mobile colt has earned the right to take his chance.