Plus Que Parfait Rebounds in UAE Derby

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 31st, 2019

After being soundly defeated in two Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races at Fair Grounds this winter, it seemed as though the Derby trail had come to an end for Plus Que Parfait.

But his undaunted connections persevered and set their sights on another target—the $2 million UAE Derby (UAE-II) at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, offering 100 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the winner. And ultimately, their faith in Plus Que Parfait paid off as the colt produced a gallant rally through the pack to upset the 1 3/16-mile race and become the first American-trained horse to win the UAE Derby.

Under a beautiful ride from jockey Jose Ortiz, Plus Que Parfait saved ground early on while rating in mid-pack, about four lengths behind the pace-setting longshot filly Swift Rose. Another American runner, Stubbins, was tracking the pace a joint second with the local longshot Manguzi, while the third American Gray Magician raced wide in mid-pack and the Japanese raider Derma Louvre settled near the rear.

Turning into the long homestretch, Manguzi moved up to take a narrow lead from Swift Rose, but he was quickly confronted by Gray Magician, rallying gamely on the far outside. Just when it appeared that the race would come down to those two, Plus Que Parfait—who had split horses around the far turn to remain in contention—managed to thread his way between the fading Stubbins and the resilient Manguzi, seizing the lead with less than 200 meters to go and forging onward to hold off Gray Magician and prevail by a half-length in 1:58.41 seconds. Manguzi held for third, while Derma Louvre rallied mildly to finish fourth.
Trained by Brendan Walsh for Imperial Racing LLC, Plus Que Parfait was racing with blinkers for the first time, and the headgear seemed to make a difference as Plus Que Parfait turned in his best effort since finishing second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs last fall. A stoutly-bred son of Point of Entry out of the Awesome Again mare Belvedera, Plus Que Parfait seems destined to return to Churchill Downs five weeks from now with an eye on winning another, more acclaimed Derby.

Likewise, Gray Magician could also be bound for Churchill Downs. The son of Graydar ran a big race in defeat, considering that he raced significantly wider than Plus Que Parfait all the way around the track. Runner-up in the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park last month, this Peter Miller-trained colt appears to be on the rise and earned 40 Kentucky Derby qualification points for his second-place finish at Meydan, which should be sufficient to earn a spot in the Derby starting gate.