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Lines of Battle hands O'Brien second straight U.A.E. Derby
Lines of Battle, one of only two American Triple Crown nominees in Saturday's Group 2, $2 million U.A.E. Derby, drove to a 1 1/2-length victory to earn 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby. Owned by breeder Joseph Allen in partnership with Coolmore principals Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, the War Front colt gave Irish champion trainer Aidan O'Brien his second straight score in the classic.
"We wanted the race to be a true test," O'Brien said, "but it wasn't because of the slow pace, which made it a good win under the circumstances. We are very pleased with him and will now go to the Kentucky Derby."
Like last year's hero Daddy Long Legs, Lines of Battle was last seen at the Breeders' Cup. Daddy Long Legs had flopped in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile on dirt, but Lines of Battle had run a better-than-appears seventh in the November 3 Juvenile Turf, where he had drawn the very tough post 14.
Given a superb ride by Ryan Moore here at Meydan, the 7-2 second choice was forwardly placed throughout in a race lacking any serious pace. In contrast, 9-5 favorite Secret Number broke slowly and set himself a massive task by lagging well behind.
Law Enforcement held a narrow lead early, but Lines of Battle put his head in front briefly on the backstretch. The eventual winner then deferred to Snowboarder, who advanced on the outside to take command.
Lines of Battle launched his bid in earnest down the stretch, and rapidly kicked clear. But by drifting out, he cost himself momentum, and Elleval closed along the inside to threaten. Lines of Battle kept finding enough to see off the challenge, negotiating about 1 3/16 miles on the Tapeta in 2:02.05.
"It was a farce of a race," Moore said. "They only cantered to halfway. And my horse was only doing what he needed to. I think he was just the best horse in the race."
Secret Number rallied furiously for a meritorious third, just a half-length shy of Elleval. Snowboarder tired to fourth, trailed by Law Enforcement, Zahee, Shuruq, Dice Flavor, Now Spun, Keiai Leone, He's Had Enough (the other Triple Crown nominee) and Emotif.
Jose Valdivia Jr., who rode Dice Flavor, summed up his experience.
"They just left us. He wasn't fast enough," Valdivia said.
Mario Gutierrez revealed that He's Had Enough made it tough on himself.
"I got parked wide a little bit," Gutierrez said. "My horse was so unsteady -- he wanted to jump on the other horses. He got a little warm before the race when they circled around behind the gate. He's not used to that in America. It just wasn't his day today."
Lines of Battle boosted his bankroll to $1,276,204 from his 6-3-1-0 line. Sixth in last summer's Group 2 Coventry at Royal Ascot in his stakes debut, he missed by a neck in the Group 3 Tyros before breaking through with a 2 1/2-length decision in the Star Appeal over the Polytrack at Dundalk. The Kentucky-bred dark bay is now two-for-two on synthetic surfaces, and connections will give him a chance on dirt in the Run for the Roses.