The Kentucky Derby Championship Series kicks into high gear with Saturday's Group 2, $2 million U.A.E. Derby at Meydan, the first race in the new scoring system to offer a 100-point bonanza to the eligible winner. American rooting interests revolve around He's Had Enough and Dice Flavor, while Aidan O'Brien dispatches Lines of Battle from Ireland, and Godolphin's Secret Number tops the local squad.
He's Had Enough and Lines of Battle are the only American Triple Crown nominees in the field, however, and therefore they are the only two eligible to pocket points on Saturday.
He's Had Enough, who briefly threatened Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, hasn't run up to that level in three subsequent starts. Only fifth in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, Tapit colt was no match for Flashback when third in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis, and he wound up fifth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. He's Had Enough represents the team responsible for last year's Kentucky Derby-winning champion, I'll Have Another, but must step up to the plate here for owner Reddam Racing and trainer Doug O'Neill.
Dice Flavor, a Paddy Gallagher pupil, warrants respect off a 3 3/4-length score in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby. Significantly, that came over the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields, the same synthetic surface he will encounter in Dubai.
Lines of Battle is launching his second global venture, having jetted in for last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. The beautifully-bred son of War Front was compromised by his far outside post 14 at Santa Anita, and wound up seventh. In his only start on synthetic, however, Lines of Battle scampered to a good-looking win in the Star Appeal at the Irish track Dundalk in October. He makes his sophomore bow here, just like former stablemate Daddy Long Legs, who won the 2012 U.A.E. Derby in his comeback.
Adding to the international presence are Law Enforcement and Keiai Leone. Law Enforcement, based in England with Richard Hannon, won the Group 1 Gran Criterium in Italy in October, while Keiai Leone won three straight in Japan before finishing unplaced in his latest.
The undefeated Secret Number went to the head of the local class by taking the March 9 Al Bastakiya at this track and about 1 3/16-mile distance. Overcoming a slow start and a wide trip, the Saeed bin Suroor pupil reeled in Zahee and won going away by two lengths.
The second through fifth in the Al Bastakiya will try again in the U.A.E. Derby -- Zahee, a New Zealand-bred from the Mike de Kock yard; Snowboarder, trained by Mahmood al Zarooni; Irish-based Elleval; and Emotif, another de Kock runner.
Zahee and Emotif are four-year-olds according to Northern Hemisphere reckoning and thus ineligible for the Kentucky Derby.
Zahee and Snowboarder had earlier placed in the Group 3 U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas. They are the only two who will have competed in all three legs of the 2013 U.A.E. Triple Crown.
Aside from Snowboarder, al Zarooni will also send out Now Spun, who switches to Tapeta after getting up in time in the Meydan Classic on turf.
Bin Suroor is likewise double-handed, with the filly Shuruq joining Secret Number. Shuruq was a close second in the U.A.E. One Thousand Guineas Trial, and in the Guineas itself, before breaking through with a four-length victory in the Group 3 U.A.E. Oaks. She seeks to emulate Khawlah, a bin Suroor filly who turned the Oaks/Derby double in 2011.