Derma Sotogake earned himself a start in the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) with a dominating victory in the UAE Derby (G2), leading home a Japanese 1-2-3-4.
The winner of the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, the second race in the Japanese Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby series, Derma Sotogake was a well-regarded chance in the 1,900-meter (about 1 3⁄16-mile) race after finishing third in the one-mile Saudi Derby (G3) at his previous start.
He clearly relished the extra 3⁄16 of a mile here, going to the lead for jockey Christophe Lemaire and then dashing away in the stretch for a 5 1⁄2-length score.
The victory earned him 100 points in the Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby series, enough to ensure a start on the first Saturday in May. His trainer Hidetaka Otonashi indicated he would make the journey to Louisville for the race.
Dura Erede, the Hopeful (G1) winner in Japan on turf as a juvenile, ran well in his first dirt start to earn 40 points. It may be enough to earn him a Kentucky Derby start, and his connections have indicated they will seek a Derby run.
Continuar battled away to take third, 4 1⁄2 lengths behind Dura Erede, and earn 30 points — probably not enough to earn a start on the main Derby road, but with his tally on the Japanese Derby road series increased to 40, he was offered a spot at Churchill Downs via that series and is reportedly set to make the journey.
Perriere, winner of the Hyacinth and third to Derma Sotogake in the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, earned 20 points for finishing fourth, 3 1⁄2 lengths behind Continuar. The effort also took his points tally on the Japanese Road to 56, but it appears he won’t be travelling to Kentucky. Dubai-trained Go Soldier Go was fifth, though the 10 points he earned don’t count as he’s not Triple Crown nominated.
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By J. Keeler Johnson
The UAE Derby (G2) stands alone as a unique stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Held at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, the race ranks as the lone leg of the primary Road to the Kentucky Derby series held outside of North America.
The UAE Derby was first contested in 2000, and during its first two decades the race underwent several changes in distance, surface, and location. Between 2000 and 2009, the UAE Derby was conducted over the dirt track at Nad Al Sheba and ranged in distance from 1,800 meters (about 1 1⁄8 miles) to 2,000 meters (about 1 1⁄4 miles)—configurations that produced seven Kentucky Derby starters.
The opening of Meydan in 2010 saw the UAE Derby undergo a couple of major changes. The race shifted to a synthetic racing surface and settled at a distance of 1,900 meters (about 1 3⁄16 miles)—slightly shorter than the Kentucky Derby, but longer than most Derby prep races in North America. The synthetic era lasted through 2014 and produced three Kentucky Derby starters led by Master of Hounds, who picked up a piece of the purse when finishing fifth under the Twin Spires in 2011.
In 2015, the synthetic track at Meydan was replaced with a traditional dirt surface, strengthening the UAE Derby’s credentials as a Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier. Between 2015 and 2019, every UAE Derby winner contested the “Run for the Roses,” including future two-time Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Thunder Snow and the flashy Mendelssohn. The latter won the 2018 UAE Derby by 18 1⁄2 lengths while recording a stakes-record time of 1:55.18.
Saeed bin Suroor, Mike de Kock, and Aidan O’Brien have been the most dominant trainers in the UAE Derby, saddling 16 of the first 20 winners. Godolphin has led the way from an ownership standpoint, with eight winners carrying the Godolphin blue colors between 2000 and 2019.
The UAE Derby was not run in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its prominence on the Road to the Kentucky Derby remains secure. The race awards qualification points on a 100-40-20-10 basis to the top four finishers, sufficient to annually attract a bevy of promising 3-year-olds from around the world. With past winners representing the U.S., Dubai, Great Britain, Ireland, and Japan, the UAE Derby is truly a global Kentucky Derby prep race.