Japanese-bred Pink Kamehameha wins Saudi Derby


Japanese-bred Pink Kamehameha wins Saudi Derby

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

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In a race that may yet be part of the Middle East road to the Kentucky Derby, a Japanese colt making his dirt debut surprised the field Saturday in the US$1.5-million Saudi Derby.

Racing from just off the early pace, Pink Kamehameha (30-1 North America, 25-1 Europe) moved into second in the final turn and found the lead at the top of the stretch on the way to winning the one-mile race on the Saudi Cup undercard.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint runner-up Cowan (5-2, 4-1) closed from last to finish second, three-quarters of a length behind. “Solid run after missing the break,” Cowan's trainer Steve Asmussen said in a text message.

Ireland-based gelding New Treasure (12-1, 12-1) was third, a length off the win.

Soft Whisper (1-1, 9-4), the North American favourite, finished fifth in the 12-horse field.

Trainer Hideyuki Mori trained the Saudi Derby winner for the second year in a row after conditioning Full Flat's triumph in 2020. Ridden by Keita Tosaki, the Leontes colt had not finished better than fourth in any of his four races, losing by an average of nearly 10 lengths since his debut win last summer on the turf in Japan.

“Everything went perfectly today,” Mori said. “He ran on dirt for the first time, but today's surface with a bit of a rain-affected track must suit him a lot.”

Pink Kamehameha was supposed to be ridden by Joel Rosario, who instead took off to ride Cowan. Umberto Rispoli originally had the ride on Cowan, but he could not get to Saudi Arabia because of late changes to the COVID-19 rules.

Rosario agreed with Asmussen. The start was everything for Cowan.

“He missed the break,” Rosario said. “Right when they opened the gate his head was turned, so he lost the break. But he came running. They went very fast up front, and he almost got there.”

Cowan was shortened from 150-1 to 100-1 in the Kentucky Derby futures at Circa Sports in Las Vegas. Rebel's Romance drifted from 85-1 to 100-1.

The winning time for the mile without a run-up was 1:38.58. Following afternoon rain that dampened the early turf races, the main track was posted as fast thanks, in part, to the drying evening weather.

The race is regarded as a prep for next month's US$750,000 United Arab Emirates Derby (G2) and, in turn, the Kentucky Derby.

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