Dylan Davis Seeks Meydan Success With Pandagate, Clapton

March 29, 2024

Dylan Davis and Pandagate after winning the Gander (Susie Raisher)

NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Jockey Dylan Davis tops all riders with 54 wins at the Aqueduct Racetrack winter meet, but the 29-year-old native of Manhasset, N.Y. will be 6,387 miles from the Big A when the meet concludes Saturday to ride at Meydan Racecourse for the first time when he guides Pandagate in the Group 2, $1 million UAE Derby and Clapton in the Group 1, $12 million Dubai World Cup.

“I’ve never been over there before, so I’m really excited,” said Davis after winning his fourth race on Thursday’s card at the Big A. “It means a lot. I worked my whole life to get to this stage and be competing against the best jocks in the world. It’s incredible. The goal is to be in that elite group for the rest of my career.”

Live coverage of the Group 1 Dubai World Cup, slated as Race 9 at 12:35 p.m. Eastern, airs Saturday, March 30 on FS2 as part of the “Golden Hour” telecast from 12 – 1 p.m. Coverage of the Dubai World Cup undercard, featuring seven stakes races, will air live from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on FS2.

An additional seven hours of racing coverage will continue from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m. on FS2 as America’s Day at the Races will air live racing from the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby card at Oaklawn Park and Closing Day of the winter meet from Aqueduct Racetrack.

Davis is undefeated aboard the New York-bred Pandagate, piloting the Arrogate grey to a nine-length debut score in a one-mile state-bred maiden tilt in October at Belmont at the Big A and a 5 1/2-length romp last out in the state-bred Gander on February 25 here going the same distance.

“I rode him the two times and he’s never been challenged,” said Davis of Pandagate, who finished third under Victor Carrasco in an open-company allowance in December at Laurel Park. “I always thought he had a little bit left in reserve the way he gallops out with his ears up. He’s really a nice horse to ride and does what you want him to do.”

Trained by Christophe Clement for owners Adelphi Racing Club, Madaket Stables, Corms Racing Stable and On The Rise Again Stable, Pandagate has made a good impression since arriving in Dubai last week.

“Pandagate looks incredible training over there. I’m really excited to ride him,” Davis said.

Davis has won two Grade 1 races in his career, both coming internationally at Woodbine Racetrack for Clement when capturing the 2021 E.P. Taylor with Mutamakina and last year’s Summer with Carson’s Run.

The veteran rider said the sweeping turns and long stretch at Meydan should suit the sizable Pandagate, who will depart stall 8 with a morning line assessment of 15-2 in the UAE Derby which is slated as Race 5 at 9:50 a.m.

“I’ve been watching a lot of replays and asked for a couple people’s thoughts on the track,” Davis said. “It looks like a long stretch – the quarter-pole is after the corner – and Pandagate is going to love that. He’s a big striding horse and he gets added distance with the mile and three sixteenths.

“He drew more towards the outside so I’ll have to do a little handicapping on that,” added Davis. “I’ll try to get forward position and get in the clear – not necessarily in the first turn – but there’s a lot of ground and a lot of stretch to work with.”

Bred in the Empire State by Fred W. Hertrich, III, the $130,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale is out of the Clement-trained stakes-placed Sky Mesa mare Kitty Panda.

Clapton victorious in the Ghostzapper (G3) April 1, 2023 at Gulfstream Park (Coglianese)

Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi’s RRR Racing’s Clapton is listed at 59-1 in the Dubai World Cup, but Davis said he will take a positive attitude when the duo depart stall 7 in a talented field that includes defending race champ Ushba Tesoro and last-out Group 1 Saudi Cup-winner Senor Buscador.

“He has a similar running style to Senor Buscador and Ushba Tesoro, so I’ll keep an eye on them to see when they make their move,” Davis said. “I’ll try to save as much ground as possible and make sure I make one nice, steady run to the wire.”

Trained by Chad Summers, the 5-year-old Brethren chestnut captured the Grade 2 Lukas Classic in September at Churchill Downs ahead of an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita Park. Clapton has finished third in two subsequent preps at Meydan in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge won by returning rival Kabirikhan and the Al Maktoum Classic captured by returning rival Military Law.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to ride Clapton in the World Cup,” Davis said. “It’s a bucket list goal to ride that race at least once. I won’t change the way I ride but I’ll do my best and if I can win that would be incredible, but just to be there it’s an honor.”

Davis won 63 races to capture the 2022 Aqueduct winter meet title as part of a tremendous season that saw him take 186 races to earn leading rider honors on the NYRA circuit. His 54 wins at the current Aqueduct winter meet see him boasting a five-win lead over Kendrick Carmouche, who will have eight mounts over the Friday and Saturday Big A cards to try and overtake pole position.

“I’ve won this title before and it would be great to win it again, but this was a sacrifice I had to make to have my best shot to win this weekend,” said Davis, who is represented by agent Michael Migliore. “My business has improved every year along with the quality of horses I’m riding. I have a big opportunity Saturday and I hope I can show my talent out there and continue to ride these types of races. I hope this is the first of many.”

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