Forever Young Pulls Clear in G2 UAE Derby

March 30, 2024

Forever Young secures the win in the UAE Derby (Dubai Racing Club)

Dubai Racing Club Press Release

Forever Young put Japan on the board under a take-no-risks ride from Ryusei Sakai, who sat off the fence in fifth, looping the field on the home turn before running down Auto Bahn.

In doing so he gave the country’s most recognisable and popular international racing ambassador, trainer Yoshito Yahagi, the chance to pay tribute to his father, who had died back in Japan just hours before the race.

“My teacher, mentor and father passed away this morning and I want to dedicate this win to him,” Yahagi told the international press in an emotionally charged media conference.

Pandagate finished best of those coming from off the pace in third but the writing was on the wall for those hoping to derail Forever Young’s chances when Sakai took a long look to his inside 400 metres from the line.

A son of 2016 Dubai Turf hero Real Steel, Forever Young came into World Cup night as arguably the banker for the large Japanese challenge.

In contrast to his victory in the G3 Saudi Derby (1600m) – when traffic issues and the shorter trip meant he left it desperately late in sealing the deal – Forever Young looked the near-certain winner from a long way out.

In pulling two lengths clear of Auto Bahn, Forever Young secured 100 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and a certain place in the line-up come the Run for the Roses, a challenge both Yahagi and owner Susumu Fujita are keen to take up.

“Of course it will be very difficult to manage the horse’s condition [travelling] from Dubai to Kentucky but I really believe my team will be able to get him in good order,” Yahagi said

Explaining the improvement from his win in the Saudi Derby, Yahagi explained: “He did not travel well from Japan to Saudi Arabia so he was not in great condition but he still performed very well. After travelling from Riyadh to Dubai he improved and he has so much potential, I always have a lot of confidence in him.”

Sakai was able to celebrate his second success at Meydan, following on from the Yahagi-trained Bathrat Leon’s strike in the 2022 Godolphin Mile.

The 26-year-old said: “His condition improved from the Saudi Derby and so I was very confident that the horse would perform for me. I really trust the horse and it was a great performance.”

On the challenge to come at Churchill Downs, Sakai added: “This horse is yet to be beaten and I feel he’s the champion three-year-old in Japan. I will do everything to prepare for Kentucky.”

Fujita added: “I was a little concerned before the race but this horse has shown great ability.

“This is only my third season as an owner with the Japan Racing Association and I have already found a champion racehorse. He continues to attract international attention for the Kentucky Derby, which tells me that he should have a good chance. Looking forward I would like to underline that I would like to win the Dubai World Cup.”

Auto Bahn (2nd), trainer Julio Olascoaga said: “We’ve been beaten by a really good horse, but Mickael [Barzalona, jockey] was super happy with him. He’s a horse who has improved all season and off level weights [no Southern Hemisphere penalty] he’ll be a good horse for next season, perhaps to target at the Dubai World Cup. He will stay here for the summer.”

Pandagate (3rd), jockey Dylan Davis said: “He broke OK – he is not a very good gate horse. The kickback really hurt him when trying to get a position early. It’s a lot rougher here than it is at Aqueduct. But once we went to the back stretch, we found some good rhythm. When they punched, they just had a better kick than me and my horse just kept fighting for third and he managed to prevail for third. Shipping all the way and performing on this stage – he showed that he improved again. He got there well, he is kind of a stayer. He hasn’t got a big turn of foot but getting further should be no problem.”

Mendelssohn Bay (4th), jockey Pat Cosgrave said: “He ran well. It was a little bit messy turning in but nothing untoward really. The front two were too good today but probably on another day he’d be third.”

Navy Seal (5th), jockey Wayne Lordan said: “He ran a cracker. First time on that surface and I thought he did really well. I tried to follow the winner but I only got so far! But my lad is a nice horse and he could have a good year ahead of him.”

Ballon d’Or (6th), jockey Norihiro Yokoyama said: “He did his best.”

Rock Walk (7th), jockey Joao Moreira said: “He didn’t break very well. He found himself at the back as we expected anyway. Even though I was saving ground on the inside, he just wasn’t good enough to be competitive.” Added trainer Julio Olascoaga: “Rock Walk ran well. He only came twenty days ago so we can’t expect a lot.”

Guns And Glory (8th), jockey Jamie Spencer said: “We wanted to be on the pace and it was quick early then it slowed up down the back. It was a big jump in class and he wasn’t up to it.”

Oasis Boy (9th), jockey Christophe Soumillon said: “Good start, couldn’t stay on at the end.” Added trainer Julio Olascoaga: “I think he will be a very capable horse over shorter distances. Probably, a mile is his trip.”

George Tesoro (10th), jockey Yuga Kawada said: No comment.

Henry Adams (11th), jockey Ryan Moore said: “He’s fine, he got squeezed out in the first turn. Put a line through it.

An amazing article. Well done @jonathanstettin #ruffian twitter.com/jonathanstetti…

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