Imperial Racing's Plus Que Parfait is best known for his victory in the Group II UAE Derby, which landed him a berth in a Grade I Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
But the 3-year-old Point of Entry ridgling also gets attention for his name — or at least the pronunciation of his name, which has brought about many variations. Trainer Brendan Walsh, however, isn't concerned about that.
“It has been butchered many times so far,” said Walsh, who trains Plus Que Parfait at Churchill. “I wouldn't worry about it. He has been doing great and we're very happy with him. That's the important thing.”
Plus Que Parfait (pronounced Plooss-kuh-par-fay, apparently) last raced July 6 in the $1 million, Grade I Belmont Derby at 1 ¼ miles on the grass and checked in an even sixth in a 14-horse field. He will return to the dirt and cut back to 1 1/8 miles in the $500,000, Grade 3 West Virginia Derby Saturday, Aug. 3, at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort.
Plus Que Parfait breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Churchill July 26 under Corey Lanerie, who is named to ride him in Saturday's Derby, Walsh said he was happy with the workout, which was recorded as the fastest of 21 at the distance that morning.
“Corey worked him, and he worked particularly well,” Walsh said. “He looks great and seems on good terms with himself. I believe he's set to run his best ever, or at least as good as he did before. We'll see (on Saturday).”
Plus Que Parfait's win at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai March 30 on World Cup Day was a highlight for Walsh, a native of Ireland who spent several years there when he worked for Godolphin. He also served as an assistant to trainer Eddie Kenneally in Kentucky and picked up his first win as a trainer in 2012.
“It was fantastic, looking back it now, to go over there and win that race,” Walsh said. “I had spent years over there, and to go back for the first time and try to pull that off and win was just a great thing for all of us — the owners and the whole team.”
Michael Foley's Imperial Racing principals, who live in Dubai, ended up with a Kentucky Derby contender after Plus Que Parfait earned 100 points for his UAE Derby score. Racing again roughly one month after the long trip back from the Middle East, Plus Que Parfait encountered a sloppy track and finished ninth-placed-eighth in a field of 19 after the well-publicized disqualification of Maximum Security, who crossed the wire first.
Plus Que Parfait advanced from 12th to fifth, only 1 ¾ lengths off the lead, on the far turn. He then dropped back about four lengths but didn't lose any more ground to the finish.
“I started to get excited when he made his move at the three-eighths pole, but then he leveled off,” Walsh said. “(Sealing of the racing surface) made the track very heavy, and that was to his disadvantage.”
The weather forecast for the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia is calling for sunshine and high temperatures in the mid-80s for Derby Day. Plus Que Parfait, who fell a neck shy of winning the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill to complete his 2-year-old racing season, is scheduled to arrive at Mountaineer the afternoon of Aug. 2.
Plus Que Parfait drew post 4 in a 10-horse field and is listed as the 7-2 second choice in the morning line behind Allied Racing Stable's Mr. Money, who has won three consecutive Grade III stakes, at 6-5. Multiple graded stakes-placed Math Wizard is at 5-1, followed by Top Line Growth, who has won three of four starts, at 8-1.
“(Mr. Money) looks like the horse of the moment, but there are two or three others that look like really nice horses,” Walsh said. “I think it will be an interesting race.”
There is no live racing at Mountaineer the night before the Derby program, but the track as usual is open for full-card simulcasts. This year advance wagering on the entire Derby program will be offered from noon until the last simulcast race Friday evening in the off-track betting area in the Mountaineer Casino.
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