While much of the focus will rightfully be on Dubai's local contenders for the $2.5 million UAE Derby (G2) in Super Saturday's course and distance $350,000 Al Bastakiya (Listed) and the possible team from Ireland's Ballydoyle heading south post-Patton Stakes (Listed), candidates from elsewhere are beginning to surface. One of those is Imperial Racing's Plus Que Parfait, who—with a Dubai-based ownership, Irish trainer, French name and American training base—is more than perfect for the global image of Dubai World Cup day.
By world-class multiple turf G1 winner Point of Entry, the $135,000 Keeneland September purchase has a sole victory in his six starts, but plenty of class within his past performances. Grade 2-placed over 1700m as a juvenile last November, he graduated one race prior in a salty Keeneland maiden heat, defeating subsequent Holy Bull Stakes (G2) winner Harvey Wallbanger (above, left) over the same distance. This season has not been as rosy, after two poor showings in graded company over the sometimes-tricky Fair Grounds surface in New Orleans.
Trained by Brendan Walsh, a Godolphin alumnus-turned-accomplished head trainer in the U.S., the good-looking chestnut ridgling was recently relocated from New Orleans to Walsh's other base at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida. He had his first work over that dirt surface when going four furlongs in 50.25 seconds on Mar. 3.
“I want to make sure I'm completely happy with him before I commit to going, but right now he's doing very well and had a nice work the other day,” Walsh said. “I'm not sure that he enjoyed the Fair Grounds track and I know he's a better horse than those two races. Of course, he had the rail the second time (when breaking barrier one and finishing 13th in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes), but I thought he would finish better than he did.
“I like the way he has perked up a bit since arriving in Florida,” Walsh continued. “The trip hasn't bothered him at all. You could walk him to Dubai and it wouldn't bother him and that's one of the reasons I think he would be a good candidate to ship over there. His owners are based there and it has always been a serious possibility for him. He's a horse who has shown a lot of talent and I don't think he's fallen as far off form that as races this year would suggest.”
In his seasonal bow, he finished fifth in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes in January, his first off-the-board result. If he returns to the form he showed when nearly defeating Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1)-placed Signalman, he may have a lot to say about the results when Walsh returns for a bit of a homecoming.
“I spent nine years in Dubai and really enjoyed my time there,” he concluded. “I really hoped to eventually come back, but only if I had a horse like him who has a real chance. Still, I won't make any final decisions until he works next week. If he really pleases me with what he does, then we will probably ship out after that.”
Meanwhile, the Al Bastakiya is topped by rivals Estihdaaf and Manguzi, as well as upstart UAE Oaks (G3) winner Divine Image. The Patton Stakes is led by the Coolmore pair of Group 1-placed Western Australia and Group 2 victor Van Beethoven—the latter boasting an exceptionally dirt-friendly pedigree.
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