Japan's Forever Young Remains Undefeated in UAE Derby, On to Kentucky

Forever Young (blinkers) | Erika Rasmussen

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Veni, vidi, vici. He came, he saw, he conquered. Like Julius Caesar, Susumu Fujita's Forever Young (Jpn) (Real Steel {Jpn}–Forever Darling, by Congrats) came prepared for battle and lived up to the hype, stamping himself as a potential superstar and giving Japan a third consecutive victory–and fourth since 2016–in the $1-million G2 UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse on Dubai World Cup Day. The pacesetter Auto Bahn (Arg) (Asiatic Boy {Arg}) held second, while the sole U.S. representative, Pandagate (Arrogate), was third. The UAE Derby offers GI Kentucky Derby points on a 100-50-25-15-10 scale, essentially guaranteeing Forever Young a spot at Churchill Downs, a route trainer Yoshito Yahagi said he intends to pursue. Final time for the 1900 meters was 1:57.89.

It was the first UAE Derby win for both Fujita and Yahagi, as well as for rider Ryusei Sakai. The win was particularly poignant for Yahagi, whose father had passed away in Japan just hours earlier.

“My teacher, mentor, and father passed away this morning and I want to dedicate this win to him,” an emotional Yahagi said following the race.

Forever Young overcame a wide break from Meydan's stall 11 Saturday and sat outside but prominently in the early first flight before settling into a wide fifth, feeling the breeze while in the clear. Little changed up front as Southern Hemisphere stablemates Oasis Boy (Arg) (Asiatic Boy {Arg} and Auto Bahn (Arg) showed the way until heading into the homestretch, when Auto Bahn put away his fellow Julio Olascoaga trainee as Forever Young loomed menacingly to his outside. Sakai gave the bay winner a few right-handed taps of the whip as Auto Bahn yielded. Forever Young drew clear by two lengths under a late hand ride with his ears pricked as conditioner Christophe Clement's last-out Gander S. winner Pandagate closed from his penultimate running spot with long, easy strides to wind up several lengths back in third.

Yahagi reiterated several times the Kentucky Derby will be the next target for the winner.

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

Kentucky is not an option for Auto Bahn, as he is a 4-year-old on Southern Hemisphere time.

Jockey Dylan Davis, Pandagate's rider, indicated he felt his colt may benefit from a longer distance than the 1900 meters of the Saudi Derby. “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.”

Forever Young, who made his first two career starts at nine furlongs, has never been beaten. He made three trips to the starting gate as a 2-year-old in Japan, getting started last October at Kyoto and reeling off three consecutive victories at three different tracks, culminating with listed wins in the JBC Nisai Yushun and the Zennippon Nisai Yushun. With performances of a caliber that made him the highest-rated dirt juvenile in Japanese history, Forever Young tackled the world stage next, where word was already out that this colt might be something special. He didn't disappoint despite a less-than-ideal trip in the $1.5-million G3 Boutique Group Saudi Derby at Riyadh's King Abdulaziz Racecourse Feb. 24. The head victory may have been his only winning margin shy of daylight, but it was in such a manner–where he ran down what looked to be a clear winner–that he was clearly the horse to beat in the UAE Derby.

“He did not travel well from Japan to Saudi Arabia so he was not in great condition but he still performed very well,” said Yahagi. “After traveling from Riyadh to Dubai he improved and he has so much potential, I always have a lot of confidence in him.”

Winning owner Fujita concurred that Forever Young will travel next to Kentucky. “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.”

 

Pedigree Notes:

Shadai Stallion Station's Real Steel, himself a big winner in Dubai when he took the G1 Dubai Turf in 2016, is also a full-brother to U.S. and Japanese champion Loves Only You (Jpn), winner of the GI Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 2021. With just two crops to the races thus far, Real Steel has three black-type winners, all in group company. Forever Young is his first stakes winner outside of Japan. Forever Young is also one of 26 black-type winners worldwide out of a daughter of Congrats, a son of A.P. Indy who was pensioned from stud duty at WinStar Farm after the 2021 season.

Forever Darling, winner of the 2016 GII Santa Ynez S., was exported to the UK in 2017, bred to Frankel (GB), and shipped to Japan, where she has remained. She has a 2-year-old filly by Kizuna (Jpn) and a yearling filly by Epiphaneia (Jpn). Bred for 2024 to Rey de Oro (Jpn), Forever Darling is a half-sister to 2017 GI Darley Alcibiades S. winner Heavenly Love (Malibu Moon), dam of $2.3-million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga topper and 'TDN Rising Star' Sierra Leone (Gun Runner). The latter most recently won the Feb. 17 GII Risen Star S. and is pointing to Keeneland's GI Toyota Blue Grass next week. Other members of the family include 2004 Japanese Horse of the Year Zenno Rob Roy (Jpn) (Sunday Silence), a half-brother to Forever Young's granddam, MSW & MGISP Darling My Darling.

Saturday, Meydan, Dubai
UAE DERBY-G2, AED1,000,000, Meydan, 3-30, 3yo, 9 1/2f, 1:57.89, fs.
1–FOREVER YOUNG (JPN), 121, c, 3, by Real Steel (Jpn)
                1st Dam: Forever Darling (SP-US, $113,733),
                                by Congrats
                2nd Dam: Darling My Darling, by Deputy Minister
                3rd Dam: Roamin Rachel, by Mining
(¥98,000,000 Ylg '22 JRHAJUL). O-Susumu Fujita; B-Northern
Racing; T-Yoshito Yahagi; J-Ryusei Sakai. $580,000. Lifetime
Record: MSW-Jpn, GSW-Sau, 5-5-0-0, $2,630,648. Click for the
   free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. Werk Nick
   Rating: A+. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Auto Bahn (Arg), 131, c, 3, Asiatic Boy (Arg)–Autografiada
(Arg), by Giant's Causeway. 1ST GROUP BLACK-TYPE. O-Sheikh
Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum; B-Al Adiyaat Argentina
S.A (ARG); T-Julio Olascoaga. $200,000.
3–Pandagate, 121, c, 3, Arrogate–Kitty Panda, by Sky Mesa.
1ST GROUP BLACK TYPE. ($130,000 Ylg '22 SARAUG).
O-Adelphi Racing Club, Madaket Stables LLC, Corms Racing
Stable and On The Rise Again Stable; B-Fred W. Hertrich III
(NY); T-Christophe Clement. $100,000.
Margins: 2, 4 3/4, 1.
Also Ran: Mendelssohn Bay, Navy Seal (Ire), Ballon D'Or (Jpn), Rock Walk (Uru), Guns And Glory, Oasis Boy (Arg), George Tesoro (Jpn), Henry Adams (Ire). Scratched: Killer Collect, Satono Phoenix (Jpn). Click for the ERA chart & video.

 

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