x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Debonair can culminate the Derby plan

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has hopes that Debonair will breakthrough for him at the Japan Derby.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has won many big races around the world, but Derbies continue to elude him.

It is something he clearly would like to put right today as he has travelled to Japan to watch the Darley-bred Debonair line up at Fuchu Racecourse for the Tokyo Yushun, the Japan Derby.

Sheikh Mohammed last raced in Tokyo in 1983 when he watched his High Hawk, trained by John Dunlop and ridden by Willie Carson, finish 13th in the Japan Cup.

The odds are considerably stacked against him today as no foreign owner has won the race, which has 313 million yen (Dh14.3m) in prize money.

As ever, everything has been meticulously planned. Two years ago Sheikh Mohammed, his wife ,Princess Haya, and his son, Sheikh Hamdan, were the first foreign owners to be registered in the Japan Racing Association's owner list.

Frankie Dettori has been flown over from England for the ride, and the Italian bids to become only the second foreign jockey since compatriot Mirco Demuro in 2003 to win the 2,400-metre race.

Dettori has not raced in Japan since partnering Ouija Board in the Japan Cup in 2006, but with three victories in that race he knows the contours of the left-handed track well.

Earlier in the season, it did not look as if Debonair was going to play his part - the Agnes Tachyon colt has just one win in seven starts - but he proved a revelation in last month's Satsuki Sho, the 2,000 Guineas.

Debonair finished so strongly that he clocked the fastest closing split in the race, a style that looks tailored to Fuchu's 525m finishing straight. The track also has a 400m straight from the starting stalls to the first bend so Dettori should have no problems getting his mount settled, according to trainer Kazuya Nakatake.

"I've been saying all long, Tokyo is his course," he said. "The 2,400 metres will be even better for him, because there's no rush to the first turn. He practically digs when he runs."

Those fortunate enough to watch the Japanese contingent training at Meydan Racecourse in the build up to the Dubai World Cup in March will know how hard most Japanese trainers work their horses, and Nakatake is no different.

Earlier this week, Debonair had seemingly recovered from an intense session so well that instead of the scheduled breeze Nakatake went all out with Debonair. He pushed him to sprint speed at the finish.