There are currently seven final Kentucky Derby prep races that a first or second place finish will likely birth any horse into the race based off of their determining points standings. This is at least two, too many. Last year, the Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby were subpar. Previously, it was again the Louisiana Derby and the Santa Anita Derby. Don’t get me started on Sunland. This is nothing against the tracks that put these races on, there are simply not enough quality three year olds to necessitate such a schedule. This year, one of these brazenly bad prep races was the UAE Derby.
Always an inferior rehearsal if the top contenders are Americans flying eight thousand miles for class relief, Plus Que Parfait bested another expected Derby starter in Gray Magician; both of whom were left behind on the Derby trail at home. Unless both made massive improvements in Dubai — very unlikely due to the fact that a UAE based longshot was right there with them at the wire — they’re only here because of their desperatus, and do not belong on their actual abilities. What’s more concerning about the UAE Derby is that it’s yet to produce a KY Derby starter to finish in the money at Churchill. Of these previous runners, almost all had much more talent than Plus Que Parfait.
The reasons to like Plus Que Parfait in KY are modest, but he’s succeeded at Churchill Downs and has a bit of positional speed that will allow for a greater probability to pull a perfect trip when making one run in the stretch. His trainer, Brendan Walsh, is lesser known but is extremely proficient and will be based at Churchill.
This isn’t nearly enough for us to rethink our position on Plus Que Parfait. The fact remains that he isn’t fast enough on speed figures and is likely somewhat exposed. He’s also unproven against top company with both of his stakes successes coming in lackluster groups. His effort in his UAE Derby was fine, but came with a ground-saving trip and a favorable pace setup. The win came with him sporting blinkers for the first time, but his effort didn’t improve much off his previous ‘top’ which was a narrow defeat in last year’s G2 Kentucky Jockey Club.
Perhaps he will be ridden correctly and only attempt to pick up the minorest of awards with a late stretch run, as he has enough pedigree to handle the distance, but Plus Que Parfait is the easiest of tosses for us in this contentious Kentucky Derby.
Here are our trip notes of Plus Que Parfait:
7th career start: March 30th, Meydan, Group 2 UAE Derby, one mile and three sixteenths
Plus Que Parfait is #4
Broke well but still relegated back to midpack on the rail from the inside post, angled out rounding into the stretch, still in among horses in 3 path, shifted to the inside in midstretch for clear running room, up over Manguzi and Gray Magician on his outside, held. A much sharper Plus Que Parfait than we saw in the homeland, but he benefited from a very nice inside trip, with the pace flow somewhat favoring to the closers. He also got dramatic class relief here.
6th career start: February 16th, Fair Grounds, G2 Risen Star, one mile and a sixteenth
Average beginning at best from inside post, angled out some in midpack on backstretch, in among many in 2 path on far turn, outside into the stretch, nothing. Plus Que Parfait did no running when sent off as a 6:1 contender.
5th career start: January 19th, Fair Grounds, G3 Lecomte, one mile and seventy yards
Stumbled a stride out of the gate, rushed up some, outside 3 wide first turn, outside 3/4 wide on far turn in 2nd tier, evenly from thereon. Not much of an effort here, though Plus Que Parfait may have been off of his game throughout after that starting stumble.
4th career start: November 24th, Churchill, G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, one mile and a sixteenth (sloppy track)
No speed, outside behind a very quick pace up front, produced rounding into the stretch with all the momentum, looked like a winner at 3/16ths pole, angled out to confront his inside foes, flattened out, outrun on inside. Plus Que Parfait did not show his customary early foot here, but his new running style paid immediate dividends as he lucked out with a fast pace up front. Although he had all the momentum in the stretch, he ran like a horse that wanted to keep company and not go on when he should have.
Trip notes of Plus Que Parfait’s first three career starts can be found in the comments.