The homebred son of Dubawi earned 100 points on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve leaderboard, ensuring a spot in the May 1 race should Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and trainer Charlie Appleby so choose.
Sheikh Mohammed, who has sought a Kentucky Derby victory for decades, already has undefeated Essential Quality set for this year’s run for the roses. Were Rebel’s Romance to join him, he would follow in the footsteps of Thunder Snow, who used victory in the Dubai race in 2017 as a springboard to what turned into a debacle on the first Saturday in May, when he refused to run.
Rebel’s Romance thoroughly whipped a talented international field in the UAE Derby — a group that included promising 3-year-olds from as far afield at Uruguay and Japan, as well as a pair of American-trained colts seeking an alternate entry into the Kentucky Derby.
Starting well back and on the outside of the field, Rebel’s Romance began to pick things up for jockey William Buick approaching the stretch turn. Overcoming an apparent rail bias, he quickly came to challenge early leader Panadol, blew by him, and drew off to win with something left.
“He came good so quickly underneath me,” Buick said. “I had to contain him a little.”
The gelding, produced by the Street Cry mare Minidress, started his career in England, winning both starts in 2020. He won the UAE Two Thousand Guineas Trial Sponsored by Hamdan Bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal in his first start of 2021 at Meydan but then disappointed in the Feb. 20 Al Rajhi Bank Saudi Derby, finishing fourth.
“We were expecting a better run than in Saudi,” Appleby said. “He just looked better coming into the race.”
Buick said Rebel’s Romance also benefitted from his travel and different circumstances.
“This was his very best performance in his short career so far,” Buick said. “He’s only growing up and he’s taken every step very well. He has learned his lessons very well.”
Although the 100 points for the victory would ensure a spot in the Louisville starting gate, Appleby wasn’t to be pinned down as to plans for Rebel’s Romance.
“That’s a conversation we can have in the next week or 10 days,” Appleby said. “Godolphin already has a horse that looks good in that race. Our primary task will be to work backward now from next year’s Dubai World Cup.”
Panadol, a New York-bred Flatter colt, earned 40 Kentucky Derby points while suffering his first defeat after winning his first two starts, both at Meydan. He won the Al Bastakiya, the Super Saturday prep for this race, in the most recent. New Treasure, a New Approach colt trained by John Gosden with Frankie Dettori aboard, finished third—the same slot he filled in the Saudi Derby.