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DERBY HOPES FOR JAPAN’S GROUND-BREAKER

Hideyuki Mori, often regarded as the boldest internationalist among Japanese trainers, will start two horses in Saturday’s $2m UAE Derby sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group.

Either Yu Change(JPN), ridden by Joao Moreira, or On the Rocks(JPN) and Mirco Demuro could earn an opportunity to run in the 142nd Kentucky Derby this May.

“If we win, we are going to Kentucky.”, said Mori. Twenty six years ago he became the first and only Japanese trainer to have a horse run for the roses with Ski Captain. Though he finished 14th that first Saturday in May, it didn’t dampen his ambitions.

That same year he would become the first Japanese trainer to win a group race abroad when Fujiyama Kenzan took the Hong Kong Cup.

Mori must have broken some sort of spell because major victories for Japan all over the globe have been steadily rolling in ever since.

Between 1994 and 2007 he travelled to Hong Kong, America, Australia, France, England, Singapore and was a regular in Dubai. He won the 1998 Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest with Seeking the Pearl and took her to America twice in years to come.

Mori had more success in France with Agnes World in the 1999 Prix de l’Abbaye and the following year claimed his “most memorable international win” when he took Agnes World to Newmarket and won the July Cup.

It has been 11 years since Mori last came to Dubai and his two UAE Derby starters are complete unknowns to the rest of the world.

They have primarily run on turf during their brief careers but that doesn not bother the veteran at all.

“I think a Japanese turf horse has a much better chance performing well on this kind of dirt surface than a Japanese dirt horse, who is used to running on a deep, sandy surface.”, said the Osaka native.

“If you take away the blades of grass, the ground is quite similar I think. Our turf horses have much better speed than our dirt horses.”

It is an idea that will be put to the test this Saturday when Mori throws his hat back into the international arena.

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