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Forever Young Leaves It Late In Saudi Derby

Susumu Fujita’s Yoshito Yahagi-trained Forever Young (JPN) won the fifth edition of the US$1.5m Boutique Group Saudi Derby in dramatic style on Saturday, overcoming a slow start and wide, mid-pack trip to seize the lead in the final stride and beat a game Book ‘Em Danno (USA) by a head.

Forever Young (red hat) under Ryusei Sakai flies up late, photo Liesl King

Ryusei Sakai was aboard for the win, just pipping Irad Ortiz Jr on the runner-up. It was another six lengths back to Luis Saez aboard Bentornato (USA), with American-based horses filling the second and third spots.

The final time was 1:36.17. The win was the third in the race for Japan, following Full Flat in 2020 and Pink Kamehameha a year later.

A Northern Racing-bred son of Dubai Turf winner Real Steel, Forever Young stayed perfect with four victories from four starts in the process and now will possibly march onward to the Kentucky Derby.

Quotes

Ryusei Sakai, jockey, Forever Young, 1st: "He tried very hard, he knows everything about what to do, he’s a special horse.

"I was very confident coming into the race but it was a tougher race because the runner-up was tough and running really well. I was worried but we finished very strongly. He hasn’t fully matured but he is improving now.

"At the final turn I was very confident and I trusted my horse so I just urged him very strongly to the line. I have been riding him since his debut and my master Yahagi and I hope he can have more and more experience overseas and I can learn a lot from him."

Yoshito Yahagi, trainer: "He didn’t have a good start. He was wide out and it was a tough race, but he ended up winning, so we are very satisfied. He didn’t like the kickback, so the jockey kept him wide out. Still, he had a very good performance, so I’m very happy about that. We will first head to the UAE Derby before hopefully the Kentucky Derby.

"My heart is very, very tired. Stretching out to distance is very welcome for him. I love Saudi Arabia, I love this country."

Irad Ortiz, jockey, Book’em Danno, 2nd: "He just got caught on the wire but he ran really good."

Luis Saez, Bentornato, 3rd: "Great run. He was up on the pace and turning in I was thinking, 'Wow!' because we had a break on them. But then the other two came flying by."

John Velazquez, Mashur, 5th: "He was too slow, came out, but he finished a little bit."

Alexis Moreno, Salam Alkhair, 6th: "I think he ran well, there’s better than him but he did his best."

Adel Alfouradi, Saudi Neom, 7th: "He tries his best but it’s a tough race for him."

Christophe Soumillon, Oasis Boy, 8th: "Good run but didn't finish."

"Joao Moreira, Satono Phoenix, 10th: "He didn't travel for me. He was never on the bit for me, making it so hard for himself. He probably didn’t appreciate the kickback into his face. I know he has handled it before but he couldn't handle it over here. It was very disappointing."

Camilo Ospina, Haayeet, 12th: "We were on the lead but once he hit the 600m he faded."

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