Will British Trained Brave Emperor Race In The Kentucky Derby?

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The Kentucky Derby promises to be an international affair this year, with two runners set to go to post from Japan. 

However, a runner that has been on the prep trail for a spot in the prestigious Triple Crown race in the United Kingdom has been rumored to be eyeing up a spot in the race at Churchill Downs.

 But, could Archie Watson’s Brave Emperor target a historic bid for Kentucky Derby success in 2023?

Is Brave Emperor Heading To Churchill Downs?

Connections had been high up on the idea of a Kentucky Derby bid for Brave Emperor after picking up 32 qualifying points in the European prep races. However, Watson confirmed in early April that connections have swayed against a run in the prestigious Triple Crown, as the journey would have proved too costly.

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The trainer announced that his horse wouldn’t be making the journey, as it would cost over £108,000 to make the trip to Churchill Downs. Connections were in agreement with the decision, as any journey to America would have seen his career earnings wiped out. 

Watson also revealed that there were unknowns when it came to the horse’s ability to compete at Churchill Downs, as there were question marks over his ability on the dirt, and whether he could stay on the Kentucky Derby trip. It is likely, though, that horse racing enthusiasts will see this British competitor in the list of Kentucky Derby winners.

Prep Success

The Derby goal was one that connections had been hoping to reach, as the three-year-old picked up enough qualifying points to make the journey to America. His standout performance came over a mile at Chelmsford, as he finished a close second to Bold Act in the Cardinal Conditional Stakes in early April. That was his fourth finish in the top two this season. 

Heading into that race, he had already claimed two straight victories, which included success in France in the Prix de la California. His performances on the all-weather have certainly captured the imagination this term, but there is no confusion as to what his next goal could be this season, as he doesn’t hold entries for the 2,000 Guineas or Epsom Derby.

Unlikely British & Irish Success

The Kentucky Derby has been a race in which American-trained runners have dominated throughout its history. That esteemed success could come under pressure this year, with Japan holding a strong hand. However, it is one of the major races that British and Irish trainers have often avoided, given that many of the trainers prefer to land success on the turf.

The most recent example of a British or Irish runner taking their chance by running in the prestigious Triple Crown came in 2018, as Aidan O’Brien saddled Mendelssohn. He was attempting to become the first European-trained winner of the race, but things didn’t exactly go to place after landing an 18-length win in the G2 UAE Derby.

At Churchill Downs, he was bumped coming out of the gate, before once again facing a setback down the backstretch. Mendelssohn soon weakened in the final four furlongs, as he dropped to the back of the pack. In total, he finished over 74 lengths off the winner, Justify. The runner would stay in America for the remainder of the season, and he showed his class to take second in a riveting edition of the G1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Who Will Win The 2023 Kentucky Derby?

This year’s race looks set to be one of the most exciting in recent years. Japan’s Derma Sotogake looks a standout international contender after winning the UAE Derby, but the horse that they will all need to beat is Forte. 

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner has progressed excellently this term with victories in the G2 Fountain of Youth and G1 Florida Derby. The Todd Pletcher runner could stand an excellent chance of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Justify. 

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