Bucchero Gelding 2nd in $1.5 Million Saudi Derby
Sunday, March 3, 2024
    OLDSMAR – After arriving back in Florida from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Friday, trainer Derek Ryan decided to unwind by taking his 18-year-old son Christopher to Palm Beach Gardens for yesterday’s third round of the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches golf tournament at PGA National Resort.

    While enjoying the shot-making by many of the world’s best golfers, Ryan sounded no worse for wear after the whirlwind events of a week ago, which saw his 3-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding Book’em Danno get nipped at the wire by unbeaten Japanese star Forever Young in the $1.5-million Saudi Derby at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

    Ryan put Book’em Danno on a van for the airport Thursday, headed for Chicago and a mandatory one-week quarantine imposed on all of the U.S. horses that competed in the Saudi Cup Day races.

    “He was great after the race, no problem,” Ryan said of Book’em Danno, who had won the Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 13 by 12 ½ lengths to earn an invitation to the Saudi Derby. “I had to gallop him over there two days after the race. He’s a tough little horse. Like they say, he’s hickory.” The  gelding is by Bucchero, formerly at Ocala's Pleasant Acres Stallions and recently relocated to New York. 

    Speculation abounded afterward that Book’em Danno might have lost focus late in the race, and that neither horse nor rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., were fully aware of Forever Young’s rally as the Japanese horse charged home for all he was worth on the far outside of the track under jockey Ryusei Sakai to improve to 4-for-4.

    “I think if (Forever Young) came up right beside him, he doesn’t get beat,” said Ryan, who trains Book’em Danno for Atlantic Six Racing. “It’s a long stretch there, and we ended up in front a little sooner than we wanted.”

    Forever Young was timed in 1:36.17 for the one-turn, 1,600-meter race (about a mile) as both horses shattered the track record for the distance. Book’em Danno is 4-for-6 with three stakes victories and two seconds to his credit, and the $300,000 second-place prize raised his career earnings to $560,625.

    While Forever Young is expected to compete next in the United Arab Emirates Derby on March 30 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai as his connections seek a possible date in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4, Ryan has other targets in mind for Book’em Danno. For now, though, he’s keeping his cards close to the vest.

 Ryan, who picked out the Saudi Derby last fall for Book’em Danno, said he has numerous options for the horse’s late spring and summer campaigns. The Gr. I, $500,000 Woody Stephens on June 8, Belmont Stakes Day, seems a logical possibility, as it is for 3-year-olds going 7 furlongs (the Belmont Stakes card will be conducted this year at Saratoga).

   But for now, Ryan doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself. He has one of the most exciting 3-year-olds in training, even if he isn’t a Triple Crown candidate, and the worldwide publicity he and Book’em Danno garnered for their courageous effort and the conditioner’s sportsmanship after the heart-rending setback are good things.

And, Ryan pointed out between golf shots as his Irish countryman Shane Lowry dueled for the lead, Tampa Bay Downs received its fair share of positive exposure from the experience, too.

    “There are a lot of Saudi Arabians going around with Tampa Bay Downs hats,” he said. “I think I brought eight or 10 with me, but I should have brought a bunch more.”
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