(War Front x Black Speck, by Arch)
- Trainer: Aidan P. O’Brien (Camelot, St. Nicholas Abbey, Giant’s Causeway)
- Jockey: Ryan Moore (This is his first Derby race)
- Owned by: Joseph Allen, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith
- Record: 6:3-1-0
- Earnings: $1,276,204
- Best speed figures: Unknown top Equibase beyond his 92 in a troubled Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (I) start, best *known* Beyer was a 74 on turf
Background: According to Wikipedia, “lines of battle” is a naval tactic when ships of a fleet line up end-to-end to create a single-file line for individualized combat. For Lines of Battle the horse, while his own tactical advantage has been questioned and generally doubted due to the poor preparatory nature of the UAE Derby (III), it wouldn’t be crazy to think that in this year’s wide-open field that a good Euro shipping in wouldn’t have a shot. Owned by Coolmore and trained by the legendary Aidan O’Brien, the easy-breezy winner of the UAE Derby is a Kentucky-bred coming home to race on dirt.
Prep Schedule: Lightly-raced, Lines of Battle won 2 stakes as a two-year-old at 6 and 7 furlongs, one on turf and one on the synthetic course at Dundalk. He was 2nd by a neck in another turf event at Leopardstown, and 6th in another won by Dawn Approach where he failed to get going when the footing was soft. He closed out the year with a wide, trouble-laced trip in the 1-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I) where he finished 7th. In his first and only start so far as a three-year-old, he ran easy to a comfortable win in the 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby (III) in Dubai, looking much the best despite a long layoff, a big field, and adding on more ground.
Pedigree: As expected with a horse owned by Coolmore connections, Lines of Battle has a ritzy pedigree. His sire War Front has been tops since being at stud, siring winners on every surface including fast router The Factor, recent Illinois Derby (III) winner Departing, G1 turf miler Data Link, and more. War Front himself was an accomplished runner, running mainly sprints with a victory in the Vanderbilt (II). War Front is by the prolific success sire Danzig and out of the Rubiano daughter Starry Dreamer, who was G1 and G2-placed routing on dirt and turf. The bottom half of Lines of Battle’s pedigree is even more promising with Arch as his damsire, much like last year’s Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another and star G1 runner Uncle Mo. Black Speck’s dam, Andover Way, was also a good runner with a win in the 1982 Top Flight (I) and was runner-up to eventual Eclipse winner Track Robbery in the 1982 Apple Blossom (I)… and the dam of another pretty legendary colt named Dynaformer. Lines of Battle features two crosses up close to Danzig, who is his grandsire on top and is the damsire of Arch.
Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A+ Variant 4.03
Running Style: Adaptable, likely towards the rear
Pros: He looked surprisingly dominant despite having no prior starts as a three-year-old in the UAE Derby, holding off a late run from Elleval, who I personally liked most in the race. Physically strong-looking, he’s a proven shipper and has run the farthest at 1 3/16 miles and designed to go further.
Cons: Mystery trips up any logical handicapping of how this horse will do. We have no idea how he compares to the American field other than putting a beat-down on He’s Had Enough (and honestly who hasn’t?) and El Camino Real (III) winner Dice Flavor. We can’t even compare times because Dubai was slow, slow, slow overall. If he can transfer his grass and Tapeta form over, great, but otherwise it’s a guessing game.
Final Word: I could have included a number of horses in the Derby Dozen, and I’m including Lines of Battle on a whim because a) he impressed me in the UAE, b) he looks good and ought to be fresh, and c) screw the “UAE runners don’t do anything,” I liked Master of Hounds a while back and he ran a pretty good 5th! Of course, it would be nice to see first how he handles Churchill before I make a final final remark on him, but that won’t happen until Tuesday at the earliest… he’s worth thinking about more than others in this race!