With a new trainer in place and a planned start in the United States for the first time, group 3 winner Polar River is entered in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race Nov. 16 at Churchill Downs.
Now trained by Brendan Walsh, 4-year-old Polar River will make her first start since an off-the-board finish in the Burj Nahaar sponsored by Emirates Holidays (G3) more than eight months ago at Meydan. Valentin Bukhtoyarov and Evgeny Kappushev's Polar River finished 13th in the Burj Nahaar March 4 for trainer Doug Watson.
While the daughter of Congrats didn't win her two 2017 starts, she won the first four races of her career, including last year's UAE Oaks sponsored by Emirates (G3). After that race, she faced males in the 2016 UAE Derby sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) where she finished second to Lani, who then ran in all three U.S. Triple Crown races and earned a placing in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1).
Polar River made all eight of her previous starts in Dubai, winning half of those races and earning $769,099. Bred in Kentucky by Bob McCann, Mark Kelder, and Doug Richards, she is the first foal out of the Empire Maker mare Bayou Tortuga.
Preparing for her comeback, Polar River has had six official timed works since Oct. 3, including a half-mile breeze in :47 3/5 Oct. 26 at Keeneland (third-fastest of 30 at the distance), and a four-furlong move from the gate in :48 3/5 Nov. 10 at Churchill (eighth-fastest of 52 at the distance).
"She's a nice filly. She's been off a long time and she'll benefit from the run but it's a good spot for her to get started," Walsh said. "Hopefully she'll run a decent race and she'll move forward from there."
In the one-turn mile test, Polar River will start from post 3 with jockey Corey Lanerie aboard. G. Watts Humphrey Jr.'s stakes winner Mines and Magic is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in Thursday's expected field of six fillies and mares. The Mineshaft filly enters off a pair of close runner-up finishes in allowance-optional claiming races earlier this year at Churchill after racing in grade 1 company in two previous starts.
Walsh said Polar River is a good-natured filly who has shown a lot of class in how she handles herself.
"She had some success running on the dirt over in Dubai and I think the owners wanted to see how she would do racing here on the dirt," Walsh said.