(Originally from the April 20, 2013 issue of The Blood-Horse)
by Anne Peters
As a supporting feature on Dubai World Cup Day at Meydan, the U.A.E. Derby Sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (UAE-II) was won in dominating fashion by Lines of Battle. The War Front colt will next attempt to emulate the star of World Cup day, Animal Kingdom , who also won the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). His connections say this was the plan all along.
Lines of Battle was bred in Kentucky by Joseph Allen, out of Allen’s multiple stakes producer, Black Speck, by Arch . Raced by Allen in partnership with the Coolmore contingent of Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith, he’s trained by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle in Ireland. O’Brien noted that Lines of Battle was sent to Dubai with the specific purpose of picking up Kentucky Derby-qualifying points offered in the race, and he earned 100 points, assuring him a spot in the starting gate.
Like Animal Kingdom, Lines of Battle will attempt to win America’s most coveted race in his first try on dirt. The Meydan main track is a synthetic Tapeta surface, while all of Lines of Battle’s previous starts except one have been on grass. He broke his maiden at the Curragh, ran sixth in the Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot, was second in the Korean Racing Authority Tyro Stakes (Ire-III) at Leopardstown, and won his third start, the listed Star Appeal Stakes at Dundalk (on an all-weather surface) in Ireland. In his final start at 2, Lines of Battle was seventh behind winner George Vancouver in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.
The U.A.E. Derby was Lines of Battle’s first start back at 3, and he won pulling away from Elleval, seeming to relish the 1 3⁄16-mile distance and looking for more. This race is the longest Kentucky Derby prep, run at the same distance as the Preakness since 2010, which should be an advantage.
War Front is one of the most exciting young sires in the business. He was a classy sprinter at 4, when he won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) and placed in five other graded sprints. War Front entered stud at Claiborne Farm in 2007 for $12,500, and he now stands for $80,000. His first crop, foals of 2008, has produced 11 stakes winners, led by graded winners The Factor (serving his first season in 2013 at Lane’s End Farm), Data Link , Summer Soiree, and Soldat . His second crop includes State of Play, Summer Front, and Declaration of War ; while his third crop features Lines of Battle and Jack Milton, winner of the Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the opening day of the Keeneland spring meet.
Although War Front was a speed horse, several of his runners have stretched out to win at nine furlongs or more, including Soldat, Summer Soiree, Data Link and now Lines of Battle, so stamina no longer seems to be a question.
Although bigger, War Front bears a remarkable physical resemblance to his sire, the enormously influential Danzig, who got all sorts, from brilliant sprinters such as Danehill, top milers such as Lure, and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Danzig Connection. War Front’s dam, Starry Dreamer, is by Rubiano, a top miler who was also named champion sprinter. Starry Dreamer won three stakes from a mile to nine furlongs on grass, and she’s the dam of three other stakes winners, Teammate (by A.P. Indy), Ecclesiastic (by Pulpit), and Riviera Cocktail(by Giant's Causeway ).
Lines of Battle is the third stakes winner out Black Speck. A winner in France at about 91⁄2 furlongs, she has also produced French stakes winner Blue Exit (by Pulpit) and French group II winner Homebound (by Dixie Union), stakes winners at nine furlongs and a mile, respectively.
Big and ruggedly made, Arch is typical of his male line, by Kris S., by Roberto. He’s out of a Danzig mare, so Lines of Battle boasts unusual 2x4 crosses of Danzig. Inbreeding to Danzig is rampant globally, but not often seen this close on the sire’s side, being more often pushed back into the third generation.
Arch has made a name for himself as a sire of class on dirt and turf. Winner of the Super Derby (gr. I) at 1 1⁄4 miles and the Fayette Stakes (gr. III) at 1 3⁄16 miles, his progeny have sprinted and stayed, with ability on dirt and turf, such as champions Blame , Arravale, Les Arcs, and Overarching. A rising broodmare sire, Arch has daughters that have produced 16 stakes winners so far, including recent champions I'll Have Another and Uncle Mo , besides Lines of Battle.
Lines of Battle’s female family has had a particularly strong nick with Roberto. Black Speck is a half sister to the mighty Dynaformer, by Roberto, who has sired 138 stakes winners, including Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. Black Speck’s dam was Andover Way, by His Majesty out of On the Trail, a daughter of the Darby Dan foundation mare Golden Trail. Other daughters of Golden Trail have produced champion turf horse Sunshine Forever, and grade I winner Brian's Time, a perennial leading sire in Japan; both also sired by Roberto.
Andover Way’s sire, His Majesty, is another important link in American stamina, as sire of champions Pleasant Colony and Tight Spot; and turf stayers such as Cetewayo and Majesty’s Prince.
All things considered, Lines of Battle takes to Churchill Downs one of the strongest hands that Ballydoyle has ever brought to compete in the Derby. The big question is how he’ll handle the dirt, and whether he can emulate Animal Kingdom in that regard. Orb and Verrazano and the rest of the American colts better be prepared for a fight.