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Derma Sotogake Injures Eye on Flight to Saudi Arabia

Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi senses no residual damage, expects to remain in Saudi Cup.

Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi says Derma Sotogake appears to be training well in advance of the Saudi Cup despite a travel incident

Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi says Derma Sotogake appears to be training well in advance of the Saudi Cup despite a travel incident

Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Erika Rasmussen

Connections of one of Japan's leading hopes for the Feb. 24 Saudi Cup (G1) hope a mid-flight incident has done nothing to impact the chances of their runner ahead of a bid to land the world's most valuable race. 

Japan is seeking a second consecutive success in the $20 million contest following the victory of Panthalassa last year, and the country fields five runners including Derma Sotogake, who was third in the Saudi Derby (G3) at the meeting last year.  But the involvement of the 4-year-old Mind Your Biscuits colt, last seen finishing second in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), in the Feb. 24 1 1/8-mile race was thrown into doubt after he suffered an injury to his right eye during his flight to Riyadh. 

"We didn't see how it happened on the plane but his name plate on the headcollar was broken, so I think he had a fight with the other horse in the stall," said trainer Hidetaka Otonashi. "There was a concern he would not run in the feature race but when I arrived here and saw him this morning he's recovered from the injury and was galloping very well, so we've decided to go ahead. Our concern was the injury would affect him in the race mentally, if it made him hesitate to move alongside another horse in the race. However, he's moved nicely in the gallop this morning and there was no problem through the gates either. If he's not affected by it, he will run very well on Saturday." 

Breeders' Cup Classic Rematch

Derma Sotogake will bid to overturn the form of the Breeders' Cup Classic, where he finished second behind the Richard Dutrow Jr. trainee White Abarrio

White Abarrio, King Abdulaziz Racecourse, Feb. 21, 2024
Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood
White Abarrio trains Feb. 21 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse

The striking gray has since been partly bought by Prince Faisal ahead of his tilt at the Saudi Cup. He will wear the same colors carried to victory in the race in 2021 by Mishriff, before a possible tilt at the Dubai World Cup (G1) next month. 

"I've been wanting to train for these kinds of people all my life and having this kind of horse—this is what excites me," Dutrow said. "If he's on his game and runs his race, then he's going to be tough to beat. 

"I came here a couple of times and they were talking about putting up a big race here, and now we're at a point where we can come and try to win it, so it's unbelievable. This is a $20 million race and we're all in, we're taking this race very seriously. I'd rather win this than any race in the world."