Tuesday: Is the “Dubai curse” a myth?

The collective groans among racing fans after Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing, Inc. purchased Vineyard Haven late last year were boisterous as it seemed like now the two best juveniles of 2008 were headed for a winter in Dubai.  The concern was that making the long trip had done in many good horses over the years as Godolphin’s quest to win the Kentucky Derby has seemingly never reached the planning stages.

Of course, it is perfectly ironic that Vineyard Haven and Midshipman had horrible winters, even if they only made one start collectively.  The former started in the UAE 2000 Guineas and was well-beaten by Godolphin’s new Derby hopeful Desert Party.  The latter never made a start and came down with a bad case of what racing manager Simon Crisford called “Dubai flu.”  It is further ironic that the blue will still be represented by two top prospects in the Run for the Roses.

The aforementioned Desert Party will be joined in the starting gate by Regal Ransom, who scored in the UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup night in wire-to-wire fashion.  His critics chalk up his last victory to a heavily speed-biased track at Nad Al Sheba on World Cup night.  However, both have trained brilliantly since coming over and their preparation leads one  to believe the Godolphin team may be approaching this Derby in a bit of a different way.

Godolphin has started five horses in the Derby and none since 2002.  Let’s take a look individually at the five:

1999- WORLDLY MANNER

The first of the five is  shown here winning the 1998 Del Mar Futurity.  After spending a winter in Dubai where he didn’t have an official start, this son of Riverman arrived at Churchill Downs on April 21, only 10 days before the Derby.  He had time to work twice but was clearly unfit to run his best race with only an unofficial trial against his stablemates as his three year-old foundation.  He ran a very game race, looking like he might do the unthinkable as the field turned for home.

2000- CHINA VISIT & CURULE

The winner of the inaugural running of the UAE Derby, China Visit, showed up in America on April 25th for the Derby on May 6th.  That gave him enough time to work out once and with his regular rider Frankie Dettori on board he finished sixth.  His stablemate, Curule, didn’t arrive in America until April 30th, exactly one week before the Derby and never worked over the Churchill strip.  Click here for a replay of the 2000 Kentucky Derby.

2001- EXPRESS TOUR

Even though Godolphin’s best Derby hope, Street Cry, was injured after the UAE Derby, they still had the UAE Derby victor himself.  This son of Tour d’Or showed up in America a bit early because of a hoof-and-mouth outbreak in Europe.  He suffered a bruised hoof of his own once in the States which forced him to miss 4 days of training.  He was back in ship shape early enough to record three workouts and his 8th place finish left him no worse for wear as he later won the Jerome Handicap in September 2001.  Click here to watch the 2001 Kentucky Derby.

2002- ESSENCE OF DUBAI

This son of Pulpit out of the mare Epitome came into the Ky Derby with the best credentials of any Godolphin participant as he had won the 2002 UAE Derby and 2000 Guineas.  He arrived in America on April 19 for the May 4th Derby and worked out twice.  Like many of his rivals he was left in the wake of a wire-to-wire win by War Emblem in the Derby that mirrored a merry-go-round.  Click here to watch the 2002 Kentucky Derby.

Thus, what conclusions can be made about Desert Party and Regal Ransom?  Both have good two year-old foundations as they each appeared at Saratoga last summer with the former winning the Sanford in late July.  They’ve each made three starts this year, which further gives them three year-old foundation in such a deep Derby field.  They arrived in America on April 9th and have each posted two sharp workouts while making numerous excellent appearances in the morning.  There clearly seems to have been a revision to the prior plan to win the Derby for Godolphin and maybe this is the year, their first appearance in seven years where the “curse” will be proven a myth.

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One Response to “Tuesday: Is the “Dubai curse” a myth?”

  1. Pat Cummings Says:

    Fabulous write-up reviewing what many are ignoring, instead choosing a hit-and-run approach about the Dubai contenders. Keep it up!

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