By Michele MacDonald
Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. 1) runner-up Henny Hughes has resumed training in Dubai but has missed so much time following his travel from the United States that it is not clear when he will return to racing.
So far, while the $2-million United Arab Emirates Derby (gr. II) March 25 remains a possibility for the colt, South African trainer Alec Laird said he has not discussed the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with owner Sheikh Rashid.
Laird had hoped Henny Hughes could begin his 2006 campaign in Friday's $250,000 UAE Two Thousand Guineas (gr. III) at Nad al Sheba, but he decided Monday after watching the colt work over the track that he was not ready.
"We had to scrap running him in the Guineas," Laird said in a telephone interview from his base at Nad al Sheba's Millennium Stables, where he took over as trainer for Sheikh Rashid's horses in mid-January.
Prior to that time, Henny Hughes had been caught up in the personnel reshuffling that began in December when one of Sheikh Rashid's previous trainers, Mazin al Kurdi, was suspended for the remainder of the Dubai season after four of his runners tested positive for a banned steroid.
Englishman Rod Simpson then was hired but departed after only about a month in the post. Laird succeeded Simpson as conditioner of the more than 100 horses in the stable and has been working overtime with staff ever since to compensate for lost time.
"He hadn't had much of a program," Laird said of Henny Hughes's training during the upheaval.
After being acquired by the Maktoum family last year during his juvenile campaign, Henny Hughes raced under the Darley Stable banner of Dubai's new ruler, Sheikh Mohammed. It was believed the son of Hennessy would be transferred to the elite Godolphin team after the Breeders' Cup, but he instead wound up with Sheikh Rashid, one of Sheikh Mohammed's seven sons and the leading owner in the UAE by wins the past five seasons.
Laird said the first goal for Henny Hughes had been the UAE Two Thousand Guineas.
"We've been asked to go for a mile (race) because he hasn't really proved himself beyond that," Laird said. "But we've got a chance of making the (UAE) Derby. We're hopeful his class will prevail; what he may lack in stamina he can make up for in class."
Another possibility is the $150,000 Al Bastakiya on March 2 at Nad al Sheba, which is the middle jewel of the UAE Triple Crown that concludes with the Derby. But the Al Bastakiya, like the Derby, is over 1,800 meters and Laird said he is not sure whether Henny Hughes will be ready for that distance at that time.
A trial race under the lights at Nad al Sheba also could be arranged in order to boost the colt's fitness and expose him to conditions similar to what he could face if he does run in the UAE Derby, which is one of five Thoroughbred races on the Dubai World Cup (gr. I) undercard.
"It's possible we might do a mock race or a trial under the lights just to get him going because we're running out of time," Laird said.
Henny Hughes has won three of six career starts, including the Saratoga Special (gr. II) and Tremont Stakes, and finished second three times while bankrolling $644,820. He ran second eventual champion Stevie Wonderboy in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park.