Last year's European champion Shamardal, who is due to make his first start for Godolphin Saturday's UAE Derby (UAE-II), is considered his new owner's best ever Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prospect, according to Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford.
Despite being reported "a little bit rusty, a little bit behind schedule," Shamardal has been pleasing Godolphin in his recent work on dirt. A good run in Saturday's nine-furlong contest on the dirt at Nad Al Sheba would secure his place for a start in Kentucky.
Godolphin has been eying the Derby for the son of Giant's Causeway
since he was switched from Mark Johnston's stable at the end of last season, "We are going to have to see something very good for him to enter calculations, but he will improve on Saturday's race, there's no doubt about that," Crisford said. "We gave him a break after joining us so it has been a bit of a rush. Having said that he has thrived when working recently.
"He's a much better quality horse than the ones we have taken (to Kentucky) before," Crisford continued. "He has a pedigree that suggests he will handle U.S. tracks and it suggests that he should stay a mile and a quarter. This is the first time we have had a top-class horse to compete in the Derby."
A decision on who would ride Shamardal -- be it Frankie Dettori or a U.S.-based jockey -- will be made nearer the time for the Derby.
If he travels stateside, Shamardal will be based at Belmont, where Godolphin intends to keep a select string of around 10 horses through the year. Other candidates include the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) runner-up Balletto, the 4-year-old Stellar Jayne, Dubai Escapade (a 3-year-old daughter of Awesome Again
, and the recent Dubai One Thousand Guineas and Oaks winner Satin Kiss (by Seeking The Gold
"We will have a small team of horses at Belmont that will come and go through the season," Crisford said. "Some horses, like Satin Kiss, will start off in Newmarket and end up in America."
Godolphin, which just announced a five-year sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines, will begin the British Flat season with more than 300 horses, Crisford said.
At a press conference at Al Quoz stables in Dubai it emerged that one drop in the vast Godolphin ocean is causing particular excitement -- last year's National Stakes (Ire-I) winner Dubawi, part of a glut of promising 3-year-olds by Dubai Millennium that will run this year in the Maktoum family's royal blue livery.
"The whole Dubai Millennium story is not finished yet," said Crisford. "It's remarkable that from only one crop he has so many exciting horses. Dubawi has all the right attributes for the Epsom Derby (Eng-I). He's a high-class animal, a very different horse to his sire. Dubai Millennium at this time was nothing like as forward as Dubawi."