Horses campaigned by members of the Maktoum family have won the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) three times. Pebbles was the first, earning an Eclipse Award after edging Strawberry Road by a neck in 1985. Next was In the Wings, who rallied to defeat Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval in 1990. Then came Daylami, who drew away by 2 1/2 lengths in 1999 and stole another Eclipse from the American grass contingent.
This year, the Maktoums and their runners are back in force. But it's not yet clear which powerful combination of horses the family will send to the post in the $2-million Turf. Godolphin Stable entered Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Sakhee and Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) winner Fantastic Light in both the Turf and the Classic (gr. I). The Classic is listed as the first preference for both standouts.
The Maktoums want to keep their options open, according to Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford. The final decision will be based on "how each horse trains," he told The Blood-Horse's Steve Haskin.
In the Oct. 7 Arc, Sakhee turned in an eye-popping performance, defeating Aquarelliste by six lengths. Sakhee has raced only two other times this year, scoring by three lengths in the Steventon Stakes and winning by seven in the Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-I).
In the Sept. 8 Irish Champion Stakes, Fantastic Light defeated the talented Galileo by a head, getting revenge for a two-length loss to that rival in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I). Last year, Fantastic Light got bumped on Churchill Downs' first turn and finished fifth in the Turf.
A 4-year-old colt by Bahri, Sakhee was bred by Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Farm. Fantastic Light, a 5-year-old son of Rahy, was bred by Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum's Gainsborough Farm.
But the Maktoums' hopes for the Turf do not rest entirely on those two stars. Mutamam looks tough after prevailing in a roughly run Canadian International Stakes (gr. IT). The son of Darshaan recently was sold by Shadwell to the National Stud in England for stallion duty, but he will run for Sheikh Hamdan in the Breeders' Cup. Mutamam faded to fourth in the Turf's 2000 edition after gaining a slim lead at the top of the stretch. Sheikh Maktoum's Slew the Red is the winner this year of three stakes in France, including the La Coupe (Fr-III) and the Prix-Gontaut-Biron (Fr-III). He finished eighth in the Canadian International.
George Strawbridge's Augustin Stables will be gunning for a second Turf victory, and so will the Samuel family's Sam-Son Farm.
Augustin's latest prospect is the homebred With Anticipation, who has rolled to victories this year in the Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT), Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT), and Louisville Handicap. He also finished first in the United Nations Handicap (gr. IT), but was disqualifed and placed second after drifting out. In 1994, the Turf was captured by another Augustin homebred, 16-1 shot Tikkanen.
Sam-Son's colors will be carried in the Turf by homebred Quiet Resolve, Canada's 2000 Horse of the Year. Winner of the King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap (Can-IIT) in June, Quiet Resolve has never been successful at the Turf distance of 1 1/2 miles. But the 6-year-old gelding did finish a strong second in the Turf a year ago. In 1997, Sam-Son won the Turf with homebred Chief Bearheart.
Hap, ninth in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) last year, has been pre-entered in that race as well as the Turf, which is his first preference. The horse is owned by the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust. Paulson and his family also were associated with previous Turf winners Theatrical (Hap's sire) and Fraise.