Kentucky Derby Trail: Godolphin Noms Shutout a Shocker

Kentucky Derby Trail: Godolphin Noms Shutout a Shocker
Photo: Associated Press
Sheikh Mohammed, left, and Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford.
So, Godolphin, which has been intent on winning the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) the past several years, has decided not to nominate a single horse this year. For a stable that focused each year on the first Saturday in May, this is a perplexing turn of events. Or is it?

Godolphin racing manager, Simon Crisford, said on their Web site, "We have a lot of unproven 3-year-olds this year and we felt it would be more cost-effective to wait to see if a genuine contender emerges from among those horses before we make any decision."

I'm not about to try to explain Godolphin's reasoning, because they have nominated a number of unproven 3-year-olds in the past, and the majority of horses they have run in the Derby wanted no part of a mile and a quarter. And I've never heard them use the term cost-effective before. What may be even more revealing here is the fact that Sheikh Mohammed's brother, Sheikh Hamdan, did not nominate Mustanfar, despite the fact that the son of Unbridled was an impressive come-from-behind allowance winner at Gulfstream last week and has a mile and a quarter pedigree to die for.

So, even if there is a legitimate reason why an exciting prospect like Godolphin's Rosberg was not nominated, it's difficult to understand why Mustanfar wasn't. One thing that does seem obvious is that the shiekhs' decisions not to nominate the Godolphin horses stabled in Dubai and the promising Shadwell colt, Mustanfar, stabled in Florida, are connected. Both have decided already that an appearance at Churchill Downs is not likely, and would be an afterthought if it were to happen. That is a radical change from their previous philosophy regarding the Derby. All we can do now is wait to see if either stable puts up any late nomination fees in March.

It was a very slow weekend on the 3-year-old front, with Last Minute Detail and Courageous Act taking advantage of a suicidal pace to run one-two in a seven-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita. This race should set both colts up for a run at the one-mile San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) if their connections want to step up and tackle Lion Heart. At Laurel, the improving Waquoit gelding Water Cannon set a snail's pace in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race and drew off to a 6 1/2-length score over heavily favored Cryptic Skier, who had drilled Water Cannon back in November, winning a 1 1/16-mile maiden race by 11 1/2 lengths. Cryptic Skier's only two defeats had come at the hands of White Mountain Boy, who likely is headed for the Miracle Wood Stakes later this month.

Speaking of Maryland, keep an eye on Wednesday's eighth race, in which the highly touted Capac surfaces from his Camden, S.C. hideaway to tackle six opponents in a seven-furlong allowance race. This son of Deputy Minister broke his maiden by 5 1/4 lengths in the slop at Churchill Downs, earning a 97 Beyer Speed Figure, which brought a good deal of interest from Bob Baffert and Bobby Frankel. Baffert made a substantial offer for the colt, but owner John Fike turned it down, only to sell quarter-interest to Richard Santulli last month.

Nick Zito sends out the first of his three big Derby hopefuls on Wednesday when Eurosilver faces a weak field in a seven-furlong allowance race. The son of Unbridled's Song comes from off the pace, and this is not his best distance, but he is the class of the field, and this race should set him up nicely for future two-turn stakes.

Baffert is just about ready to find out exactly what kind of ammunition he has, as most of his main hopes are ready to pop up in the entries. Courageous Act was the first, and following soon will be Odds On, Coldntight, and Consecrate. He also has Preachinatthebar, fourth in the Santa Catalina, likely headed for the nine-furlong Sham Stakes on Feb. 8, and Teton Forest for the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 7. Look for Baffert to put the long-winded Totally Platinum back on the dirt after a failed attempt on the grass. The son of Dynaformer worked five furlongs in :59 3/5 Monday and could also show up in the Sham. And then there is the maiden, Wimbledon, who has been the recipient of Baffert's most glowing reviews. The son of Wild Rush has been running big races against some talented horses, but just can't find the winner's circle.

Odds On, by Silver Charm, has been training brilliantly, drilling five furlongs in :59 1/5 and most recently six furlongs in 1:12. Coldntight, a son of Touch Gold  , is up to a mile in his works. Consecrate has been gelded, and Baffert believes the son of Silver Charm is a different horse. He recently worked six furlongs in 1:12. Preachinatthebar ran a promising race in the Santa Catalina in his stakes debut, and was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths by St Averil after losing a good deal of ground at the head of the stretch. Another son of Silver Charm, he came back with a sharp half-mile work in :46 2/5 and could give Action This Day a run for his money in the Sham. Teton Forest, who broke his maiden at first asking in a blazing 1:21 4/5, has since ripped off a pair of five-furlong works, in :58 3/5 and :59 2/5.

On the Dick Mandella front, in addition to Action This Day, who worked seven furlongs in 1:25 2/5 on Saturday, last year's Breeders' Cup hero sent out 2-year-old filly champ Halfbridled for a six-furlong drill in 1:14 2/5, as she points for the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I). Mandella also has Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) runner-up Minister Eric on a steady work schedule. The son of Old Trieste most recently breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5.

At Fair Grounds, the promising A.P. Indy colt, Gradepoint, winner of his last two for Neil Howard, breezed a half in :50 1/5 in the slop Sunday and should show up in the entries shortly.

Cradle Stakes winner and Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) runner-up Tiger Hunt blew out a quarter-mile in :24 2/5 at Oaklawn, and is scheduled to have his first recorded work at three-eighths this week. The son of Kris S. is being pointed for the Rebel Stakes (gr. III), meaning he will have only two starts before the Derby. The last Derby winner to have as few as two starts was Sunny's Halo 20 years ago. But he has a solid two-turn foundation under him, and his connections feel he will come around quickly and won't need more than two races to get fit for the Derby. Stablemate Shadowland, second in the LeComte Stakes, is still a bit green and will skip the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn and point directly for the Louisiana Derby (gr. III).

"A few more tantalizing longshots to keep an eye on are Tiger Heart (200-1), a game second, beaten a nose, in his two-turn debut for Kenny McPeek; Pies Prospect (400-1), another Nick Zito prospect who is eligible to show big improvement; and the aforementioned White Mountain Boy (400-1), a Michael Gill-owned colt who is by Meadowlake.

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