Belmont Park Race Report: Godolphin's Flag Bearer

Belmont Park Race Report: Godolphin's Flag Bearer
Photo: AP/NYRA/Adam Coglianese
E Dubai, winning the Dwyer Stakes for Godolpin Racing.
Published in the July 14 Blood-Horse
Tom Albertrani's trips to America this year have not proved very fruitful, as he's watched one Godolphin runner after another come up short in stakes and allowance races. Even his first day in the States back in April brings back bad memories. No sooner had he settled in when he learned about the injury to Godolphin's leading Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hopeful Street Cry. A little more than a week later, he and the Godolphin head honchos had to endure another disappointing effort in the Run for the Roses, as Express Tour could finish no better than eighth.

But that's all behind them. Albertrani and his Godolphin cohorts have apparently found the horse they've been looking for to kick some butt in America. Although they still have high hopes for Street Cry and Express Tour, it is apparent the horse who will carry the Godolphin blue banner in the fall championship dirt races is E Dubai, a racy-looking son of Mr. Prospector whom Godolphin purchased for $1,350,000 at the 1999 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Albertrani, who officially is Godolphin's assistant trainer under Saeed bin Suroor, must have been feeling pretty good watching E Dubai cruising on the lead in the July 8 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II), as his conqueror in the Peter Pan (gr. II), Hero's Tribute, was struggling to keep up. Even when E Dubai stopped the teletimer in an eye-popping 1:07.93 for six furlongs, it was apparent he had the race completely under control.

This was one of those wet, blazing-fast tracks that Belmont turns into on occasion after heavy rains, and whoever is on the lead simply rides the conveyor belt to the finish line in some outlandish time. When E Dubai and Jerry Bailey outbroke Hero's Tribute in the four-horse field, and then caused him to check by coming in on him, the race was as good as over. Jorge Chavez, on Hero's Tribute, was pushing his colt a long way out, but he couldn't make a dent in E Dubai's comfortable lead. After a mile in 1:33.54, E Dubai merely coasted home under a hand ride to defeat the rallying Windsor Castle by 5 3/4 lengths in 1:40.38 for the 1 1/16 miles. A tired Hero's Tribute finished third, 15 lengths ahead of the last-place finisher Regal Shivers.

"When I saw him in front I was relieved because he was well in hand," Albertrani said. "Hero's Tribute never was really getting to him. The time between races definitely helped him today. I hadn't seen him since the Peter Pan and he looks a lot better now with more muscle. I'd love to see him go on to the Jim Dandy (gr. I) and the Travers (gr. I)."

E Dubai has come up through the ranks the Godolphin way. He broke his maiden with Eoin Harty last year at Del Mar, ran a big race in Dubai this spring, then returned to America to develop into one of the top 3-year-olds in the country. Although he didn't come around in time to make the classics this year, he now is in a position to take on Point Given and Godolphin's friendly rival, Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia. Although the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) on World Thoroughbred Championships Day is a long way off, the two colts appear to be on a collision course to determine bragging rights in the Arab world.


TURNING UP THE HEAT

The term "Cinderella story" is often overused, but it's certainly appropriate when telling the tale of Xtra Heat. The daughter of Dixieland Heat spent a good portion of her youth traveling to sales rings and new homes. Born in Kentucky, she sold as a weanling at the 1998 Keeneland November mixed sale for $9,100. Sent to Florida, her value decreased by almost half that when she sold for only $4,700 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's August yearling sale. The next year, she wound up in Timonium, Md., where she sold for $5,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic juvenile sale.

Maryland trainer John Salzman bought her for himself and partners Ken Taylor and Harry Deitchman. The first time he ran her, she barely won for a $25,000 claiming tag. One year later, she captured the grade I Prioress Stakes on July 4 for her 14th victory in 16 career starts. She has now won an amazing 13 stakes at eight different tracks, earning more than three-quarters of a million dollars.

After her second start, an easy victory in the Toddler Stakes at Laurel, her owners had her sold for $350,000, but the sale didn't go through. A month ago, following her 16 1/4-length romp in the Arctic Cloud Stakes at Pimlico, they turned down an offer of $1.2 million. Talk about the stuff of dreams.

In the Prioress, Xtra Heat, the 9-5 favorite, was meeting a top-class field, including three undefeated fillies and the winner of last year's Spinaway (gr. I) and Sorority (gr. III) Stakes. In her last eight starts, she had fought for the early lead in all of them, and the Prioress was no different, as she battled undefeated California invader Above Perfection through fractions of :21.92 and :44.63. The pair drew off from the rest, and down the stretch, Xtra Heat's class and experience paid off, as she inched away to score by a neck in a blistering 1:08.26, establishing a new stakes record. It was a gap of six lengths back to Harmony Lodge in third.

"Rick the stick," Salzman yelled out to jockey Rick Wilson upon his return. "You had me worried, brother. I thought you were gonna have to get off and carry her."

Xtra Heat may be a plain, unassuming-looking filly, but Salzman said he knows she is something because she's been able to overcome him.

"Anyone can train a horse like this," he said. "She is one tough sonofagun. Even I couldn't stop her. The good Lord looks out for me, because I'm dumb and blind. I wanted to sell her after her second start. The best thing that happened is that we got stuck with her."

And what is she worth now? "The price is two million," Taylor said. "Well, let's say it was two million."

(Chart, Equibase)

Continued . . .

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