Even before he ran ninth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Tom Albertrani thought Essence of Dubai would be more suited to the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). On Saturday, he will find out.
"The Belmont was the plan all along," Albertrani said Friday morning from barn four on the Belmont backside. "We thought if he ran well in the Derby, the Belmont would suit him."
Essence of Dubai was one of the few horses closing ground in the turn for home in the Derby, a rarity of a classic in which the first three finishers ran one-two-three the entire race.
"He closed well in Dubai, and we all know the pace wasn't conducive to his style in the Derby," Albertrani said.
Albertrani, a New York native, is an important cog in the Godolphin machine of Sheikh Mohammed. Last summer, he spent most of his time in Newmarket, England, but this summer will primarily stay with a string in New York. The trainer of record for Essence of Dubai is Saaed bin Suroor.
Essence of Dubai is the latest Godolphin runner to winter in Dubai and then ship over for a try at the American classic races. Albertrani knows the public is watching the results with a cautious eye. "The program works, we just haven't brought over the right horse yet to do it. We haven't brought a horse yet that is good enough."
Besides the 18 horses he has in New York, Albertrani spends part of each day discussing the other Godolphin runners: 62 in Newmarket, 60 with Eoin Harty in California, and 80 with David Loder. So how does he keep up? "Mostly I just go to the Web site," he said laughing.
Should Essence of Dubai upset War Emblem's chance at a Triple Crown, there would be a new headline on godolphin.com.