Fresh off the glory of winning the Eclipse Award as America’s outstanding owner of 2009, the Maktoum family’s Godolphin stable is poised to unleash some of its strongest American-based runners during the inaugural meeting of Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse.
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said 2008 champion juvenile male Midshipman , who set the pace before finishing third in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, could contest the $200,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (UAE-III) at 1,600 meters on Meydan’s Jan. 28 opening program.
“He’s doing well,” Crisford said. “We’ll see how he runs before making any further plans.”
The three-race Al Maktoum Challenge series traditionally has offered horses based in Dubai a preparatory road to the Dubai World Cup (UAE- I), which be run for a record $10 million March 27. Because Meydan features a Tapeta track, it would seem ideal for Midshipman, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song who has notched three of his four wins on synthetic surfaces, including the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
Midshipman was sent to Dubai last year but did not start after incurring a soft-tissue injury that sidelined him from the Triple Crown trail.
Another Godolphin grade I winner, Gayego, who missed taking the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) by just a head while finishing fourth in a four-horse photo finish, is being pointed toward the $200,000 Al Shindagha Sprint (UAE-III) Feb. 11, Crisford said. That race also will be on Tapeta, and the versatile Gayego, who won the 2008 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) on dirt at Oaklawn Park, has thrived on synthetics, winning the Ancient Title Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita before the Breeders’ Cup.
Gayego set track-record times in 6 1/2-furlong events at both Hollywood Park and Santa Anita in 2008. Last year in Dubai, he won the Mahab al Shimaal (UAE-III) on Nad Al Sheba’s dirt surface and finished second to stablemate Two Step Salsa in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II).
Meanwhile, Godolphin’s two starters in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Desert Party and Regal Ransom, both are moving toward beginning their 2010 campaigns. Desert Party, a son of Street Cry, has recovered from surgery after the Derby to remove a bone chip in his left front ankle that sidelined him for the remainder of 2009.
“We are very pleased with him, and he should be ready to run in the middle of February,” Crisford said. “We haven’t decided which race yet, but he is making good progress.”
Desert Party has won on dirt and synthetic surfaces, taking his career debut on Arlington Park’s Polytrack before going on to victory in the 2008 Sanford Stakes (gr. II) on a muddy track at Saratoga and in the 2009 UAE 2000 Guineas (UAE-III).
"Regal Ransom “is making progress and he is in fast work, but we don’t have any specific plans for him just yet,” Crisford said. The son of Distorted Humor has shown a preference for dirt, holding off Desert Party by a half-length in the UAE Derby (UAE-II) last year and winning the Super Derby (gr. II) at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs before fading to eighth after setting the early pace in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
Justenuffhumor, who finished 1 1/2 lengths behind champion Goldikova while third in the 2009 TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), could be ready to run in Dubai by the middle of February. The $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort (UAE-II) at 1,600 meters on turf Feb. 19 could be the first target for the son of Distorted Humor, Crisford said. The Al Fahidi Fort is a prep for the $5-million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) at 1,800 meters on turf on the Dubai World Cup program.
The 2010 debut of 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Vale of York will be one of the most highly anticipated starts for a Godolphin runner with trainer Saeed bin Suroor having said the Kentucky Derby will be his goal. However, Crisford said no specific plans have been made for the son of Invincible Spirit.
“We are looking forward to seeing them back in action after the spring,” Crisford said.