Sheikh Hamdan’s Mafaaz held off a trio of horses at the wire to win the $115,000 Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at England’s Kempton Park March 18 and earned an automatic berth in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on May 2.
Trainer John Gosden said after the race that Mafaaz likely will now be sent to Keeneland for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
"I've got him in the Blue Grass Stakes, which is a big Derby trial over a mile and an eighth on the same surface as this, and from there it's only a van drive to Churchill Downs," Gosden told The Racing Post. "If he wins there and is in good order he'll go there (to the Kentucky Derby), and if he runs there that's where I'll be, even though it's Guineas weekend. It's where I started, and I'd want to be there."
Gosden added: "This is a great concept - very bold - and the more international our outlook the better. Any initiative like this must be supported."
Asked if jockey Richard Hills would stay on the colt in the Blue Grass, he said: "He flew back from Dubai just for this, so I would think so."
This was the first year that a clear path to the Kentucky Derby has been offered to the winner of a race. In addition to the automatic berth, a $100,000 bonus will be offered to the connections of Mafaaz if they decide to run in the American classic.