Ruler's Court, among Godolphin contenders for 2004 Derby.

Ruler's Court, among Godolphin contenders for 2004 Derby.


Kentucky Derby Trail: Harty Boys Head For Dubai

This is the third in a series of early looks at next year's potential Derby horses. While Bob Baffert is taking his time sorting out his Derby contenders, his former assistant Eoin Harty bids farewell to his top stars. This week, we'll focus on the "new" Godolphin stable.

As Harty took one final look at the exciting 2-year-olds he developed this year before shipping them off to Dubai Wednesday, he had no regrets whatsoever. He knew when he accepted the job as trainer for Sheikh Mohammed that the shiekh's goal not only was to win the Kentucky Derby with a colt flying the Godolphin banner, but he was going to do it his way. And that is prepping the horses in Dubai, and using his creation, the UAE Derby (UAE-I), as a springboard to victory on the first Saturday in May.

Harty did develop some talented Godolphin-owned 2-year-olds in America, including Street Cry, Essence of Dubai, and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) one-two finishers, Tempera and Imperial Gesture. But, in 2002, Harty's stable at Santa Anita and Arlington, and Tom Albertrani's stable in New York did not produce any top-class horses. The elite Godolphin name and colors were becoming diluted, as more and more mediocre horses ran under under its banner.

This was not what Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers envisioned when they formed Godolphin several years ago. This was to be their pride and joy, the elite of the elite. To race under the Godolphin colors was supposed to be something special. After 2002, it was decided to bring Godolphin back to its roots and race only those worthy of carrying the Godolphin name. So, all of Harty's horses who came to Santa Anita last spring raced in Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stud maroon and white colors, as did those in New York trained by Albertrani and Kiaran McLaughlin. The Godolphin horses Albertrani took over later in the year, such as Sulamani, still were trained by Saeed bin Suroor.

Another change implemented was the decision to keep Harty in California this winter, and relocating Albertrani from Dubai to Payson Park in Florida. So, when Harty developed several exciting prospects this summer and fall -- Ruler's Court, Rosberg, Gulf of Mexico, Flushing Meadows, and Old Kent Road – they were taken away from him and are off to Dubai where they'll change uniforms into the Godolphin blue and prep for the Kentucky Derby the Godolphin way.

Can anyone really blame the Godolphin brain trust for wanting to accomplish their goal in the way they had intended when they first began pouring tons of money into the industry in order to get the best horseflesh available? The Thoroughbred was born in the Arabian deserts, and the Godolphin Arabian was one of the three founders of the breed. So, it is only natural that the Maktoums would want to show the world that the elusive Kentucky Derby can be conquered by returning to the roots of the breed.

As for Harty, he will be rooting just as hard for his former horses as he would have had they remained with him. "As long as they keep sending fresh stock, what the hell," Harty said. "You never cut off your nose to spite your face. These were the rules going in, and they never sugar-coated it. I had the opportunity to turn the job down if I wasn't happy with the arrangement. So, there are no regrets. Their emphasis has always been about quality, not quantity, and I didn't hold up my end last year. If we win the Derby, I'll be right there in the winner's circle, and nobody will happier than I will. It's irrelevant what the public's opinion is; this is the way it is. I'm quite happy with the way things are.

"Realistically, I recommended to them which horses have Triple Crown potential. By the time the UAE Derby comes around they'll realize who is Derby material and who isn't. The two most logical ones are Ruler's Court and Rosberg, and I feel that Old Kent Road is going to want a distance even though he's by Two Punch. As for the ones I have left, we have several who haven't started yet, and haven't really displayed anything to this point."

Ruler's Court -- This colt's performance in the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) was so freaky it's difficult to know what to make of it. Not only did he blow the entire field away with one breath, he went on to demolish his opponents by 14 lengths in a stakes-record 1:41 1/5 for the 1 1/16 miles. After being defeated in a pair of sprint stakes, Ruler's Court was equipped with blinkers in the Norfolk, while stretching out from 6 1/2 furlongs to two turns for the first time. The result was one of the most awesome performances of the year, and one of the most awesome ever by any 2-year-old. He is by the Seattle Slew stallion Doneraile Court, out of a Copelan mare. The tail-female line is strong with the presence of Roberto and the classy Brookmeade Stable star Sailor, whose name you don't see much anymore. Inbred three times to Hail to Reason and Tom Fool, he has a strong DI of 1.67.

Rosberg -- Has the makings of an exciting colt after breaking his maiden by 5 lengths in 1:08 4/5 in his second career start. If you're looking for a star-studded pedigree, look no further. Just get a load of the names in his predigree – A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, Buckpasser, Damascus, and Riverman. What we really love about him is being inbred 4x4 to Buckpasser. He also is inbred 5x5 to the great Phipps producer Glamour through her son Poker and daughter Intriguing. Rosberg's dam, Bosra Sham, won the One Thousand Guineas, Dubai Champion Stakes, Fillies Mile, Prince of Wales's Stakes, as well as two other stakes. His second dam, Korveya, was a group winner in France, and his third dam, Konafa, produced four stakes winners and three stakes-placed horses. Rosberg has a 3.27 DI.

Old Kent Road -- You can't knock his two starts at Arlington. After finishing second to the top-class, undefeated Cactus Ridge, he broke his maiden by 5 lengths in :58 3/5 for the 5 furlongs. Although Harty says he acts like he will go long, he does have a 4.20 DI, and there isn't a lot in his female family to counteract the speed he gets from Two Punch. Of course, Two Punch, himself, has a classy pedigree with stamina influences, so you never know. But right now, this colt has a lot stretching out to do from 5 furlongs.

Gulf of Mexico -- If you throw out his 5th-place finish in the Del Mar Futurity, you can go back to an impressive 4 1/2-length maiden score in 1:03 3/5 at Del Mar. After getting burned battling for the lead between horses in :44 2/5 in the Del Mar Futurity, it is obvious they're going to have to learn to harness his speed. A son of the Mr. Prospector stallion Smart Strike, he gets a lot of his speed from broodmare sire Apalachee, who is the big speed influence from the normally stamina-oriented Round Table. Even with all this speed, he does have a 2.80 DI, thanks mainly to the stamina influence of Round Table. And he does trace to Princequillo in his tail-female family.

Flushing Meadows -- Another speedy colt, who broke his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths in :58 2/5 in his career debut at Hollywood. After finishing third in the Sanford Stakes in the slop at Saratoga, he turned in the fastest 6 furlongs of the meet, winning an allowance race by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:10 flat. In his final start, he tired badly in the slop in the one-mile Futurity Stakes. By the hot young sire Grand Slam, he is out of an Our Native mare. His DI is 3.00, but is inbred to major speed influences Raise a Native and Bold Ruler.

One Pletcher horse we omitted in the last report was Heckle, winner of the Tremont Stakes, who had a chip removed and is now pointing to the Spectacular Bid Stakes. By Hennessy, he has a strong distance-oriented female family through broodmare sire Spectacular Bid, and Tom Rolfe in his tail-female family. Fast colt, but should carry his speed.