Sheikh Mohammed stressed his enthusiasm for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) even though Godolphin will not be represented in the big race for the second year in a row.
Injuries to their two leading candidates, Ruler's Court and Rosberg, mean that Godolphin do not currently have a hopeful for the Triple Crown. However, there is an outside chance Great Exhibition could be nominated for the Derby if he runs well in Saturday's $2-million UAE Derby (UAE-II) over nine furlongs.
Great Exhibition is winless in two starts in England last year, but in his second start, the son of Gone West
ran second to Derby contender Master David in a seven-furlong maiden race in England for trainer David Loder. A $1.8 million Keeneland July sale yearling in 2002 consigned by Three Chimneys Sales, agent, Great Exhibition is out of Touch of Greatness, by Hero's Honor. He was bred by Silver Springs Stud Farm and Jayeff B Stables.
Even if Godolphin does not have a runner this year, Sheikh Mohammed said: "If we have the right horse, then the Kentucky Derby would be a good race to win--we will aim for that one."
He was speaking after carefully watching 50 horses work at a Godolphin press day early Wednesday morning in Dubai, at which racing manager Simon Crisford revealed a new approach to running in America.
Starting this year, horses in training with the Godolphin stable will all be trained by Saeed bin Suroor at Newmarket but will continue to target top international races. Eoin Harty and Tom Albertrani will continue to train for Sheikh Mohammed but their horses will run in his maroon and white silks.
"From a company point of view, from a Godolphin point of view, we had to keep the lid on our program and keep the horses together under one banner," Crisford said. "But we will be sending the same number of horses to America as we have done in the past. And when we bring one for a big race we will also bring others to join the party.
"We expect to be continue to run our horses in the top races American races," he said. "Only this year they will be trained in Newmarket and sent from there. The only difference is you won't see Godolphin colors running in allowance races. Sheikh Mohammed is supporting American racing even more now than he ever has before. I don't see this as a major shift in emphasis, it's just a shift in colors if you like.
"At Godolphin we are going to have nearly 200 horses all in all in Newmarket (a record). But Sheikh Mohammed has many more horses than that and they are spread amongst trainers all around the world. Basically there are more horses in training and not all of them can be with Godolphin. The idea of Godolphin is that the quality ones will filter through."
Crisford said Godolphin had a "very ambitious" North American campaign mapped out for Grand Hombre, but said much would depend on how he performed in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
And the big doubt surrounding Grand Exhibition's participation in the Derby is a perceived lack of stamina. "He has so much speed that we are not sure if he would even stay nine furlongs. By running him on Saturday we could be stretching him as far as he wants to go," he said.
Crisford added: "This year we don't have a Kentucky Derby runner. Hopefully we will have a mile-and-a-half candidate for the Belmont but we won't know that until much closer to the time. But, if not this year, one year.
"Of course, if we had the right horse, it would be a dream to run in the Derby. In previous years we have gone with horses that lacked stamina and the necessary qualifications and ability to win the race. But in particular we have turned up with none stayers. There is no point in just 'inventing' the horses. When we have the right horse we can't wait to get there."