By Dick Downey
Fortify is among nine entered for Thursday's Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas, with final declarations scheduled to be made on Tuesday.
Formerly trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Godolphin, Fortify is now conditioned by Mahmoud Al Zarooni. The colt was taken to Dubai after the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he finished fourth. After breaking his maiden in his debut at Saratoga, Fortify finished second to Shanghai Bobby in the Grade II Hopeful, and was then third, again beaten by Shanghai Bobby, in the Grade I Champagne Stakes.
Two of the nine 2000 Guineas entries were bred in the Southern Hemisphere, including presumptive favorite Soft Falling Rain, a south African-bred trained by Mike de Kock. DeKock also trains New Zealand-bred Zahee. Although the race is limited to 3-year-olds under local rules, those two are considered 4-year-olds in this country and are not eligible for the Kentucky Derby.
Soft Falling Rain, owned by Sheik Hamdan bin Rashad Al Maktoum, is unbeaten in five starts and has a win over the course at Meydan. On Jan. 17, he was a 2 1/2-length winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at about seven furlongs. The UAE 2000 Guineas will be run at about a mile.
Al Zarooni trains two others entered in the 2000 Guineas: Snowboarder for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum and Filfil for Godolphin. Saeed bin Suroor Also has one for Godolphin, Shuruq. All three are Kentucky-breds.
The remainder of the entries are Glass Office (GB), trained by David Simcock; Deauville Prince (FR), trained by Tom Dascombe; and Pure Excellence (GB), trained by Mark Johnston.
The UAE 2000 Guineas is not a qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby. It is, however, a major local prep for the Group 2 UAE Derby scheduled to run on March 30. That race is worth 170 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, with 100 to go to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.
Fortify has earned three points on the Road to the Derby, two for finishing third in the Champagne, and one for being fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.