Since its inception in 2000, the UAE Derby has been pretty much dominated by Godolphin, its trainer Saeed bin Suroor and South African-based trainer Mike de Kock.
Their mastery of the race is so pronounced that prior to the victory of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Daddy Long Legs in 2012, only Bin Suroor and De Kock had won the $2 million event. But since bin Suroor’s filly Khawlah won the race 2011, both trainers have drawn a blank.
This years bin Suroor and de Kock have two of the favorites, Maftool (KY) (photo left) and Mubtaajij (IRE) (right). The former narrowly defeated the latter in the one-mile UAE 2000 Guineas at Meydan in the middle of February and races for the first time since since. In the interim, Mubtaahij handily won the Al Bastikaya at the track going the UAE Derby distance of 1 3/16 mile.
“He is doing very well at home,” said bin Suroor of Maftool. “We think he is improving all the time, and Paul Hanagan, who again rides him, has been riding him regularly. It is a strong race, but the extra trip should suit, and he has a good chance.”
By winning the Al Bastakiya, Mubtaahij ended the unbeaten record of Godolphin's new recruit, Sir Fever (URU), a star in his native Uruguay and winner of his homeland’s Triple Crown. The last horse to achieve that particular feat was Invasor – winner of the 2007 Dubai World Cup but beaten in this race in 2006.
“Mubtaahij has gone from strength to strength this season and relishes this kind of trip, said de Kock. “It looks a competitive renewal with the Godolphin duo we have already seen to be more than useful, as well as several we have not come across from America, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Europe. All I know is my horse is in good form and a genuine stayer at this trip on a surface he handles well.”
Sir Fever is now trained by Charlie Appleby, who said: “I was very pleased with his first run and it gave William Buick a great opportunity to get to know him in a race scenario. We have added blinkers and a shadow roll to try to aid his concentration.”
There are three invaders from Japan, and Golden Barows (JPN) could be the best of the trio.
Edited Dubai Racing Club release with additional content by Dick Downey
Photo by Dubai Racing Club / Andrew Watkins