Thu, Apr 02, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Dubai’s ruler back on road to Kentucky Derby

AP , NEW YORK

Jockey Alan Garcia leads the UAE Derby with US contender Regal Ransom, owned by Emirati Vice President and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-­Maktoum, at the Dubai World Cup on Saturday. Regal Ransom won the race.

PHOTO: AFP

A few days after two of his three-year-old colts dominated the UAE Derby, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum has decided to resume his quest to win the Kentucky Derby.

Regal Ransom and Desert Party, who finished 1-2 about 15 lengths ahead of their closest rivals in the US$2 million race, are both owned by the sheikh’s powerful Godolphin Racing stable.

Their next race could be the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 2.

“Both horses ran super races and they are legitimate contenders for the Kentucky Derby,” Godolphin Racing manager Simon Crisford said in a statement on Godolphin’s Web site. “They will ship to Churchill and we will wait until closer to the Kentucky Derby to decide if both run or we leave one for the Preakness Stakes — but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Sheikh Mohammed has long said his dream was winning the Kentucky Derby — with a horse trained primarily in Dubai. It’s been seven years since his last attempt. In 2002, Essence of Dubai finished ninth, making the sheikh winless in five attempts since his first Derby try in 1999, when Worldly Manner ran seventh.

Upon his arrival at Churchill Downs the day before the 2001 Derby, Sheikh Mohammed said: “Every year we’ll come, we’ll come back stronger. Watch out for us.”

If Regal Ransom and Desert Party both make the Derby, the sheikh appears to have a strong hand. He could have had an even stronger one but two of the horses he purchased several months ago are off the Derby trail — two-year-old champion Midshipman and Hopeful and Champagne stakes winner Vineyard Haven.

Regal Ransom avenged runner-up finishes to Desert Party with his half-length victory in the 1.8km UAE Derby on the dirt. Desert Party was the favorite, but was unable to run down his stablemate in the stretch.

“Regal Ransom has improved a lot and both will now go for the Kentucky Derby,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. “I was happy with them though I think we will see Desert Party run better races in the future. The fact that they finished 15 lengths clear of the third shows they are two very good horses.”

Regal Ransom, a son of Distorted Humor (the sire of 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide), made his first two starts in the US for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The colt won at Saratoga in upstate New York last summer in his first race and ran eighth in the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita in California in September. After being shipped to Dubai this past winter, he was second twice to Desert Party.

“I believe Regal Ransom is a Kentucky Derby horse,” the colt’s jockey Alan Garcia said. “I was impressed with him. He was very calm and he enjoyed himself in the race ... I know the horse well as I won on him at Saratoga last year.”

Desert Party, a son of Street Cry (the sire of 2007 Derby winner Street Sense), was purchased for US$2.1 million at the Fasig-Tipton two-year-olds in training sale at Calder in Miami. He has four victories in six starts, including the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga last year.

Frankie Dettori said Desert Party was not on his game in the UAE Derby.

“Desert Party ran flat [on Saturday]. He had previously beaten Regal Ransom 4.5 lengths and today I could not get to him,” Dettori said.

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