Godolphin Racing, the "house" in the United Arab Emirate of Dubai, sent out three winners on Saturday's World Cup Day - the richest single day of Thoroughbred racing anywhere in the world. The winners included a pair that promises to show well in international competition for the rest of the year - Moon Ballad and Sulamani.
Amid the home-team successes, however, World Cup Day became even more international, with top-three finishers representing the United States, South Africa, France, Germany and even Zimbabwe.
Despite the war raging in Iraq, only a few hundred miles to the north, the races came off without a hitch - especially for Godolphin.
In the marquee event, the $6 million Dubai World Cup, Moon Ballad, a son of 1997 World Cup winner Singspiel, waited briefly behind a pedestrian pace. But when jockey Frankie Dettori decided to compete, the 4-year-old went right to the leaders and swept by with ease, extending his margin throughout the stretch to win by 5 lengths over Harlan's Holiday. Nayef just beat another top Godolphin runner, Grandera, for third.
Moon Ballad's time was a good 2:00.48.
"You need a mile and a quarter horse with speed for this race," said Dettori. "Moon Ballad has got lots of speed and he has got stronger than last year and he handled the dirt very well."
Godolphin's racing manager, Simon Crisford, said Moon Ballad's campaign could take him anywhere in the world now. "All options are open to him. He could come back to Europe. There are races in North America that we will be looking at, like the Breeders' Cup Classic (Oct. 25 at Santa Anita) in California. There are a whole range of races we could consider for him."
Crisford said Grandera "will go back to the turf," probably pointing for the June 10 Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot, which he won last year.
Harlan's Holiday, who came into the World Cup off an impressive victory in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in Florida on Feb. 22, also ran well in the World Cup and trainer Todd Pletcher said he will return to the United States for a brief rest.
And when Grandera goes back to the grass, he will be accompanied by Sulamani, winner of Saturday's $2 million Dubai Sheema Classic. Running from the back of the field, the 4-year-old, Irish-bred son of Hernando toted Dettori to a 3/4-length victory over Ange Gabriel with Ekraar third. Final time was 2:27.67 - a stakes record.
"In a quality field, Sulamani actually quickened three times," Dettori said, "and it is very unusual to see that kind of performance over a mile and a half. If he carries on in the same style, we are going to have some fun with him."
Godolphin and Dettori also won the $1 million Godolphin Mile on the main track with Firebreak. Firebreak took charge at the top of the stretch and beat Grey Memo home by 3/4 length, with Estimraar third. Crisford said Firebreak, a British-bred son of Charnwood Forest, will be entered in races around the world, including Japan, at distances of a mile or less.
There were some leavings for the visitors once Godolphin finished feasting.
--State City posted a huge upset in the $2 million Golden Shaheen, scoring by 3/4 length over Avanzado down the Nad al Sheba straight course. Captain Squire was third. State City, a 4-year-old son of Carson City, is based in the UAE but had been erratic at best in preparations for the Golden Shaheen. The super-sprinter filly from the United States, Xtra Heat, was scratched with an ankle injury suffered early in the week.
--A South African colt, Victory Moon, ended Godolphin's dominance in the $2 million UAE Derby. The colt battled with Godolphin's Songlark to the final yards before winning by 1/2 length. The favorite and Godolphin's main hope for the Kentucky Derby, Inamorato, ran third after being blocked several times.
--And Africa won another in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free as Ipi Tombe, bred in Zimbabwe and now headed for the United States, swept up on the outside to win by 3 lengths over German-bred and based Paolini. Royal Tryst was third. Ipi Tombe now has won seven straight and nine of her last 10. She was purchased before the race for a reported $750,000 by a syndicate including Team Valor and Winstar Farm. "She's got a incredible turn of foot," said Team Valor's Barry Irwin. "There's very few horses that can do that." Asked about the mare's breeding, he said, "I don't care very much about breeding, anyway."
In other weekend racing:
Kentucky Derby preps
It was desert weekend for the Road to the Roses. Other than the UAE Derby, the biggest prep of the weekend was the $500,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park in the high desert of New Mexico, just north of El Paso, TX.
Apalachian Thunder appeared to have the race won turning into the stretch as jockey Pat Valenzuela moved the colt to a 3-length lead. But Excessivepleasure, with Pat Day up, found another gear and got home first by a neck. Spensive, with Gary Stevens aboard, also rallied in the late going to beat Apalachian Thunder by 3/4 length for place money. Excessivepleasure, a Cal-bred son of In Excess, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:42.84. Doug O'Neill trains the winner; Bob Baffert handles the place and show animals.
--Strictly speaking, Sunday's $150,000 Achievement Stakes at Woodbine near Toronto is a Queen's Plate prep. Nonetheless, Majestic Wisdom was the upset winner, closing into a stretch duel to win by a neck over heavy favorite Wando. Majestic Wisdom had little luck in Florida during the winter but trainer Chantal Paquette said Sunday's results will sent the colt on the Queen's Plate quest. "I've always had a lot of confidence in the horse," Paquette said. "He's very strong. I just hoped he would run well."
--At Laurel Park in Maryland, Sky Soldier upset the Private Terms stakes, stalking the pace and then winning a stretch battle with Skycrossing to win by 4 lengths. Moses Jerome was third and the favorite, Penobscot Bay, finished fourth after breaking in the air. Sky Soldier, a son of Unaccounted For, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a muddy track in 1:45.37. Trainer Todd Beattie said the colt will move along to the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and, if he runs well there, the Preakness. "This was a tremendous step forward for such a lightly raced individual," he said.
--Florida Derby winner Empire Maker, the current Kentucky Derby favorite, worked 5 furlongs Sunday morning at Hollywood Park, clocked in 1:00 1/5, handily. "He did exactly what he was supposed to do," said trainer Bobby Frankel. The Unbridled colt is expected to make his final pre-Derby start in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 12.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Island Fashion made her bid four-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $250,000 WinStar/Sunland Park Oaks, ran erratically through the stretch but still won by 2 lengths over Ela Ela. Isit Still Legal was a longshot third and the favorite, Souris, struggled home sixth. Island Fashion, a Kentucky-bred Petionville filly, ran 1 mile in 1:36.29. She is trained by Nick Canani.
In other weekend racing:
Hero's Tribute proved he could handle a mile and a quarter Saturday, drawing off in the stretch to win the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap by a handy 4 lengths over Aeneas. Puzzlement was third. Hero's Tribute, a 5-year-old son of Sea Hero, finished in 2:04.24 under Edgar Prado. "You never know if they want a mile and a quarter," said winning trainer Donna Ward. "But I think he's learned so much this year. He rates. He'll sit still and he's really matured this year." She said she hasn't planned Hero's Tribute's 2003 campaign. Prado said the horse may "get better in the cooler weather. Hopefully, when he gets to Keeneland and in the cooler weather, he'll be even better than he was today."
In Sunday's $75,000 Caltech Handicap for 3-year-olds, Charge lived up to his name, charging down the stretch to catch Purely Classic in the final yards and win by 1 length. Color Me Gone was a head farther back in third in the "about" 1 1/8-mile turf race, clocked in 1:43.80. Charge, a son of Dynaformer, is trained by Shug McGaughey, who said he will try the Crown Royal American Turf at Churchill Downs during Derby week.
Bluesthestandard pulled a mild upset in winning Saturday's $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap, taking the lead on the turn and winning off by 2 lengths over longshot Joey Franco. The favorite, Kona Gold, made a late run but finished third, another 1/2 length back. Bluesthestandard, a 6-year-old son of American Standard out of Bob's Blue, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.86 for Mike Smith. "I have so much respect for Kona Gold," said Smith, "and I know he can come flying at any time. So I didn't want him to catch me while I was asleep so therefore I stayed a little busy" on Bluesthestandard. Winning trainer Ted West, speaking from Sunland Park, said he hopes to stretch out Bluesthestandard again. The horse last won at 1 1/16 mile.
Sunday, Bare Necessities got home first in the restricted $75,000 Santa Lucia Handicap, beating Alexine by 1 1/2 lengths. Printemps was third. Bare Necessities, a 4-year-old daughter of Silver Deputy, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.45.
To the surprise of few, Carson Hollow quickly took charge of Saturday's $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap, battling with Raging Fever into the stretch and then drawing off to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Bonefide Reason came from last to finish third, well back of Raging Fever. Carson Hollow, the odds-on favorite in the field of six starters, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.42 under Mike Luzzi. "I haven't made any plans beyond this," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. "I want to see how the filly comes out. Maybe we'll hook up with Xtra Heat again down the road." Carson Hollow is a 4-year-old daughter of Carson City.
National Jockey Club at Hawthorne
Curious Conundrum emerged from a five-horse cavalry charge in the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Lady Hallie Handicap by 3 3/4 lengths over Barney's Mistress. Lakenheath was third and the heavy favorite, Ifyouprefersilver, ran fourth carrying almost all of the show pool, resulting in boxcars payoffs on the right side of the tote board. "I rode her last year," said winning rider Eusebio Razo Jr., "and she's just a lot better right now. Physically, she looks a lot better. The way she ran today was incredible." The incredible show returns were $54.40, $71.20 and $41.80. Always bet against the bridge-jumpers.
Letithappencaptain ran out of races on the Fair Grounds main track, going 0-for-3. So owner/trainer/breeder Whitney Zeringue consulted with himself and decided to try the 3-year-old filly in Saturday's $100,000 Sarah Lane's Oats Handicap on the grass. The Captain Bodgit filly responded beautifully, opening up a big lead in the stretch and holding off Destiny Calls by 1 3/4 lengths under the wire. "She ran great," Zeringue said. "Kirk (LeBlanc) got her through the hole going into the turn and she beat a good field." Letithappencaptain ran the "about" 1 mile in 1:43.61.
On Sunday, Fair Grounds wrapped up its stakes season as Fuse It won the $100,000 Red Camilia Handicap for state-breds by 1 length over Mysia Jo. Also making the move from the main to the greensward, Fuse It ran the "about" 1 mile in 1:42.46. The win was the third in six starts this year for the 5-year-old daughter of Lite the Fuse.
Golden Gate Fields
I'madrifter started first and finished first in Saturday's $100,000 Berkeley Handicap, crossing the line 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Palmeiro. Skip to the Stone was third in the 1-mile event, clocked in 1:35.13. Roberto Gonzalez rode I'madrifter for trainer Steven Specht and Sprecht said he had his doubts about the rider when he saw the 44.71 time for the first half mile. "I thought, 'Oh, crap!" Sprecht said. "But when nobody made a run at him, I felt good." I'madrifter is a 5-year-old son of Slewdledo.
Southern Tour made her move on the outside of the leaders turning for home in Saturday's $50,000 Carousel Stakes, got past pace-setting Cinnful Bride and won by 3/4 length. Brown Eyed Beauty was up for third. Southern Tour, a 5-year-old Tour d'Or mare, covered the 6 furlongs under Jamie Theriot in 1:11.01. Theriot said Southern Tour did not appear to want to go by Cinnful Bride until he pulled her a little farther out. "That seemed to make the difference," he said.
In Saturday's $50,000 Rainbow Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old colts and geldings, Strodes Commander drew clear in the stretch and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Pistol Avenue. Quote Me Later, the early leader, held third. Strodes Commander, a son of Strodes Creek, got the 6 furlongs in 1:11.45. "He isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer," said winning trainer Larry Jones. "But he's going to be a nice one."
In Sunday's $50,000 Rainbow Miss for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, Impetuous Molly broke slowly, then recovered quickly and romped home first, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Patti Ching. Nenantena was third. Impetuous Molly, the heavy favorite, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.85. "She had me worried when the gate opened and she just stood there," admitted winning rider Theriot. Norman also trains Impetuous Molly. "It sure is a thrill winning them both," he said.
Seven Four Seven started five and finished one in Saturday's $50,000 Fairway Fun Stakes. The 5-year-old Colonial Affair mare, with Jason Lumpkins riding, broke fifth, stayed close up and was just up in time to win by a head over Town Queen. Looking Afar led most of the way and finished third. Seven Four Seven ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.35 on a track rated muddy.