Haskin's Derby Trail: Red, White, and Godolphin Blue


Now that Sheikh Mohammed and the Godolphin braintrust have decided to take the conventional route to the Kentucky Derby by prepping in America and no longer are intent on winning the roses with a horse trained in Dubai, beware of the boys in blue on the first Saturday in May.

With their American stable, under the care of Rick Mettee, recently disbanded, the Darley-turned-Godolphin horses now are free to remain with their original trainers instead of automatically racing under the name of trainer Saeed bin Suroor. In the past, trainers such as Kiaran McLaughlin, Eoin Harty, and Tom Albertrani realized that if their young Darley horses developed into potential stars, they most likely were going to bid them farewell and watch them march over to Mettee’s barn or head straight to Dubai. The one who somehow escaped that fate was Albertrani, who managed to keep Bernardini in the Darley colors and in his barn throughout his sensational 3-year-old campaign that earned him an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

But that was the rare exception. McLaughlin had to give up budding stars such as Regal Ransom, Girolamo, and Etched. Harty lost Street Cry, Desert Party, and E Dubai, and Bob Baffert had to say goodbye to Midshipman after winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile and Del Mar Futurity with the son of Unbridled’s Song. Private purchases such as Discreet Cat and Express Tour, among others, were sent straight to Dubai.

The one horse who returned to America that looked to have a big chance in the Kentucky Derby was Street Cry, who suffered an injury shortly after arriving at Churchill Downs and was forced to miss the race. Street Cry would go on to sire Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense for owner James Tafel and trainer Carl Nafzger, as well as the great Zenyatta.

Since 1999, Sheikh Mohammed has run seven horses in the Kentucky Derby after prepping in Dubai and failed to finish in the money with any of them. His best finish was a sixth.

Now, 13 years after his first failed attempt with Worldly Manner, Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin have leading Derby contenders Alpha, a son of Bernardini trained by McLaughlin, and Out of Bounds, a son of Discreet Cat trained by Harty. Both colts began their careers in the Darley colors, but graduated to Godolphin blue, while remaining with their original trainers. McLaughlin also has the Bernardini colt Consortium, who showed great promise before faltering in the slop in the Holy Bull Stakes. He’ll be given another chance in the Gotham Stakes, as Alpha waits for the Wood Memorial after winning the Count Fleet and Withers Stakes. Out of Bounds, winner of the Sham Stakes, will be one of the favorites, if not the favorite, in the San Felipe Stakes. Albertrani got in the act as well, saddling Darley’s homebred Bernardini colt Cold Cast to a mile and 40-yard maiden victory in his career debut at Tampa Bay last weekend.

“Once it was established that there was no requirement for Saeed to have a stable in North America it made sense to keep the Godolphin horses with their original trainers,” said Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford. “Obviously with Meydan having an artificial track it is right to keep some of the dirt bred horses racing in America, but there will still be some that come to Dubai in the future to be prepared for winter racing before travelling back to North America. I think it is more a question of fitting the horses around the best schedule that will suit them as individuals. It is about maximising their potential, but it must be remembered that there is a high class and very valuable series for 3-year-olds here in Dubai and some of our North American horses in the future could easily suit that program. When it is decided which horses come and which ones stay we will consider each individual’s requirements and ability. Alpha, Out of Bounds, and Consortium, and a number of others, all seemed to be best suited to North American racing and that is why they didn’t come to Dubai.”

One of McLaughlin’s main objectives with Alpha was straightening out the colt’s head when it came to the starting gate, where he had shown a tendency to act up. Judging from the Withers, that problem has been corrected.

“We’ve been schooling him a lot in the gate and he’s done really well,” McLaughlin said. “The Withers was an important race because it’s graded and you don’t get to run in the Derby unless you have those graded stakes earnings. Our stomachs were upset when Consortium didn’t run well in the slop at Gulfstream, so we’re thankful for Alpha.”

Alpha, who was sent off as the 3-10 favorite, broke from post 6 on the far outside and took up a comfortable position in third behind the pace-setting How Do I Win, who set fractions of :23 3/5, :48, and 1:12 3/5. When jockey Ramon Dominguez asked him for his run, he cruised up alongside the leaders at the top of the stretch and quickly opened a four-length advantage at the eighth pole. Dominguez, who had given Alpha three right-handed taps of the whip, put the whip away and hand-rode him to wire, winning by 3 ¼ lengths over 44-1 Speightscity, who was 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Maryland invader Tiger Walk. The time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:44 1/5.

Alpha isn’t the flashy type and his times aren’t going to blow you away, but he has excellent stalking speed, relaxes beautifully about three lengths off the pace, and has a strong enough kick to quickly separate himself from the pack. But he still has to show he can do it against far better horses than he’s been facing. Stamina is not an issue, as he boasts a very strong pedigree, inundated with class influences on top and bottom. If he can duplicate his form in the Wood he is more than capable of taking home the roses.

“It was impressive the way he finished in the Withers,” McLaughlin said. “Ramon knows him well, he’s got great hands and he’s a great jockey, so we’re just happy with things. Anytime you’re 1-5 you get a little bit nervous.

“He was great in the gate. Obviously it’s nice to be outside, but at some point he’s going to have to be inside, so we’ll see how our schooling is working. I think he improved some from the Count Fleet, because of how wide he was both trips, and he was better in the gate. He gets a better grade for this race – if it was a ‘B’ last time, he gets an ‘A’ this time.

After discussing plans with Crisford, it was decided to skip the Gotham and ship back up from Florida for the Wood Memorial. McLaughlin feels three races are enough to prepare for the Derby and he wants to make sure he has a fresh horse through the Triple Crown.

Harty says Out of Bounds is the best 3-year-old he’s had since Colonel John, winner of the Santa Anita Derby and Travers. For a big, long-striding colt he has shown great athleticism and has demonstrated a relentless stretch run the way he keeps coming and grinds down his opponents. His maiden victory and Sham score were virtual carbon copies of each other. In the Sham he earned a lofty 99 Beyer speed figure, covering the mile in 1:34 2/5 and coming home his final eighth in :12 flat.

“I’ve been high on him since day one and he’s done nothing since then to make me stop believing in him,” Harty said. “He would work with good older horses and you could tell he was an above average horse. All good horses are naturally brilliant and don’t pay attention to other things. His size and stride come from the dam (Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine), who was a really big filly. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to take him to the Derby.”

Discreet Cat has gotten off to a tremendous start as a sire, which should come as no surprise, considering the brilliance he showed throughout his career, beginning with his six-furlong maiden victory at 2 in 1:09 3/5, and continuing with his amazing string of victories at 3, in which he romped by six-lengths in the UAE Derby, trouncing eventual Horse of the Year Invasor; cantered to an 11-length comeback score in 1:21 2/5 at Saratoga and a 10 ¼-length victory in the Jerome Handicap, and captured the Cigar Mile by 3 ¼ lengths, running his six furlongs in a blistering 1:07 3/5 and mile in 1:32 2/5.

Both Out of Bounds and Discreet Dancer have inherited their sire’s kind disposition and are easy-going, laid-back horses, which should help them get the 10 furlongs of the Derby. Harty called Out of Bounds a “gentle giant” who is strong mentally as well as physically. Pletcher said Discreet Dancer “has an excellent temperament, tremendous mechanics and great action, and there’s no wasted action. I haven’t seen the bottom of him, in his works or in his races.”

As for Bernardini, no one is surprised the grand-looking son of A.P. Indy is loaded with Derby prospects, that also include Holy Bull winner Algorithms and Gulfsteam Park Derby runner-up Casual Trick, both of whom will be running next weekend in the Fountain of Youth Stakes against Discreet Dancer in a battle of Darley stallions.

So Godolphin and Darley are riding high in America on both the racing and breeding fronts. If their horses stay healthy, by 7 o’clock on the evening of May 5 there could be a blue moon of Kentucky shinin’ down on Churchill Downs.

22 Comments

Leave a Comment:

anna12

hi i know that this is getting offsubject. but i think its a pity that a colt like advice who ran in the derby in 2009 ended up running in a 3500dollar claimer at turf paradise less than a month ago and struggled to finish the race and in that same race the former grade one winning langfield plodded along in forth. which i had sent an email to winstar farms about advice. even though they dont own advice anymore. but its total BS that such a top owner and trainer would throw away a horse like advice over giving him to old friends or the ky horse park.

19 Feb 2012 8:19 PM
edrul427

This seem to be a wonderfull year for horse racing.Almost every weekend you get to see some new spectacular colt flying down to the finish line.We all are in for some great races.Keep them coming.

19 Feb 2012 8:27 PM
Baby Jane Towser

I like Alpha, he looks like he can go a mile and a quarter and he has the pedigree. Discreet Dancer and Out of Bounds on the other hand, are by Discreet Cat, an exciting young sire who is highly unlikely to ever sire a Derby winner.

20 Feb 2012 12:33 AM
sharjyl

Very nice article Steve. Darley and Godolphin are playing a big role in American racing. I wonder without them, how big of a gap there would be. The quality produced by Sheikh Mohammad's operations is just spectacular. Wish them all the best.

I know its off the topic Steve, but I want to hear something from you on Black Caviar. What she is doing is just not ordinary in any sense. Thanx

20 Feb 2012 2:37 AM
JON R

I'm still a little angry, years and years later, that Godolophin purchased Chief Seattle after his very good two-year-old season and whisked him off to Dubai.  I knew that would be the end for the potentially excellent son of Seattle Slew.  We'd never really hear from him again.  And we didn't. At least Godolphin is now leaving highly regarded prospects in America to prepare for the classics.  

20 Feb 2012 8:33 AM
Malcolm Lawrie

The greatness of Godolphin  and the Sheikh is the ability to see what's not working and CHANGE. That is why they will get the Roses some day and someday soon!

20 Feb 2012 10:27 AM
Deltalady

Thank you, Steve.  Your perspectives are always "must reads" for me.  

Also off topic, agree with Sharjyl... would love your perspective on Black Caviar, given that she is headed into uncharted waters with an overseas trip or trips, if she goes to Dubai as well as to Ascot. Would love some background on what is taking place behind the scenes with her ownership and managing owner appearing to differ slightly with Moody's objectives for her.  From what I have been able to discern in public statements, the managing partner apparently is over-riding Moody, as Moody was quoted as saying he didn't favor going to Dubai, at least initially. Now it appears that Moody is taking a reconnaisance trip to Dubai soon. BC is certainly in a class by herself.  Wish her and her connections all the very best. This is a great story, still unfolding.

20 Feb 2012 11:11 AM
Karen in Indiana

I agree with sharjyl - very nice article, Steve. And Darley and Godolphin have played a big role in the horse industry in the US. It does make more sense to leave horses doing well, any horse no matter who the owner, with the trainer who got them to that point. Horses like routine and changes in routine and handlers can ruin many who would otherwise have continued to prosper. So here is hoping the best for all of the Darley and Godolphin trainers and horses and the new philosophy.

20 Feb 2012 1:06 PM
Abigail Anderson

Hi Steve. I really enjoyed reading this article and was, of course, thrilled to see Out of Bounds and Discreet Dancer figure so prominently. I didn't realize that the Darley-Godolphin crew had all been snatched from their American trainers in the past, but glad to know that circumstances have weighed in to assure that this won't be something that continues. Of course, the "wintering in Dubai" is a signature for them, even with their British runners. But I'm just so excited by the prospect of Alpha & the Discreet Cat duo showing up on Derby Day. Here's hoping they don't de-rail along the way!

20 Feb 2012 3:18 PM
jbluesbeatle

The problem with "so many good horses" is that there isn't a standout, so there won't be a Triple Crown winner. Usually, the Triple Crown winners stood out from their peers in a way that stamped them as great. Secretariat was one example as 2 year old horse of the year.  Seattle Slew went undefeated..and so on.

I am concerned about Union Rags because Matz trains him, and my fear is that the whole Barbaro disaster made him overly cautious, as he was with Lentenor, who finished 4th in the Florida Derby, and then dropped off the Derby Trail. So, if anyone else were training Union Rags, I'd be more optimistic, instead of worrying that the trainer will be too conservative.  Interestingly, Lentenor finsihed just behind Rule in the Florida Derby, who did well in the Woodward...so that was a waste of talent. No wonder the Jacksons made that decision.

My favorite 3 year old this year is My Miss Aurelia, who looks like she could be very competitive with the colts.  I would hope to see her appear in the Derby before we get a bunch of equally matched colts and another year without a Triple Crown winner.

20 Feb 2012 5:34 PM
Stellar Jayne

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the excellent article about Darley/Godolphin re: their new tactic of leaving horses with dirt pedigrees here and with their established trainers.  I love all of the horses you fleshed out in the article.  It will be difficult to ID who will be the best in the TC races.  Hopefully we will have no fallout due to injury or illness.

20 Feb 2012 5:53 PM
skyfire

What happened to Rick Mettee as a result of Godolphin's shift in tactics?  He did a good job of taking their horses and re-acclimating them to US racing.

If I was Godolphin,  I would follow Coolmore's lead and give a few to Bob Baffert!  I think the Derby road runs thru California this year.

20 Feb 2012 7:46 PM
Jean in Chicago

Anna12:

 Definitely send an e-mail to Winstar or to Advice's breeder (listed as Mr & Mrs Samuel H. Rogers, Jr in Florida).  Many breeders now note on a horse's registration papers that they are to be contacted if the horse's future is in doubt.  (Especially after what happened to Ferdinand.)  I couldn't find 'Langfield' listed in pedigreequery so I don't know who his breeder was.  Good luck.

  But don't blame Winstar (or any big operation) too much.  It would be a more than full time job to try to keep track of every horse that passes through their gates.  And they aren't in any legal position to tell another owner when a particular horse should be retired.

 The best we can hope for is that someday every owner has enough compassion that they try to do what is best for the horse and not run him to death, either for profit or because they are enamored with the idea of owning a racehorse.  

20 Feb 2012 7:47 PM
Chicagofan

Really good news to this fan!  And interesting to hear the background of how this change came to pass.  

Have to throw in a comment about Discreet Cat, one of my favorites of all time.  I was fortunate enough to visit him at Darley about a month after he was one of the "big four" (with Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Any Given Saturday) who were retired to stand there. Before I saw him in person I thought he was exceptional, but his personality won me over even more.  Great to hear he is passing on his kind disposition.  

Was also impressed with Mama Kimbo the other day.  I am so excited about the future of this stallion.  And even more so knowing that more of his progeny may stay right here with this new philosophy from the Sheikh and Godolphin.  

Thanks for your blog about these decisions.  I would think this really stengthens the possibilities of Godolphin blue being the prominent - if not prevailing! - color on a Derby day in the near future.

20 Feb 2012 9:24 PM
Rachel NH

Steve, you are a gem to all of us and you have witty, pithy titles, but I see nothing warranting the honor of red, white and blue freedoms here...

21 Feb 2012 5:54 AM
Slew

Jon R : Chief Seattle, a multiple grade I stakes-placed son of Seattle Slew, was found dead in his paddock at Lake Shore Farm near Scottsburg, Indiana in November of 2011.

His son, Bold Chieftain (love him) last month retired to stud after a great career, mostly at Golden Gate.  They had a special retirement party for Bold Chieftain on Jan 22nd at Golden Gate.  He then left for Vacaville to begin his new career as a stud at Victory Rose Thoroughbreds farm.

I'm so glad that Godolphin is leaving their treasures in the more than capable hands of the trainers who brought them along so well.  Of course, they have to be thrilled with Albertrani for Bernardini, and Godolphin seems to also be purchasing as many Bernardini's as they can.

There's a special feeling when seeing the Godolphin Blue, or the Juddmonte or Coolmore silks in races in America.  (Castaway looked great in those purple silks.  The SW felt like BC day.)

21 Feb 2012 7:41 PM
Forbidden Apple

I believe this year is the best chance Darley/Godolphin has ever had at winning the KY Derby. Out of Bounds should not be slighted for being by a sire that had immense talent at 1 mile. I think some people are forgetting about the dam's side of his pedigree. The San Felipe should finally vault this stout colt to the top of any KY Derby watch list. Discreet Cat is off to a hot start at stud and his offspring deserve respect at any distance.

Alpha is also one of my favorite colts and he is going to love a race at 1 1/4 miles. Maybe he is not flashy enough for some, but his staying power and sustained finish are strong.

The private purchase of high priced colts like Vineyard's Haven, Buffum, and Tahitian Warrior were a complete bust. So changing tactics and sending out homebreds might do the trick.

Desert Party was trained by McLaughlin, not Harty.

21 Feb 2012 9:39 PM
thesnowleopard

Sharjyl and DeltaLady: Moody has decided to bypass the Golden Shaheen (AND the Tapeta, AND Rocket Man, AND Kinsale King, AND Sepoy, AND Frankel later this year in the UK) to rest and ship Black Caviar to the UK for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. I'd guess they'll go for the 20-win record in some Australian G2, ship to Ascot and hope for a win there before deciding to pursue the Global Sprint Challenge and bonus ($1 million for most points and a win on 3 continents). This gives Moody an option for Japan, then a final appearance at Flemington (more points) and, if all goes perfectly well, either retirement or a decision to go to Hong Kong for the Sprint if the Challenge is winnable. All the remaining choices are then on turf. Moody says the all-weather is not the reason, and if you believe that, then you sure can believe that the Dubai field - RM and KK won the last two Golden's on the Meydan Tapeta and Sepoy is a distinct threat - is surely the reason. I'm disappointed - I'll be there :( - for the horse as it may affect her legacy to win out against lesser competition. If it all works out, Black Caviar will still be regarded as "special," but "great" may be a stretch. To be the best, I believe you have to beat the best. It's why I believe Zenyatta enhanced her standing in her final race, which was only a decent ride and a nose from victory on a surface she never set hoof on.

22 Feb 2012 9:01 AM
ZORRO

Hello all Im new and will join the trail at this point.

23 Feb 2012 5:57 PM
thesnowleopard

Everyone wants Union Rags. What a great story that would be.

25 Feb 2012 6:46 AM
NASCAR PRO

Well Rags it is.Last year the fav was UM now it is UR,what a difference a year makes.Draynay if you bet 2000 on UM to win the classic why didnt you bet 3000 to win on UR,stll down 900,but your pick is the undisputed leader on paper as of today.Those that dont think so might have to take up a 2nd sport such as NASCAR racing.

27 Feb 2012 7:42 AM
NASCAR PRO

Karen in Texas I read what is probably a rumor on horseracing nation,that Discreet Dancer is being pointed for the Timely Writer.Are they going to pull this race out of the archive attic and run in late in March of 2012 at Gulfstream?

27 Feb 2012 3:15 PM

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