$2MILLION UAE DERBY (Group 2)
Meydan, Dirt, 1900m
28 March 2015
Mubtaahij (Dubawi) ran out an eight-length winner of the Group 2 UAE Derby over 1900m on dirt at Meydan Saturday for South African trainer Mike de Kock, and is so doing, booked himself a spot in the 2015 Kentucky Derby 2 May.
Breaking from the rail post in the field of nine, Mubtaahij raced in fourth, just behind a wall of front runners into the final turn. He took over effortlessly at the top of the stretch and increased his margin of victory under hands and heels making a competitive field look ordinary. The timer stopped in 1:58.35 on fast dirt whilst being eased down to an official eight-length victory.
The three Japanese runners in the field seemed to be setting off for a sprint race, covering the first mile head-to-head at a break-neck pace in this, the world's richest dirt race for 3-year-old colts, bar the Kentucky Derby itself.
They were soon joined by Godolphin's Uruguayan Champion Sir Fever (Texas Fever) four wide, while Christophe Soumillon was biding his time on the joint favorite a couple of lengths off the pace-setting quartet. Sir Fever was the first to fade turning for home but the Japanese pair Tap That (Tapit) and Golden Barows (Tapit) continued to quicken, with Soumillon following suit on Mubtaahij, still on the bridle. The Mike de Kock runner was unleashed with 300 meters to go and his jockey had all the time in the world to savor his impending victory by looking into the big screen, assessing his winning margin as it kept extending. Godolphin's Maftool (Hard Spun), who had bested Mubtaahij by a head in the UAE 2000 Guineas, rallied from the back of the field to grab second place from the tiring Golden Barows.
Christophe Soumillon wrapped himself in the South African flag on his way to the winner’s enclosure and said: “It was as easy as it looked. He was a bit unsettled at the start, but after the jump he travelled beautifully and kicked well. I could see the gap opening up on the big screen. I was just behind the leaders and the pace was good, so I followed it into the straight. I was going very easily and as soon as I pressed the button it was all over. In the end, I kept some energy for the future, especially if he goes to the Kentucky Derby.”
Mike de Kock commented: “Mubtaahij has a high cruising speed and can turn it on off that speed. This is why he did it so easily tonight. We are delighted!” he added, "Right now we’re not too sure what the next step would be, we’ll know more by Monday, but yes, the plan remains to go to the US and we’re more excited than ever.” He added about Mubtaahij: “He’s tough and sound, he’s 'Rocky' (the legendary movie boxing champion). He’s never slept in a stable in the main barn. He is is prone to respiratory infections and is stabled outside where he enjoys more fresh air and that keeps him happy.”
Ever since Mubtaahij won the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial by five lengths January 15, trainer Mike de Kock has had the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in mind. With the nomination deadline for the Kentucky Derby coming only two days after that performance, the South African had to make a swift decision, and said at the time, "Mubtaahij will have to step up to the plate. We'll have to test him against the strongest in Dubai to see if he has the mettle to compete in a race like the Kentucky Derby, but racing is made of dreams and we've done our initial bit to make the journey possible. Mubtaahij will probably have to win the UAE Derby to have a good chance of securing a run."
“These are the attributes you need to win the Kentucky Derby,” commented Marcus Hersh of the influential Daily Racing Form, one of several supportive US-based correspondents who are excited at the prospect of seeing Mubtaahij take on America’s best in one of the greatest races of them all, the qualifying UAE Derby now having set the stage. Hersh said that Mubtaahij would automatically move up the Kentucky Derby log and that all Mike de Kock would still need to do, would be to “show up”: “Mubtaahij was impressive, he qualifies for Kentucky, we’re hoping he pulls up well so we can see him in the States, but he didn’t seem to have a hard race at all.”
Pat Cummings of Dubai Race Night said “A number of Americans who came here this week said the Dubai dirt track reminded them of the track at Churchill Downs, so there are relative comparisons to be drawn. Mubtaahij should have no problem with the sand in the Kentucky Derby.”
Extracts from Mike de Kock Racing/TDN