A horse owned by a Sheikh, trained by a South African, ridden by a Frenchman and bred by Dunmore Stud in Ireland is headed to the Kentucky Derby. His name: Mubtaahij.
The 3-year-old colt ran away with the UAE Derby over the weekend and into the No. 8 spot in the AP's latest Run to the Roses Top 10 rankings. Minutes after the race, trainer Mike De Kock declared his intentions.
"We're on the way," said De Kock, the highly successful international trainer who would be saddling his first Derby starter. "Just to participate is huge."
Mubtaahij had a perfect trip under jockey Christophe Soumillon, won the race by eighth lengths and earned 100 Derby qualifying points to secure his place in a field of 20 maximum starters.
Derby history, though, may be against the horse owned by Sheik Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. The last foreign-bred to win was Sunny's Halo (Canada) in 1983 and the last non-North American horse to win was Tomy Lee (Britain) in 1959. The most recent Derby runner bred in Ireland was Castledale, who finished 14th in 2004.
Mubtaahij wasn't the only horse who made a Top 10 impression.
Materiality posted a surprise win in the Florida Derby and moved in at No. 6, while International Star won the Louisiana Derby to complete a sweep of Derby preps at the Fair Grounds and improved to No. 7.
The top three remain unchanged. Dortmund is No. 1, followed by Carpe Diem and American Pharoah.
Withers winner Far From Over is off the Derby trail with a left rear leg injury. Itsaknockout dropped out after finishing fourth in the Florida Derby.
While Bob Baffert trains Dortmund and American Pharoah, Todd Pletcher trains Carpe Diem, Materiality and four other Derby hopefuls in Daredevil, Itsaknockout, Madefromlucky and Stanford,
Dortmund, winner of the San Felipe in his last start, puts his 5-0 record on the line in the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday. Prospect Park, second in the San Felipe, is among the challengers.
The road to the Derby also stops Saturday at Keeneland for the Blue Grass and Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial.
Carpe Diem, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, tops the field for the Blue Grass and Jerome and Gotham winner El Kabeir is the expected favorite for the Wood.
Derby qualifying points for each of Saturday's preps are 100-40-20-10.
Here's our Top 10:
1. Dortmund (Bob Baffert, trainer; Martin Garcia, jockey): Unbeaten colt has three stakes win in his five victories — Los Alamitos, Robert B. Lewis, San Felipe. ... Worked 6 furlongs in 1:11.60 at Santa Anita on March 28. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita (Saturday). ... Final Derby future odds (pool 4): 6-1.
2. Carpe Diem (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Tampa Bay Derby winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.15 at Palm Beach Downs with Velazquez aboard on Saturday. ... Next start: Blue Grass, Keeneland (Saturday). ... Odds: 10-1.
3. American Pharoah (Baffert, Victor Espinoza): Rebel winner worked 5 furlongs in speedy 58.60 at Santa Anita on Sunday, second fastest of 89 at the distance. ... Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park (April 11). ... Odds: 5-1.
4. Firing Line (Simon Callaghan, Gary Stevens): Has won twice with three runner-up finishes. ... Won Sunland Derby by 14 1/4 lengths in record time in last race. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs (May 2) ... Odds: 13-1.
5. El Kabeir (John Terranova, C.C. Lopez): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.12 at Belmont on Monday. ... Versatile colt has won on the lead, stalking the pace and from far back in the pack. ... Next start: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct (Saturday). ... Odds: 28-1.
6. Materiality (Pletcher, Velazquez): Zooms into Derby picture with strong win in Florida Derby. ... Takes 3-0 record to Churchill Downs. ... Last horse to win Derby off three starts was Big Brown in 2008, before that it was Regret in 1915. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (May 2). ... Odds: 12-1.
7. International Star (Mike Maker, Miguel Mena): Loves New Orleans, but will he love Louisville? Certainly showed he's a contender by winning Lecomte, Risen Star and finishing sweep with Louisiana Derby win. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (May 2). ... Odds: 17-1.
8. Mubtaahij (Mike De Kock, Christophe Soumillon): A dominating win in the UAE Derby earned Ireland-bred colt a trip to America for another, more prestigious Derby. ... Has three wins in four starts over dirt surface in Dubai. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (May 2). ... Odds: 8-1.
9. Far Right (Ron Moquett, Mike Smith): Smarty Jones and Southwest winner still on schedule for final prep. ... Next start: Arkansas Derby (April 11). ... Odds: 39-1.
10. Upstart (Rick Violette, Jr., Jose Ortiz): Not to be overlooked despite runner-up finish in Florida Derby. ... Won Holy Bull, finished first in Fountain of Youth but was DQ'd to second for interference. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (May 2). ... Odds: 18-1.
Keep an eye on: Bolo, Daredevil, Dubai Sky, Frosted, Prospect Park.
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