Get to know Godolphin's Kentucky Derby prospect Maftool
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Jeff Frank - Sports Analyst
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Since 1999, Godolphin Racing has tried to add the Kentucky Derby to its list of worldwide accomplishments, but the No. 1 North American prize has been out of reach on eight occasions.

Worldly Manner (1999) was the first horse to try after Godolphin purchased the colt from Golden Eagle Farm. The son of Riverman came into the Kentucky Derby without any 3-year-old prep races and finished seventh.

The stable had two entrants in 2000, including China Visit, who won the UAE Derby in late March. Despite coming into the race with just two career starts, China Visit finished sixth for Godolphin's best finish to date. Curule, the other entrant, finished right behind his stablemate, nabbing the seventh spot.

Express Tour, another private purchase, sported only one prep race as a 3-year-old in 2001. He ran eighth in the Kentucky Derby, beaten 14 1/4 lengths. The following year, Essence of Dubai had two 3-year-old preps but finished ninth to War Emblem.

Godolphin came with a strong hand in 2009 with Regal Ransom and Desert Party. Both had three preps apiece and a combined 11 career starts. Unfortunately, they finished eighth and 14th, respectively.

Many thought Godolphin's 2012 entrant, Alpha, would be the stable's best. The colt was a graded stakes winner and also finished second in the Wood Memorial in his final prep. However, the son of Bernardini came up empty in the Derby, finishing a dismal 12th.

After a three-year absence, Godolphin is back with Maftool. The stable has changed its tactics for this year's Kentucky Derby, switching back to a horse competing outside the United States and one without a start on dirt until 2015.

Maftool broke slowly in his debut on turf last July, but closed to get second behind stablemate Super Kid. His next start, also at six furlongs, was a winning one. From there, he ran second to Burnt Sugar in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes over the synthetic course at Kempton.

After winning the Group 3 Somerville Stakes at seven furlongs on the turf, Maftool failed to fire in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, running fifth in the field of six.

That sluggish effort forced a three-month freshening followed by his 3-year-old debut on the dirt in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at Meydan. Unfortunately, the race was over at the start with Maftool sitting dead last due to another poor break.

Maftool spotted his new-found rival, Mubtaahij, a good 10 lengths after the first 100 meters. From there, Maftool passed horses one by one, but was forced six-wide into the stretch and could not gain any more ground. The $260,000 yearling purchase wound up third, beaten a little more than five lengths.

Maftool gained revenge on Mubtaahij in the UAE 2000 Guineas on Feb. 12. The son of Hard Spun broke quickest of all in the about one-mile race and settled nicely on the outside of Mubtaahij behind the two speeds.

Both Maftool and Mubtaahij rolled past Burnt Sugar into the stretch with Maftool recording the victory by a head. It was 10 lengths back to the third- place finisher.

Maftool is expected to improve as the distances increase. His sire, Hard Spun, ran second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby and his dam, With Intention, sports a female line loaded with such stayers as Kris S and Roberto.

His chief opponent in Saturday's UAE Derby is Mubtaahij. The Irish-bred colt raced one more time after his second-place finish to Maftool in the 2000 Guineas, squaring off against Sir Fever, the Uruguayan Triple Crown winner, in the Al Bastakiya earlier this month. Mubtaahij ran Sir Fever down with ease despite lugging in through the stretch.

As is the case with Maftool, Mubtaahij is a win away from heading over the Atlantic to race in the Kentucky Derby. In fact, both colts could find their way to Churchill Downs if they finish 1-2 in the UAE Derby.

Among the other entrants is Golden Barows, a winner of three straight in Tokyo. He should not be taken lightly as his come-from-behind win in the Hyacinth Stakes at about one mile was extremely powerful.

The $450,000 2-year-old purchase is by Tapit, but his dam side is filled with sprinters, including Hennessy and Mayakovsky, so it will be interesting to see if he flourishes or fades at the 1 3/16-mile distance.

UAE Derby - 1) Maftool 2) Mubtaahij 3) Golden Barows LS) Sir Fever

UPSTART AND ITSAKNOCKOUT RENEW RIVALRY IN FLORIDA DERBY

Itsaknockout was placed first over Upstart in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 21 after Upstart drifted out and impeded Itsaknockout's progress through the stretch. The unofficial margin of finish prior to the disqualification was Upstart by 2 3/4 lengths. Both are back in the Florida Derby.

Rick Violette, Upstart's trainer, has the ridgling ready for a huge effort after working the New York-bred five furlongs in 59 2/5 on March 21. Violette, who saddled Samraat to a fifth-place finish in last year's Kentucky Derby, is far more confident in Upstart running his type of race this time around than he was heading into the Fountain of Youth.

The only negative is the No. 9 post in the nine-horse field. With the start close to the first turn, jockey Jose Ortiz will have to burst out of the gate to secure decent position around the turn. Will the extra exertion cost him the race? It is doubtful, but Violette was not too happy about the draw.

As for Itsaknockout, the Todd Pletcher trainee breaks from the No. 4 post after coming out of the No. 5 post in the eight-horse Fountain of Youth. That race was his stakes debut and even though he did not cross the wire first, he was impressive in gaining the victory via disqualification.

Both horses have yet to run nine furlongs, but the two are bred to get the distance without a problem.

Pletcher also entered Materiality, My Miss Sophia's half-brother. The son of Afleet Alex returns to the track just 22 days after winning a listed stake at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park. This is an unusual move for Pletcher because he rarely brings back his horses within a three-week span.

Materiality, who broke his maiden at six furlongs by 4 1/4 lengths back in January, relished the added distance in the Islamorada as he cruised to a 5 3/4-length score. However, defeating the likes of Stanford and Tradesman at 1 1/8 miles is nothing compared to the fight he will have taking on Upstart and Itsaknockout. The edge goes to the latter as he is sure to improve off his last just as much as Upstart. Furthermore, the odds will be in his favor.

Florida Derby - 1) Itsaknockout 2) Upstart 3) Materiality LS) Indianaughty

"THE JEFF FRANK DIRTY DOZEN"
1) Prospect Park - Fantastic six-furlong work has him ready
2) Dortmund - Unbeaten streak will end in Santa Anita Derby
3) Firing Line - Dominant win in New Mexico; obvious contender
4) American Pharoah - Would like him more if he sat off the pace
5) Carpe Diem - Might not have quality competition in Blue Grass
6) Upstart - Back on the beam with 59 2/5 work on March 21
7) Itsaknockout - Beautifully bred on top and bottom
8) Maftool - Don't discount the possible UAE Derby winner
9) Far From Over - Still needs to prove he belongs
10) El Kabeir - Hard to knock this hard-knocking 3-year-old
11) War Story - A decent break and a win in LA Derby is his
12-T) International Star - Wins on all surfaces; second tier
12-T) Bolo - Must learn to rate in SA Derby to be taken seriously

INTERNATIONAL STAR LOOKS TO COMPLETE THE LOUISIANA TRIFECTA

It has been five years since a horse won all three Louisiana prep races. Friesan Fire took the trifecta into Louisville and the 7-2 Derby favorite finished next-to-last as Mine That Bird splashed home for the easy win.

Dixieland Heat was the previous horse to sweep all three races back in 1993 and the Gerald Romero-trained colt wound up 12th in the Kentucky Derby.

Given those results, International Star might be better off losing the Louisiana Derby. If he does, look for War Story to finally turn the tables on the Risen Star and LeComte winner.

War Story has started slowly out of the gate in all four of his races, which obviously is a major concern to trainer Tom Amoss, Still, the added distance, along with the long run to the first turn, should help ease the pain if another poor start is in the cards.

Louisiana Derby - 1) War Story 2) International Star 3) Keen Ice LS) A Day in Paradise

Copyright 2015


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