Godolphin camp brace for the elusive Kentucky Derby

Essential Quality
Essential Quality (left), the Godolphin horse, is being primed as the favourite for Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Image Credit: Godolphin

Dubai: After what seemed like an endless wait, Team Godolphin are just days away from finding out if they can fulfill their ambition of winning the Kentucky Derby, one of horseracing’s most coveted trophies and one which has until now eluded the Dubai-owned stable.

Since it was created in 1994, Godolphin’s worldwide accomplishments include winning most of the major prizes on offer in the sport including the Epsom Derby, Melbourne Cup, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Breeders’ Cup, but not the race they call the “Run for the Roses’ which has been staged at the hallowed Churchill Downs Racecourse in Kentucky since 1857.

Over the years, Godolphin has sent 11 horses to contest the Derby, with Frosted securing a best result when fourth behind American Pharoah in 2015. While ,the majority of the stables’ horses have previously travelled from either Dubai or the UK across the Atlantic to challenge the best American three-year-old dirt specialists, Frosted was trained locally by former UAE champion handler Kiaran McLaughlin.

This year, Godolphin appear to have genuine claims of winning with another bonafide American-trained galloper in the unbeaten Essential Quality.

Bred and owned by Darley, the breeding operation owned by Godolphin founder His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the striking gray colt has already earned over $2.2 million and is the ante-post favourite for the 147th running of the Derby.

Brad Cox, who trains the son of Tapit for Godolphin, summed up the stables sentiments ahead of Saturday’s race. “It would be the biggest accomplishment,” said Brad Cox, who is bidding to become the first Louisville-born trainer to win the race.

“It’s been a real honour to train for such a global empire and to have a horse like this,” he said in the Star Tribune.

‘‘They’re a classy organization that obviously is dealing with some high-end bloodstock, some of the best bloodlines in the world,”

McLaughlin, who helped Godolphin secure the service of jockey Luis Saez for the ride aboard Essential Quality, said: “Everybody wants to win the Kentucky Derby, but I don’t think anyone deserves it more than Sheik Mohammed because he has put so much into the game and not just money.”

Essential Quality has won all five of his races, including the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year and on his most recent start, he won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland beating Highly Motivated by a neck.

He is likely to face a typically strong field led by Wood Memorial victor Bourbonic, Helium, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby and Louisana Derby hero Hot Rod Charlie. Add to that winners of the Florida Derby (Known Agenda), Santa Anita Derby (Rock Your World) and Arkansas Derby.(Super Stock).

Post time for the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for 5:57 p.m. CDT Saturday (2:57 AM Wednesday, UAE)

At A Glance

Kentucky Derby (Grade 1)

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky, United States

When: Saturday, May 1

First run: 1875

Distance: 1 1⁄4 miles (10 furlongs; 2 km)

Purse: US $3 million. Winner: $1,860,000