03/24/2011 2:27PM

Godolphin vs. Coolmore


It has been six years since John Magnier's Coolmore outfit has had a runner in Sheikh Mohammed Land, aka Dubai. The two Thoroughbred magnates have been feuding ever since over a number of issues, access to breeding rights not the least of them. During the winter, however, they made up and so Aidan O'Brien, Coolmore's master of their Ballydoyle training center in County Kildare, will saddle three horses at Meydan on Dubai World Cup Night this Saturday.

While that number falls far short of the twelve horses that will represent Godolphin (seven to be saddled by Mahmoud Al Zarooni, five by Saeed bin Suroor), it is enough to whet the appetite for those who love to see a good street fight.
Unfortunatley, there will be no marquee match-ups in any of the seven races on the $26 million Meydan card. Godolphin and Coolmore horses will, however, go head-to-head in two races: the $10 million Dubai World Cup and the $2 million UAE Derby.

O'Brien has his Irish Derby/Irish Champion Stakes winner Cape Blanco in the World Cup. Absent since flopping in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 3, Cape Blanco will be running at what now appears to be his best distance- 1 1/4 miles- but will be making his first start on a synthetic surface.

There is reason to believe that the 4-year-old son of Galileo will acquit himself well if he is ready. O'Brien is unpracticed of late at getting horses ready for World Cup Night. His last try came in 2005 when Powerscourt finished fifth in Phoenix Reach's Dubai Sheema Classic off a 3 1/2-month layoff. A few months later, a better prepared Powerscourt concluded his career with a 3-length victory in the Arlington Million.

Cape Blanco is probably being overbet in Britain and Ireland where he is the bookies' unanimous second favorite behind Juddmonte-owned, Henry Cecil-trained Twice Over. The three Godolphins he will be facing are Poet's Voice and Prince Bishop, both trained by Suroor, and Monterosso, who is with Zarooni.

On the face of it, Cape Blanco is their superior, but all three of the Godolphins have had at a local prep at Meydan. Monterosso won the Dubai City of Gold. That is the course and distance trial for the Sheema Classic, a race the Dubawi 4-year-old would be better off running in as he appears to be a 12-furlong type. Poet's Voice was beaten just a neck in the Jebel Hatta, the course and distance prep for the Duty Free, a race to which the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner and 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes also-ran would be much better suited. Prince Bishop was only fifth behind Twice Over in Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge and could be in over his head.

In its effort to field a team in the World Cup, Godolphin may have outmanouvered itself in a race that is Twice Over's to win or lose.

The UAE Derby is no longer a a race in which Godolphin goes in search for a Kentucky Derby runner. Ironically, Coolmore may be using this renewal for just that purpose. Its two runners in the 1 3/16-mile Group 2 Tapeta stake, Alexander Pope and Master of Hounds, are both nominated to the Triple Crown.

Master of Hounds emerges from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in which he finished an even sixth, 3 lengths behind Team Valor's Pluck, who is being considered for either the French or the Irish 2000 Guineas. Alexander Pope showed a good deal of improvement off a 4-month absence on Dec. 7 to win a one-mile Dundalk Polytrack allowance by 7 lengths. Both have 10-furlong pedigrees, Master of Hounds being a Kingmambo-Sadler's Wells cross, while Alexander Pope is a Danehill Dancer-Galileo cross.

It is doubtful that O'Brien would be running either of them in Dubai if he was planning to get them ready for any of the springtime European classics. That said, they would both need to finish at least third and possibly second to make the Kentucky Derby lineup, third in the UAE Derby being worth $200,000, second worth $400,000. Master of Hounds already has $41,884 in group or graded race earnings through his third-place finish in the Group 1 Racing Post Torphy last fall.

Johnny Murtagh caused a sensation when he quit Coolmore at the end of last year, and O'Brien has not yet named a replacement for him. As the Irish flat season has already begun, it looks as if Coolmore will be content to stick with its regular riders, Colm O'Donoghue, Jamie Heffernan and Joe O'Brien, the trainer's teenage son.Jamie Spencer, Coolmore's first string rider in 2005, will take the reins on Alexander Pope while Ryan Moore, one of England's leading riders, has the call aboard Master of Hounds.

It would be a large irony, indeed, if Magnier & Co.pulled a Kentucky Derby runner out of the UAE Derby hat in Sheikh Mohammed's backyard.