01/08/2012 1:23PM

Is This The Year For Sheikh Mohammed In The Derby?


“One swallow does not a summer make” is an idiom that applies perfectly to 3-year-old stakes races in early January, and their bearing on the Kentucky Derby. Still, you couldn’t blame Sheikh Mohammed if he woke up Sunday morning with the feeling that he has his best chance yet of winning the coveted first leg of the U.S. Triple Crown.

There were two two-turn stakes races for 3-year-olds Saturday at opposite ends of the country, and Sheikh Mohammed won both of them. Out of Bounds, racing for Darley, won the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita. Alpha, under the Godolphin colors, won the Count Fleet at Aqueduct, one race after Darley’s Captivating Lass won the two-turn Busanda for 3-year-old fillies. All three, incidentally, are Darley breds.

Sheikh Mohammed has thrown a ton of money at the Kentucky Derby, in the form of private purchases he hoped would go on to wear the roses, and by creating a race in his country – the U.A.E. Derby – that he hoped would prove a successful springboard to Churchill Downs, and he still hasn’t come close to winning it. Godolphin has had seven starters in the Derby, and Sheikh Mohammed was co-owner of another, and the best finish out of all of them was a sixth by China Visit in 2000.

But if Out of Bounds and Alpha do make it to the Kentucky Derby, and if their prep campaigns do not take an unforeseen detour, then they will represent a change in philosophy for this outfit. One can understand Sheikh Mohammed’s desire to win the Derby his way, with a colt trained and prepped in Dubai, but this process clearly wasn’t coming close to working. If Out of Bounds and Alpha do make the Derby, they would be Sheikh Mohammed’s first Derby starters to have had a conventional U.S. prep campaign.

It’s early – extremely early – but there were some things to like about Out of Bounds and Alpha Saturday. Out of Bounds, coming off a maiden win at Hollywood in his second career start, clearly raised his game in his first attempt around two turns. And Out of Bounds beat the better field, running down the previously unbeaten Secret Circle, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint who had absolutely no excuse in his first try routing, and Longview Drive, who won two minor stakes last year before concluding his season with a third in the Delta Downs Jackpot.

But if Alpha beat the weaker field, he was more impressive visually. Alpha scored by a widening 2 1-2 lengths, showing that he is more the colt who won his debut at Saratoga in runaway fashion and finished second in the Champagne than the one who came unhinged in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Nancy P More than 1 year ago
Out of Place for the Kentucky Derby. For the Derby? A 6.00 dosage index, by another bleeder Storm Cat sire? Now the other one, Alpha, has a decent pedigree, though the AP Indy's remain suspect at 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May.
Derbyman More than 1 year ago
I will be looking forward to having the Boys In Blue have two horses in the Derby and to have them run one two in the Derby.
Penn National Rick More than 1 year ago
Sheik always had derby contenders, but he kept taking them back over to Dubai for a race such as UAE Derby and bringing them back over to the US to run only in the Derby. Turst your staff and let them race key preps here in the US and perhaps he will have a shot.
Gary Max More than 1 year ago
Hey RoMo its early days yet, come on its not like we are in March/April. The Darley boys are maturing.
anolerailbird More than 1 year ago
at least the shiek believes in racing them. you cant prove a horse by scratching ever time they get hooked tough,& then running your mouth to the press, about how great they are. this has become case a lot of the time,by some of our self proclaimed "elite owners". come on people, lets race'em & talk about the results. not what could-a-been.
lawrence from ny More than 1 year ago
after a long and non productive try at doing it his way {via dubai} sheik mohammad is to be given credit for realizing that it just was not going to work that way...that being said the man is a blessing to the sport and smart enough to put ego aside and try another route to the derby.....no one deserves it more, and i wish him the best. he's loaded for bear this year.
Gary Max More than 1 year ago
Hello Mike and Happy New Year. I believe in my heart that Darley has a legit chance this time around, though Alpha was visually impressive it was Out of Bounds's time and how his attack his rival that impressed me the most. Let's hope Garrett can get back in the saddle soon or there is always big race jockey Mike Smith to look to for that beautiful big red.
Robin More than 1 year ago
I still think that the American public enjoys an underdog story winning the Kentucky Derby more than a Sheik who buys and buys his way to the winners circle. He does a lot for this sport and one day deserves the roses but maybe not yet.....
RoMo More than 1 year ago
. . .. "But if Alpha beat the weaker field, he was more impressive visually" ..? .. Wouldn't you sort of expect that against a "very" weak field ..? A 1:42.8 is a good 8.5f time .. not so much a 1 mile 70 yd ..? .. Out of Bounds .. ran down high-end West Coast Speed .. .... call me when somebody wins at 9f .. in 1:48 (or less) and looks like they did it for fun ..
will sanders More than 1 year ago
Darley is an incredible organization and Eoin Harty has fared well as conditioner. It's phenomenal the pursuit of the ultimate thoroughbred bloodline(s) and the measures to achieve it are quite expensive.....yet, in finality it's about performance on the track, stakes wins, eclipse awards and the inherent desire and courage of the horse. Heart and determination can't be quantified as simply as money spent however, my kudos to the Sheik for his incessant love of the sport and for his contributions to the betterment of the sport.