06/07/2010 11:00PM

$300K yearling going forth in claimer


AUBURN, Wash. - Horse racing is full of curiosities. In what other business can an interested party buy a yet-unused product for 1/60 of its original purchase price? In the first race Thursday at Emerald Downs, Mufaajy, a $300,000 Keeneland yearling once owned by one of the ruling sheikhs of Dubai, will make his racing debut over five furlongs in a $5,000 maiden claimer.

Clearly, Mufaajy was intended for bigger things. His dam, Ministers Music, was a $550,000 Keeneland yearling, and his sire, Cherokee Run, stood for $40,000 at Darley at Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky. Jerre Paxton, who owned Ministers Music and bred Mufaajy, said the colt looked the part of a runner in the weeks leading up to the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington.

"This colt was a spitting image of his daddy, and that's why they paid so much money for him," Paxton said. "He was a nice colt, but we heard later on that he had a breathing problem. I lost track of him, but I'm guessing that's why they dumped him. Those things happen from time to time."

Mufaajy was the subject of spirited bidding, Paxton said, before Shadwell Estate Company, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, secured him for $300,000. When Mufaajy failed to pass muster last summer when placed into training at Saratoga, he was sold for pennies on the dollar and eventually landed with longtime Northwest trainer Charles Gibson.

Gibson purchased Mufaajy in Kentucky in January with the intention of racing him at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Manitoba, this summer. He later abandoned those plans and sold the horse to his brother Vince, a trainer at Emerald Downs. Mufaajy is scheduled to face six other 3-year-olds Thursday for the winner's share of a $5,100 purse. Matt Hagerty has the riding assignment.

Vince Gibson declined to talk about Mufaajy's fitness, for obvious reasons. Does he want to keep the horse, or would he rather someone claim him for $5,000? Has the apparent breathing problem been corrected? How has Mufaajy performed in the morning? The horse's last published workout was nearly six weeks ago, so that could be a tough one to answer.

Gibson did admit to one regret with Mufaajy: His regally bred colt is now a gelding.

"We gelded him, which in hindsight was dumb," Gibson said. "He would have been a lot more valuable if we didn't do that."