03/24/2004 1:00AM

Godolphin not pushing for Derby


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing will not have a runner in the Kentucky Derby this year, but could send a European-based horse for the Belmont Stakes in June, Godolphin's racing manager, Simon Crisford, said Wednesday.

If Godolphin is represented in the final leg of the Triple Crown, it probably won't be with one of the top 2-year-olds that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum had in the United States last year, such as Ruler's Court, the 14-length winner of the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita, or the highly promising maiden winner Rosberg.

Both Ruler's Court and Rosberg were sidelined with injuries over the winter and have only recently returned to training. They will be sent to the United States during the summer, but will be based in Newmarket, England, during the spring with the rest of the Godolphin stable, Crisford said.

In the past, Godolphin has pointed some of its top 3-year-olds to the Kentucky Derby in an attempt to add the classic to its list of worldwide accomplishments. Godolphin has run five horses in the Kentucky Derby, with a sixth-place finish by China Visit in 2000 its best result.

Aside from Ruler's Court and Rosberg, likely American-raced Godolphin shippers this year include Possession, Rosencrans, and Tizdubai. Rosencrans won the Spring Cup Stakes over seven furlongs on the all-weather surface at Lingfield, England, on March 20 and a maiden race at Arlington Park last July.

Wednesday, Godolphin hosted a two-hour preview showcasing 50 members of its 2004 stable at its Al Quoz training center near Nad Al Sheba racecourse. The program included four workouts, including one by Dubai World Cup entrant Grand Hombre, and gallops by 46 other horses.

Possession, Rosberg, Ruler's Court, and Tizdubai were not part of the 50-horse preview. Rosencrans is still in England. Gulf of Mexico, who was unplaced in the Del Mar Futurity last September, and Zosima, fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last October, were among the horses who galloped. Plans have not been announced for them.

Other horses, not publicly identified, galloped on the nine-furlong training track later in the morning. Sheikh Mohammed was in attendance for the preview.

Ruler's Court and Tizdubai were considered hopefuls for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks last year, but suffered injuries that derailed those plans.

Ruler's Court was considered a top candidate for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but was held out of the race to focus on this year. Godolphin announced in December that he had suffered a knee injury and would not start in the UAE Derby, which will be run on Saturday.

Ruler's Court underwent knee surgery over the winter, Crisford said.

"Ruler's Court is just starting back, just starting," he said. "He's a long way to go to even talk about. His knee needed cleaning up."

Tizdubai is unbeaten in two starts, including the Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar last summer. She was taken out of training because of a non-displaced condylar fracture. Tizdubai has resumed light training and is nominated for the English Oaks, but she is more likely to wait and start on dirt later this year in the United States, Crisford said.

"We've made entries for her on the turf, but she's a dirt-bred filly," he said. "All our options are open. The plan would be for her to come out in the second half of the year."

Possession and Rosberg, maiden winners at Santa Anita in October, are on similar schedules, though Rosberg could be tried on the turf in Europe before being sent to the United States, Crisford said. Rosberg underwent ankle surgery after arriving in Dubai over the winter.

"We've got a big team of all those horses that will be sent to America. A lot will go back to racing there," Crisford said.

Waiting for 'the right horse'

In past years, Godolphin has used the UAE Derby as a prep for the Kentucky Derby. This year's Godolphin entrant in the UAE Derby, Great Exhibition, is still a maiden and not considered a Triple Crown prospect. Last year, he finished second to Kentucky Derby hopeful Master David in a maiden race at Thirsk, England.

"It's unlikely he has sufficient stamina to go that distance," Crisford said.

The absence of a Kentucky Derby runner in five weeks does not mean that Godolphin has abandoned hopes of a future attempt.

"When we have the right horse, we'll be there," he said. "We did have the right horse in Ruler's Court and possibly Rosberg. Unfortunately, both have had problems."

Crisford said the Maktoums have not ruled out making a horse eligible for the Triple Crown at Saturday's late nomination stage.

"There is no point in making block entries with maidens. We can enter on Saturday if we have a horse that fits. More realistically, we would be looking at races like the Belmont."

Home team shutout a possibility

Godolphin will have nine runners in Saturday's six Thoroughbred stakes on the Dubai World Cup program, but none is considered a top contender.

The powerful stable may go without its first winner on the program since 1999.

Aside from Grand Hombre in the World Cup and Great Exhibition in the UAE Derby, Godolphin will have Firebreak and Inamorato in the $1 million Godolphin Mile on dirt; Delsarte and Lunar Sovereign in the $2 million Sheema Classic over 1 1/2 miles on turf; State City in the $2 million Golden Shaheen over a straightaway six furlongs; and Refuse to Bend and Crimson Palace in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free over about 1 1/8 miles on turf.

The best chance may be with Firebreak and Inamorato in the Mile, a race that features two American-based horses, During and Excessivepleasure.

Inamorato is the defending champion in the Mile, but has lost his last three starts. He was second to World Cup hopeful Victory Moon in a stakes over 1 1/8 miles here on March 6.

"Inamorato has a lot of speed, and we're dropping him back in distance. He'll run well," Crisford said. "Both of our horses have to be respected, but the horses that are coming from America have to be respected."

Lunar Sovereign won the Grade 1

Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park last September, but is winless in three subsequent starts. The French invaders Fair Mix and Polish Summer lead the betting for the Sheema Classic with English bookmakers.

Lunar Sovereign finished third behind Fair Mix in a prep race here on March 6. Frankie Dettori, Godolphin's first-string jockey, expects a better performance following the recent prep.

"He's been beaten by a couple of horses in the race, but he should be fitter from his first start," Dettori said.

Hard Buck, the winner of the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 22, is the lone American-based starter in the field.

In the $2 million Dubai Duty Free, Godolphin starts Refuse to Bend, the winner of the English 2000 Guineas last year, and Crimson Palace, a mare from South Africa who won her UAE debut in a stakes in January.

Sarafan, the winner of the 2002 Eddie Read Handicap, is the lone American starter. Fourth in the Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on March 6, Sarafan is trained by Neil Drysdale.

State City has tough task off layoff

Godolphin has the defending champion in the Golden Shaheen in State City, who was well beaten in four sprints in the United States last year. State City has not started since finishing fifth in the Sport Page Handicap at Belmont Park last October.

Even with the benefit of a win over this track by State City, Dettori realizes that it may be impossible for State City to beat the American invading team of Alke, Cajun Beat, Our New Recruit, Tour of the Cat, and Tsigane. Cajun Beat won the Breeders' Cup Sprint last October.

"It will be hard to win, especially with a horse that hasn't run in a long time," Dettori said.

Our New Recruit galloped at Nad Al Sheba on Wednesday. He is seeking his first stakes win in the Golden Shaheen. Trained at Santa Anita by John Sadler, Our New Recruit was second in the Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park last November and third in the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb 1.

"I think he's an up-and-comer," Sadler said. "Whether he can jump up and beat the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner is a different story."

McEvoy on board

Godolphin announced on Wednesday that Kerrin McEvoy, a top rider in Australia and Dubai in recent years, has been hired as the stable's second jockey for the European stable. He will ride first-string when Dettori is not available.

McEvoy, 23, won the 2000 Melbourne Cup on Brew.

Saturday, McEvoy rides Inamorato, Delsarte and Refuse to Bend for Godolphin.