03/25/2005 1:00AM

Godolphin will pick its spots in U.S.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Last year the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing had only nine starts in the United States and won but two races. But they were good ones. Godolphin won the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington Park with Crimson Palace and the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine with Sulamani.

Godolphin will take the same approach this year, focusing on quality rather than quantity. According to racing manager Simon Crisford, Godolphin will send about 10 horses to Belmont Park and aim for some of this country's top races during the second half of the year. They will be trained by Saeed bin Suroor, who will also head Godolphin's operation at Newmarket, England, which will number more than 300 horses.

The Godolphin American team will include the stakes-winning fillies Balletto, Satin Kiss, and Stellar Jayne; Grand Hombre, who was scratched from Saturday's because of a bruised foot; and the recent Dubai maiden winner Dream Escapade.

Pending the results of Saturday's $2 million UAE Derby on the at Nad Al Sheba, Shamardal, the champion European male of 2004, might be sent to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.

In addition, some of the stable's turf horses could be sent to the U.S. for stakes later in the year as the Breeders' Cup at Belmont grows closer. In 2001, the last year the Breeders' Cup was held at Belmont, Godolphin won the Turf with Fantastic Light.

Balletto and Stellar Jayne could be formidable in major races for fillies and mares.

Balletto, 3, raced for Sheikh Mohammed in 2004 and is now under the Godolphin banner. Bred in the United Arab Emirates, she won the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont last fall and was second to Sweet Catomine in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star Park in October. Over the winter, she fractured a rear leg. She is expected to return to racing in late summer, Crisford said.

Stellar Jayne was purchased by John Ferguson Bloodstock on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed for $3.6 million at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale last year. The purchase came shortly after Stellar Jayne finished third behind Ashado in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Lone Star Park. Earlier in 2004, Stellar Jayne won two Grade 1 stakes at Belmont - the Mother Goose Stakes and the Gazelle Handicap.

"She's a super filly," Crisford said. "We're looking at the second half of the year for her."

One race that appears off its list of goals is the Kentucky Oaks. Godolphin had considered sending Satin Kiss to the Oaks, but instead she will be sent to the U.S. later this year, Crisford said. Satin Kiss won the UAE 1000 Guineas in February and the UAE Oaks earlier this month.

At an open house at Godolphin's Al Quoz training center on Wednesday, Crisford said Satin Kiss will be sent to Newmarket next month when the Godolphin horses leave Dubai. Her next goal is the English 1000 Guineas over a mile on turf at Newmarket on May 1.

Crisford said it would be too much to ask of Satin Kiss to run in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks.

"She hasn't really competed against fillies at that level," he said. "At this moment she isn't ready for that. The mile is as far as she wants to go. We'll try her in the Guineas. She won't be ready for the Kentucky Oaks."

This is disappointing news to fans of international racing who would like to know where Satin Kiss ranks against American fillies. It's even worse news for bettors who made her a 23-1 shot in the second future pool for the Kentucky Oaks.