04/08/2009 11:00PM

Gosden aims to prove Mafaaz belongs


ARCADIA, Calif. - A steady wind blew across Newmarket Heath and into John Gosden's cell phone. It was Thursday afternoon, his time. He was walking alongside Rainbow View, Britain's champion 2-year-old filly of 2008, after a schooling session in the paddock at Newmarket Race Course. They were about to load Rainbow View onto the horse van, which would take them back home to Gosden's Clarehaven training stable, a few miles down the road.

At least, that's what he said. He just as easily could have been in a village pub with a bad cell signal, sipping a malted beverage, and waiting to watch the Stewart Tory Memorial Hunters' Chase from Wincanton on the telly. This would be inconsistent with the Gosden that racing has known these past 25 years, so the Rainbow View story was probably legit. Anyway, you've got to trust somebody sometime.

"I'm going to breeze her next week at the Craven meet, and then she goes for the Guineas as favorite," Gosden said of the English fillies classic, run at Newmarket on May 3. "She got hot coming over in the van but she chilled out afterwards. She's pretty wild, this one. I've never had one quite like her. She's capable of throwing herself on the ground if she's not happy with things."

Once Rainbow View was home and happy, Gosden could turn his attention to air travel. He was heading for the States on Friday to cinch the saddle on Mafaaz for Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes, worth $750,000. Mafaaz, a son of Medicean, would not be running in the Blue Grass if he had not won the Kentucky Derby Challenge at Kempton Park Race Course on March 18. But he did, and with the victory came an automatic starting berth in the 135th Kentucky Derby, on May 2.

Gosden was urged by certain representatives of the U.S. media to be embarrassed at the prospect that his colt might force some red-blooded American to languish on the sidelines, based on the earnings demands of the 20-horse Derby limit. The horse everyone was worried about at the time was Dunkirk, lightly raced and without a stakes win of any kind, but obviously proven to be long on untapped ability even before he finished second to Quality Road in the Florida Derby.

Attrition is taking its toll, and it appears more likely that Dunkirk will make the cut. It will be interesting, though, to see if widespread indignation shifts to the cause of a colt like Flying Private, or Just a Coincidence, or any other previously unsung colt, if Mafaaz accepts his place in the Derby field and they end up watching from the Derby sidelines.

"I am very mindful of that 21st horse not getting into the gate," Gosden said. "But I applaud the idea of reaching out to a international audience. The more we race against each other the better, and the parochial attitude is not a good one.

"I did nominate Mafaaz to the Blue Grass back in February, in the chance that if I were lucky enough to win the Kempton race, I'd like to come to the Blue Grass to try and prove his worth in North America before going on to the Downs," Gosden added. "So if he runs a big race on Saturday, fine. If he doesn't, I will regroup very quickly."

With the Jeff Mullins story, over the trainer's apparent violation of New York detention barn rules last weekend, gaining both speed and traction, Gosden will find himself stepping into yet another hailstorm of controversy over American racing's ongoing struggles with the enforcement of medication policy. In the wake of the Kempton victory by Mafaaz, Gosden was approached once again on the subject and came off in some published stories as a hypocritical hardliner.

"I hear I was quoted as saying

3-year-olds don't need medication," Gosden said. "I don't remember saying that. And from there it was written that Raven's Pass ran on Lasix, so what's Gosden on about?"

Gosden upset the Breeders' Cup Classic last fall with the accomplished British stakes winner Raven's Pass.

"Raven's Pass got Bute and Lasix because the weather was so much hotter in California than home, and I wasn't going to risk him bleeding with that heat, particularly the heat coming off that synthetic track," Gosden said. "I walked out on that surface on the Friday before the Classic, and it was simmering.

"My views on Bute and Lasix are very simple," Gosden went on. "They can be therapeutic, and when used prudently, that's fine. In Europe, if you wanted to, you can train on them. But they have long withdrawal times. Bute is 14 days, Lasix would be about five days. I see nothing wrong with using it to get a horse to the track in top order, but we simply do not race on it, and it's a model that I prefer."

If Mafaaz runs a big race Saturday, mark him down as one tough-minded customer. His journey to Lexington began with a van ride to East Midlands Airport, a cargo flight to Wilmington, Del., and then another van ride to Kentucky, where he was made to feel at home in a quarantine facility.

"This is the earliest I've ever shipped a horse to America," Gosden said. "They're a little tender, the

3-year-olds at this time of year. And I'm not entirely certain that the timing of the Kempton race is right. It's a lot easier to train horses in Florida and California in the winter than in England.

"But the challenge was put up," Gosden added. "We went for it, and now we're here."