08/30/2006 11:00PM

Lately, it's all Maktoum, all the time


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The record books will show that no single owner won more than two races on either Belmont Day June 10 or Travers Day last Saturday, but in fact it was a single dynastic racing family that accounted for eight races, five stakes, and two classics on New York's two biggest days of racing so far this year: the Maktoums, whose dominance of European racing has come to full flower in the United States this year.

If the phenomenon is less than obvious, it may be because the many Maktoums - including Hamdan, Marwan, Mohammed, and Rashid - are represented by different silks, stable names, and trainers in their American endeavors. Just as David Letterman plays a "Know Your Cuts of Meat" game on "The Late Show," American racing fans are learning to play Know Your Maktoums on the sport's biggest days. The various sheikhs in Dubai's ruling family are represented under a variety of banners, including Darley, Gainsborough, Godolphin, Shadwell, and Zabeel.

On Belmont Day, it was the royal blue of Godolphin in the winner's circle after the day's two open allowance races, won by Safsoof and Afrashaad. Later in the afternoon, Darley's Songster won the Woody Stephens and Shadwell's Jazil won the Belmont.

On Travers Day, Darley won a pair with the maiden Incriminate and the main event with Bernardini. The Travers capped an $8.70 all-Maktoum pick three that began with Godolphin's Ashkal Way in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch and Zabeel's Henny Hughes in the Grade 1 King's Bishop. There was a different trainer for each Maktoum winner: Eoin Harty for Incriminate, Saeed bin Suroor for Ashkal Way, Kiaran McLaughlin for Henny Hughes, and Tom Albertrani for Bernardini.

(Lost amid the Maktoum festival of Travers Day was the achievement of the only trainer to win more than one race on that card: Bill Mott, who won three grass races for three different owners - Emma Carly in race 2 for the Ahmed Zayat Stable, Classic Campaign in race 4 for George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stud, and My Typhoon in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa for Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation.)

The Maktoums' super Saturday was rather nicely bookended by the Friday victory of Godolphin's unbeaten Discreet Cat, who looked as awesome winning an allowance race by 11 lengths as Bernardini did the next day, and Dubai Escapade's 8 1/2-length romp in Sunday's Grade 1 Ballerina.

There have been five races at the Saratoga meeting where the winner earned a Beyer Speed figure of over 110, and all five performances came from Maktoum horses: Bernardini's 116 in the Travers, Dubai Escapade's 115 in the Ballerina, Bernardini's 114 in the Jim Dandy, Invasor's 113 in the Whitney, and Discreet Cat's 112 last Friday. The family heads into the fall with the nation's leading 3-year-old, handicap horse, 3-year-old sprinter, and filly sprinter, and that's not even counting Discreet Cat and Jazil. The most anticipated race on the Belmont calendar, the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 7, looms a family showdown between Darley's Bernardini and Shadwell's Invasor.

The horses are mostly private purchases, at all ages, with the common theme that money is no object. They bought Cara Rafaela when she was in foal to A.P. Indy, and the foal was Bernardini. Jazil was a $725,000 yearling. Incriminate sold for $1.5 million at that age. Discreet Cat and Henny Hughes were purchased after impressive victories at Saratoga last year as 2-year-olds, the latter for over $4 million. They bought Invasor as a 3-year-old after he won the Uruguayan Triple Crown.

American racing fans may have trouble rooting for a foreign racing dynasty, but they had better get used to it. The Maktoums clearly are enjoying their slightly belated successes here, and Saturday featured one procession after another to the winners' circle by a raucous group of the winning owners and their large entourage. Many an American racing dynasty has largely disappeared because the next generation lost interest in the game and dispersed the bloodstock - think Mellons, Vanderbilts, and Whitneys - but the many winning Maktoums Saturday included 25-year-old Rashid al Maktoum, whose Zabeel owns Henny Hughes.

After sweeping last weekend's three Grade 1's, the Maktoums don't have a single prospect for Saratoga's final four - Saturday's Forego and Woodward, Sunday's Spinaway, or Monday's Hopeful - so at least for a weekend, everyone can go back to complaining that it's Todd Pletcher who has too many good horses under one roof.