08/31/2006 11:00PM

Maktoum empire has world in its grasp


NEW YORK - By cutting a swath through Saratoga as wide as a crescent moon last weekend, the Maktoum family was merely giving Americans a taste of the same medicine that the British have been swallowing for the last 25 years.

The dominance of Dubai's royal family in England since 1982 has been phenomenal. The five English classics - the 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Derby, Oaks, and St. Leger - have had 124 runnings since then, with one Maktoum or another finding the winner's circle 40 times for a family batting average of .322. They have also won 10 of the last 19 runnings of England's most important race, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.

Since Sheikh Mohammed started up his Godolphin operation in 1994, the "boys in blue," as they are affectionately known in Europe, have won 590 races from 2,258 starts in Britain alone. This year Godolphin is 52 for 153 worldwide, a .340 winning percentage, and it has earnings of $15.8 million, or $104,000 per start.

The names of the Maktoum's Thoroughbred family read like a "Who's Who" of European racing. Sheikh Mohammed has had filly Triple Crown winner Oh So Sharp and Intrepidity. The late Sheikh Maktoum, who started off the family's classic roll with Touching Wood in the 1982 St. Leger, also owned Ma Biche and Hatoof. Hamdan has had Nashwan and Salsabil, while Godolphin's role of honor includes Balanchine and Lammtarra, plus a passel of great horses who never won an English classic like Swain, Daylami, Fantastic Light, and Dubai Millennium. Even baby brother Ahmed has chipped in with 1000 Guineas winner Ameerat and King George champ Mtoto.

Now, after a long American dry spell spent testing the waters with European rejects while at the same time failing to make any headway in their efforts to win the Kentucky Derby with a horse who has wintered in Dubai, the Maktoums have struck America with a vengeance. They took two-thirds of our Triple Crown with Bernardini, owned by Sheikh Mohammed, and Jazil, from Sheikh Hamdan's stable. With Invasor, who is also owned by Sheikh Hamdan, they have the best older horse in America who doesn't race on Butazolidin, as well as Discreet Cat, a 3-year-old who beat Invasor by seven lengths in the UAE Derby. With their plunder of Saratoga last week, they are poised for what could be their most lucrative autumn ever. (See chart.)

The family's 2006 jewels include Breeders' Cup candidates trained in both Europe and America. Note that the individual brothers have never had qualms about challenging each other in any given race. Even Sheikh Mohammed, when he runs a horse in his maroon-and-white colors, has been known to go head to head with a Godolphin horse, although in most cases he would like to avoid such conflicts. There is an intriguing set of possibilities concerning the Breeders' Cup Classic, at which Bernardini is being aimed. Will the ruler of Dubai want to challenge himself in the Classic with Godolphin's Dubai World Cup winner Electrocutionist? Or will Godolphin sidestep Bernardini and send Electrocutionist in the Turf instead?

That might seem the wise course to take, because as good as Electrocutionist is, Bernardini has a license to enter the realm of the immortals. Combining both the breeding and the looks of a champion with the required ability, he is the best 3-year-old developed in America since Sunday Silence. Anyone who still thinks that Barbaro is Bernardini's equal should wipe the tears from his eyes and get back in touch with reality.

Never embarrassed by their riches, the Maktoums are wealthier than ever in racing terms, and they will be flaunting it around the world this autumn.

ElectrocutionistGodolphinS. bin Suroor (GB)BC Classic/Turf
IffraajGodolphinS. bin Suroor (GB)BC Mile
LibrettistGodolphinS. bin Suroor (GB)BC Mile
CaradakGodolphinS. bin Suroor (GB)Hong Kong Mile
Discreet CatGodolphinS. bin Suroor (USA)Cigar Mile
Ashkal WayGodolphinS. bin Suroor (USA)BC Mile
BernardiniSheikh MohammedT. Albertrani (USA)BC Classic
BallettoSheikh MohammedT. Albertrani (USA)BC Distaff
Dubai EscapadeSheikh MohammedE. Harty (USA)BC Sprint
InvasorSheikh HamdanK. McLaughlin (USA)BC Classic
JazilSheikh HamdanK. McLaughlin (USA)BC Classic
MaraahelSheikh HamdanM. Stoute (GB)Champion Stakes
MustameetSheikh HamdanK. Prendergast (Ire)Irish Champion Stakes
Court Masterpiece*GainsborougStudE. Dunlop (GB)BC Mile
Tam Lin*Gainsborough StudM. Stoute (GB)Champion Stakes
Best Alibi*Gainsborough StudM. Stoute (GB)Champion Stakes
Laverock*Gainsborough StudA. Fabre (Fr)Hong Kong Cup
JadaleeSheikh AhmedM. Tregoning (GB)St. Leger Stakes
Henny Hughes+Sheikh RashidK. McLaughlin (USA)BC Sprint
Hellvelyn+Sheikh RashidB. Smart (GB)Middle Park Stakes

*Formerly owned by the late Sheikh Maktoum, now controlled by Sheikh Mohammed
+Son of Sheikh Mohammed