02/13/2003 12:00AM

Moon Ballad dominates

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Moon Ballad earned his way into the Dubai World Cup with a big victory in Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge at Nad Al Sheba Thursday night, but Godolphin's Kentucky Derby plans hit a snag when Victory Moon defeated six Saeed bin Suroor-trained Godolphin Triple Crown hopefuls in the UAE 2000 Guineas.

Moon Ballad had to produce an impressive effort in the 1 1/8-mile Group 3 Maktoum Challenge to clinch a spot in the World Cup. Jockey Frankie Dettori took no chances with Moon Ballad, a 4-year-old son of Singspiel, as he went straight to the front and surged clear at the three-sixteenths pole to record a six-length triumph over the Aaron Gryder-ridden Go Underground. Curule was fourth, with Estimraar, winner of Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge, fifth. Moon Ballad was timed 1:47.98.

Trained by Michael de Kock, the South African who engineered the smashing win by Ipi Tombe's over colts in a listed race at Nad Al Sheba last week, the South African-bred Victory Moon rallied from eighth of nine in the UAE 2000 Guineas under Willie Smith to defeat Western Diplomat, from the Godolphin barn, by a half-length, getting the mile in 1:37.04.

Godolphin's leading hope, Bourbonnais, was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third, while Endemaj, a maiden winner at Bay Meadows last September, was fourth.

Dublin, a Group 3 winner at Goodwood last summer, was seventh, with Sharp Impact and Dubai Lightning eighth and ninth as only 7 1/4 lengths separated the first and last finishers.

The previous two runnings of the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas had been won by Essence of Dubai and Street Cry, the subsequent winners of the UAE Derby. After Thursday's action, Godolphin may be looking to the winner of a maiden race held earlier on the card as its best UAE or Kentucky Derby hope.

In the one-mile maiden race, Al Saqaar, a half-brother to the 2000 UAE Derby winner, China Visit, slammed 15 opponents by 8 1/4 lengths in a time .44 of a second faster than that recorded by Victory Moon in the Guineas.