02/13/2003 12:00AM

Moon Ballad wins; Dubai 3-y-o's flop

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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 the South African-bred Southern Hemisphere 3-year-old Victory Moon defeated six Saeed bin Suroor-trained 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. Frankie Dettori took no chances with the 4-year-old son of Singspiel as he went straight to the front and surged clear at the 3/16's pole to record a handy six-length triumph over the Aaron Gryder-ridden Go Underground. Curule was fourth with Round 1 Maktoum Challenge winner Estimraar fifth. Moon Ballad was timed 1:47.98.

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

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 their best UAE and/or Kentucky Derby hope. In that one-mile contest Al Saqaar, a half brother to 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.