Sheikhs, Shahs & Pharoahs headline 2015 Kentucky Derby
by John Mucciolo
A stellar, top-heavy field of sophomores will headline the Run for the Roses in the 141st Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 2.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had so many formful results in prep races, which says something about the quality of the better part of this three-year-old crop. Perhaps more interestingly, we have never seen such an international presence from the connections of likely starters.
The 2015 Kentucky Derby is truly a global event, with extraordinary diversity among the owner ranks.
It all starts with Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum of Dubai, who has arguably the most intriguing prospect in the field, UAE Derby romper Mubtaahij. The son of Dubawi had a fine winter and spring in the Emirates and capped it off with a most powerful romp in March, defeating what I thought was a very strong field with absolute ease. The sophomore boasts the best resume and profile of any previous Kentucky Derby contender from the desert, and if he trains well at Arlington and Churchill after a recent long voyage, Mubtaahij surely could be rolling home down the stretch under world-class pilot Christophe Soumillon.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai who operates the mighty and global Godolphin Racing, will have Frosted as one of the primary players in the field. The homebred comes off a score in the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes and seems to be finding his best stride at the correct time. The Kentucky Derby was always a top goal for this barn, which has won virtually ever important race around the world, and Frosted could deliver on their hopes. The improving son of Tapit belongs with the top half of contenders.
Kaleem Shah is a native of India and the son of a horse trainer, and the entrepreneur has been involved in U.S. racing since the 1990s. The computer engineer owns the mighty and unbeaten Dortmund, who is eligible to vie for favoritism. The burly son of Big Brown is fast, battle-tested and seems to be improving each time out, with as much foundation as nearly any entrant in the prospective field. Add that he is conditioned by Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner who sent Dortmund to Churchill Downs last November for an impressive allowance romp over the track, and there is plenty of reason for optimism surrounding the powerful chestnut.
Champion American Pharoah appears to have as much raw talent as any member of his division and is owned by Ahmed Zayat, who has finished second in the Kentucky Derby on three occasions since 2008. The Egyptian-bred owner made his bones in the brewing industry in his native land, but is among the most influential and successful owners in the game. His main hopes lie with the exciting Pharoah, who is a serious threat to carry his superiority forward, but it doesn’t stop there for this stable. Zayat will also be represented by the battle-tested Mr Z, who exits a third in the Arkansas Derby, and the multiple graded stakes-winning El Kabeir (“The Boss”), a closing third in the Wood Memorial most recently following a questionable trip.
Thoroughbred racing has long been dubbed “The Sport of Kings.” This year’s theme is heavily influenced by Sheiks, Shahs and Pharoahs.