The atypical Dubai shipper: Mubtaahij a serious Kentucky Derby contender

Profile Picture: James Scully

March 30th, 2015

The success rate is non-existent and horses prepping in Dubai’s U.A.E. Derby can’t be taken legitimately by some handicappers when it comes to the Kentucky Derby.

The natural opposition, a “show-me first” mentality, is easy to understand given the large number of well-meant contenders that shipped over to be also-rans in the Kentucky Derby.

But perhaps those automatically opposing Mubtaahij are looking at it wrong. Maybe the previous Dubai shippers were all poor candidates for reasons such as foundation, distance limitations or talent; the “right” horse hasn’t tried it yet.

I’ve never been enamored with a Dubai shipper before but Mubtaahij is different.

Mubtaahij’s attributes include:

1)      Foundation: A continuous parade of lightly-raced types has emanated from the desert in years past, including some that were making their seasonal debut in the U.A.E. Derby, but a soft schedule does not help prepare a young Thoroughbred for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby experience. Mubtaahij has raced FIVE times since December 31; he’ll be plenty fit.

2)      Breeding: Many previous Dubai shippers did not appear well-suited for the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby distance but that isn’t the case with Mubtaahij, who has easily captured his last two starts at 1 3/16 miles. Remarkably, he wasn’t any good on turf last year but is a completely different performer on dirt. And Mubtaahij wasn’t the only son of the versatile top-class sire Dubawi to win major races on Meydan’s dirt track.

3)      Turn of foot/improving form: He easily proved best in the March 7 Al Bastakiya, defeating a well-regarded rival in the process, and continued to show more three weeks later in the U.A.E. Derby, offering a spectacular move to crush deeper competition by midstretch. Jockey Christophe Soumillon quickly wrapped up on the dynamo, saving something for the stretch drive at Churchill Downs presumably, and Mubtaahij appears to be thriving presently.

4)      Connections: Do not underestimate the talents of trainer Michael De Kock – he figures to have Mubtaahij ready for his best.

Mubtaahij still faces a tall hurdle and may not prove good enough to defeat our best three-year-olds on May 2, but I consider him to be a serious Kentucky Derby contender.

Mubtaahij photo courtesy of Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club