Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The wizardry of Al Quoz

Dubai, UAE, March 23, 2011 - It is always a treasured invitation to the Godolphin pre-Dubai World Cup equine flypast. Guests entertained at Godolphin’s private Al Quoz training facility witness some of the fanciest and most expensive thoroughbreds on the planet as they are conveniently cantered past the visitors’ Majlis (meeting place).

Godolphin has remarkably supplied a third of the Dubai World Cup meeting winners since His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum inaugurated this Gulf extravaganza in 1996.

There were different horses at this morning’s parade, a different spreading backdrop of the Dubai cityscape, but one significant constant. Frankie Dettori joined Godolphin in 1994, since then the jockey has won 101 Group or Grade One races, including three Dubai World Cups. And, turned 40, he is not in the mood to slow down just yet.

Chances abound for Dettori on Saturday, yet nothing sparkles greatly from the sand and the Italian would stop at nothing for just one more winner. His favoured mount Skysurfers, the snow drop of a colt who consistently bursts forth early in the year, has been dealt a near terminal blow.

“I thought Skysurfers would have been the one, but being drawn 13 is a big, big disadvantage,” Dettori says. “Of the rest there are chances even if nothing stands out really. Let’s hope one goes in. I’m not jumping up and down at the moment because I did that last year when people told me I was going to have four winners and I ended up with nothing. I’ve got six, solid, good rides but the truth is it’s difficult to win here. They will have to perform to their very best to win.”

Also in the Godolphin cockpit on Saturday will be Ahmed Ajtebi – the local boy made good - the man who swapped camels for horses as his competitive vehicle at the age of 21. He has ridden over 50 winners for Godolphin since 2009.

Most notable among all his victories have been three at the Dubai World Cup meeting, three wins which advertised to all beyond the dunes what he could do.

“It’s a big thing for me this meeting,” he says. “I’ve ridden winners in 16 different countries but nothing will be like riding a winner on World Cup night. This is my home town.

“If you ride a winner on the night it puts your name up in lights and opens lots of doors for you for the future. You suddenly start getting calls from outside.”

Ajtebi nominates Xin Xu Lin in the UAE Derby as a colt to consider, even if he has relinquished the reins to Dettori.

“I think this is the best chance for Godolphin for the night,” he says. “Especially if he likes the surface because this horse has never run on the [All-Weather] before. I ride him most days and he is a lovely, nice ride and straightforward. He is working like a superstar. I want to see him win and - if he loves the surface - I think he will. He’s class.”

Simon Crisford, the Godolphin Racing Manager, will settle for a win for X. Or Y or Z for that matter.

“There are no certainties but we have got chances – what I would call crossbar chances – and we just hope one of them will find its way into the net,” he says. “The competition is a lot stronger than it used to be.”

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