Ken­tucky Derby run­ner a ‘clean’ cru­sader

Mub­taahij is the first drug-free Derby run­ner in 10 years


Mub­taahij has the most in­trigu­ing back­ground of the 20 three-yearolds set to run in next Satur­day’s Group I Ken­tucky Derby but is also some­thing of a cru­sader for “clean” run­ners.

Pre­pared by South Africa’s premier trainer Mike de Kock and to be rid­den by crack Bel­gian jockey Christophe Soumil­lon, Ir­ish-bred Mub­taahij runs for Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Khal­ifa Al Mak­toum, first cousin to the ruler of Dubai and a fre­quent vis­i­tor to Aus­tralia where he has sig­nif­i­cant rac­ing and breed­ing in­ter­ests.

In­deed, the yel­low and royal blue silks worn re­cently by Pride Of Dubai in win­ning the Group I Blue Di­a­mond-ATC Sires’ Pro­duce Stakes dou­ble are the same set of colours Soumil­lon will wear aboard Mub­taahij at Churchill Downs.

The de Kock-Sheikh Mo­hammed part­ner­ship’s suc­cess in­cludes the Aus­tralian-bred pair Musir, a Group I win­ner in South Africa and a mul­ti­ple Group win­ner in Dubai and Turkey, and Igugu, South African Horse of the Year for 2011 when she won the fil­lies’ triple crown.

Mub­taahij takes his place in the Ken­tucky Derby over 2000m on dirt in win­ning form. On Dubai World Cup night in late March he pow­ered away from nine oth­ers in the $2.6m Group II United Arab Emi­rates Derby (1900m, dirt) to win by eight lengths.

And what will make his pres­ence so spe­cial — par­tic­u­larly to mem­bers of the emerg­ing anti-med­i­ca­tion group WHOA (Wa­ter Hay Oats Al­liance) — is that Mub­taahij will run clean of any race­day treat­ment but, specif­i­cally, the anti-bleed­ing agent furosemide (com­mer­cially known as Lasix and/or Salix). It is legally per­mit­ted across the US but banned in ev­ery other ju­ris­dic­tion on the planet.

Mub­taahij will be the first Ken­tucky Derby run­ner to be furosemide-free in 10 years and will be bid­ding to be the first win­ner since Grind­stone, in 1996, to run without the anti-bleed­ing agent.

In 1968, Dancer’s Im­age was first in the Ken­tucky Derby but he was later dis­qual­i­fied af­ter testing pos­i­tive to phenylbu­ta­zone — a painkiller pro­hib­ited at the time but since placed on a list of 26 drugs per­mis­si­ble for use in the week of a race.

This prac­tice, which has Amer­i­can rac­ing on the nose with in­ter­na­tional rac­ing bod­ies, was re­cently high­lighted by Michael Dick­in­son, a high-pro­file trainer in both Bri­tain and the USA, who noted in a let­ter to the pop­u­lar in­dus­try web­site Thor­ough­bred Daily News: “It is dis­ap­point­ing that the (med­i­ca­tion) de­bate al­ways re­volves around Lasix when it is the vast amount of painkillers given the week of the race that are far more dan­ger­ous. The stack­ing of anti-in­flam­ma­to­ries for five days lead­ing up to the race is only one paral­ysed jockey away from a gi­gan­tic law­suit.”

Dick­in­son is a sig­na­tory to WHOA which has been formed with the sup­port of key in­dus­try peo­ple to back leg­is­la­tion to ban race­day med­i­ca­tion of any form.

A bay colt by Dar­ley Stud’s premier stal­lion Dubawi, Mub­taahij has raced twice in Eng­land and five times in Dubai. Trainer de Kock told the Amer­i­can rac­ing me­dia in a Derby con­fer­ence that Lasix sim­ply wasn’t a con­sid­er­a­tion for the colt.

De Kock, Sheikh Mo­hammed and Soumil­lon, each in­volved in the Ken­tucky Derby for the first time, have un­fin­ished busi­ness in Amer­ica.

The trio en­joyed win­ning celebrations briefly with The Apache in the Group I Ar­ling­ton Mil­lion in Chicago last Au­gust only for the stew­ards to de­mote the vis­i­tor to se­cond place af­ter in­ter­fer­ence in the fi­nal stages.

Seven Ken­tucky Derby win­ners of the past two decades have shut­tled to Aus­tralia for stud duty: Thun­der Gulch (1995), Real Quiet (1998), Fu­saichi Pe­ga­sus (2000), Street Sense (2007) Big Brown (2008), Su­per Saver (2010) and An­i­mal King­dom (2011).

Four times Ken­tucky Der­by­win­ning trainer Bob Baf­fert holds the key to Satur­day’s ex­trav­a­ganza with the top two fan­cies — Dort­mund, who dom­i­nated the Group I Santa Anita Derby for his fourth un­beaten start and Amer­i­can Pharaoh, very im­pres­sive in the Group I Arkansas Derby at his most re­cent start.

Baf­fert is not pre­pared to split the colts, de­scrib­ing Amer­i­can Pharaoh as a fast, un­ex­tended colt who “cruises ef­fort­lessly” while Dort­mund “has been in a fight” and is, there­fore, the more tested.

Dort­mund, a third crop son of Vin­ery Stud res­i­dent Big Brown, is raced by In­dian-born Kaleen Shah, founder of a thriv­ing IT com­pany in the US.

Amer­i­can Pharaoh could be one of three pos­si­ble run­ners for his breeder Ahmed Zayat, who is over­due for a change of luck at Churchill Downs af­ter three Derby se­cond plac­ings with Pi­o­neer Of The Nile (sire of Amer­i­can Pharoah) in 2009, Nehro (2011) and Bode­meis­ter (2012).

Zayat also raced the Giant’s Cause­way colt Esk­endereya, the stand­out of his gen­er­a­tion un­til a train­ing in­jury forced his re­tire­ment days out from the 2010 Derby.

Giant’s Cause­way, a one-time shut­tle stal­lion into Aus­tralia, has a live can­di­date this year in Carpe Diem, one of pos­si­bly four run­ners for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Carpe Diem, a Group I win­ner at two years, has won both his starts in 2015 with ease — the lat­est a three-length tri­umph in the Group I Blue Grass Stakes, which was run on dirt af­ter a pe­riod when it was run on a syn­thetic sur­face and lost all its value as the strong Derby pointer it had once been.

Godol­phin Rac­ing, the in­ter­na­tional sta­bles of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid Al Mak­toum, will be rep­re­sented by the Frosted, son of lead­ing US sire Tapit.

UAE-owned Mub­taahij, rid­den by Christophe Soumil­lon, wins the UAE Derby at Mey­dan race­course in Dubai last month

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