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Mar 20, 2009

Mafaaz takes Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at Kempton Park


 London, England (Sports Network) - The first starter for this year's Kentucky Derby has been decided, with Mafaaz winning the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at Kempton Park in England. Mafaaz is now eligible for a $100,000 bonus if he starts the Run for the Roses.

The race was established to increase international interest in the Kentucky Derby and had a total purse of $150,000.

"The Kentucky Derby is naturally a compelling and exciting event, but the presence of international contenders always adds to the anticipation and intrigue surrounding America's greatest race," said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs and executive vice president of Churchill Downs Incorporated. "There has long been significant international interest in participating in the Kentucky Derby, but the current system that successfully uses earnings in graded stakes races to determine eligibility to compete has discouraged some international stables from pointing toward our race."

Mafaaz is trained by John Gosden for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. The three-year- old colt was making his first start of 2009 in the Challenge Stakes and was joined by stablemate Close Alliance.

With Richard Hills riding, Mafaaz notched his second win in three career starts. Both victories have come on Kempton Park's all-weather course.

Setting the pace in the 1 1/8 mile race was Sohcahtoa. Mafaaz, sent off at 11-2 odds, was never far off the lead in the 14-horse field. Entering the far turn Mafaaz moved into third behind Sohcahtoa, about two-lengths behind on the outside.

At the top of the stretch Mafaaz joined Sohcahtoa on the lead and the two battled through the stretch. Mafaaz prevailed by a head over the late running Spring of Fame while Sohcahtoa held on for third.

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