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May 01, 2015

Why Mubtaahij will win the Kentucky Derby

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst

 Philadelphia, PA ( - It has been 56 years since a non-North American-bred horse has won the Kentucky Derby. The Irish-bred Mubtaahij will change all that once he hits the wire in the United States' most prestigious event Saturday.

Trained by Mike de Kock, Mubtaahij has been a machine on dirt after a pair of losses on the turf in Great Britain. After disposing older horses as a 2-year- old (unheard of in this continent), he defeated both stablemate Ajwad and the highly regarded Maftool by five lengths in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at about seven furlongs.

Mubtaahij's lone defeat on dirt came next time out in the about one-mile UAE 2000 Guineas, where he lost by just a head to Maftool. It was 10 3/4 lengths back to Ajwad in third.

Even in defeat that day, Mubtaahij did not go down without a fight. Maftool pulled away from his rival down the lane to open a length lead, but Mubtaahij fought back and would have won the race in a couple of more strides. Many racing experts talk about the heart and perseverance showed by Dortmund versus Firing Line in the Robert B. Lewis, but Mubtaahij displayed almost the same type of toughness in the Guineas.

The bay colt returned in the pink with an exceptional performance 23 days later to take down the Uruguayan Triple Crown winner, Sir Fever, by 2 1/2 lengths in the about 1 3/16-mile Al Bastakiya. This time, it was 13 lengths back to Ajwad in third.

Mubtaahij's piece de resistance came in the UAE Derby on March 28, also at about 1 3/16 miles. He did not just win the race, he exploded for an eight- length triumph over Maftool, who barely got up for second.

His jockey, Christophe Soumillon, had Mubtaahij on the rail in fifth place for much of the race, taking kickback from horses in front of him. Once the field hit the long Meydan stretch, the colt swung out to the three-path and engulfed the leaders in a flash, before drawing off and easing up at the wire.

Mubtaahij, which means "elated" in Arabic, has increased his margin of victory over all his rivals as the winter has turned to spring. Still, a lot of experts knock him (and his Dubai races) due to the perceived lack of quality amongst his competition.

Don't forget, Sir Fever had won 10 straight races, including three Group 1's, prior to setting foot on the same track as Mubtaahij, and he was trounced in both meetings. More notable was how Mubtaahij got the best of Maftool in two of three tries by a combined 13 lengths.

Mubtaahij has outclassed all his opponents the same way American Pharoah, Dortmund and Carpe Diem have done in the United States. Who is to say second- class horses such as Far Right, Madefromlucky, Prospect Park, Bolo, Danzig Moon and Ocho Ocho Ocho would have dominated the likes of Maftool and Sir Fever? I say, it's the opposite is more likely to have taken place.

Another knock on the son of Dubawi is his slow fractional times in his desert appearances. Here lies the rub. Meydan's fractions and those posted at tracks in the United States are not measured equally. In North America, the teletimer does not automatically begin once the horses break from the gate. There is a run-up to the start of the clock. At Meydan, the time begins when the gate opens.

For example, Secret Circle, who won the Golden Shaheen two races after Mubtaahij took the UAE Derby, ran his first 400 meters in 23 4/5 seconds, which is about 2 2/5 seconds slower than his first quarter-mile in his previous start at Santa Anita. Four hundred meters is just short of two furlongs, so it is obvious the lack of a run-up plays a huge role in the early fractions.

Along those lines, Mubtaahij was almost two lengths behind the early leaders in the UAE Derby after the first 400 meters were run in 26 seconds. For comparison purposes, California Chrome, last year's Kentucky Derby winner, was less than one length off the pace after a 25 3/5 first 400 meters in the Dubai World Cup later that day. The winner, Prince Bishop, came from well off the pace, so the early leaders must have been going at a pretty decent clip in the World Cup.

It should be obvious to anyone with this information that the first 400 meters of the UAE Derby were run rather fast, disproving what many racing pundits would like you to believe. Furthermore, Mubtaahij (or Moobie as he is affectionately known on social media), has not had any gate issues in any of his 2015 starts, which should help him gain solid positioning at the break, particularly from the No. 6 post.


Two more flaws racing experts pin on Mubtaahij are the lack of Lasix and the abundance of travel.

Every single Kentucky Derby runner since Don't Get Med in 2005 has used the anti-bleeding medication, which may or may not be a performance enhancer. Incidentally, Don't Get Mad ran fourth in the Derby even after winning the Derby Trial one week prior. Mubtaahij is not a bleeder and de Kock sees no reason for the horse to start using it now when he has never done so in the past. This is a non-issue.

Many handicappers look to the international travel and the fact not one foreign-based horse has won the Kentucky Derby since Godolphin Racing made it a habit of bringing horses to this country from Dubai.

Traveling halfway around the world could be deemed a negative for most trainers and bettors, but de Kock has turned it into a science, winning everywhere he sends his horses, including the United States. Moreover, this is not 1999 when Worldly Manner finished seventh in the Run for the Roses without a 3-year-old prep race (and whose longest race before the Derby was seven furlongs).

Mubtaahij is coming into the Derby the right way with tons of efficient dirt starts and a trainer who is one of the most well-respected horsemen in the world. He would not be sending this horse to Churchill Downs if he did not think the colt had a great chance to win.

Instead of focusing on the negatives, racing experts should be clinging to the positives. Mubtaahij is the lone entrant in the field to have multiple starts over 1 1/8 miles. (Back in 1971, Canonero II had done the same and he won the Kentucky Derby, as well as the Preakness.)

Unlike the majority of horses in the field, Mubtaahij is bred to run all day long and the 1 1/4 miles will only help his chances. Not only should he be the fittest horse in the race, he also knows what it is like to have dirt kicked in his face, something that could derail many of the top contenders.

The Kentucky Derby is America's race. The 141st running will prove it is the world's race as the Irish-bred Mubtaahij wins it for his South African trainer and his Belgian jockey.


Last week's column ran down the bottom half of the Kentucky Derby field. Four of those 10 horses have the ability to finish in the bottom half of the superfecta. They are Bolo, War Story, Far Right and Itsaknockout. The other six - Stanford, El Kabeir, Tencendur, Ocho Ocho Ocho, Keen Ice and Mr Z - are complete throw outs.

Of the remaining 10, Upstart, Materiality and International Star have the least likely chance of winning, but they could easily take down the second or third spots.

That leaves Frosted, Carpe Diem, Danzig Moon, American Pharoah, Dortmund and Firing Line as Mubtaahij's biggest challengers.


It is rare to have two horses 9-2 or below in a Kentucky Derby, especially in a 20-horse field. The last time it happened was seven years ago when Big Brown was 2-1 and Colonel John was 9-2. Just one other horse was single digits in 2008 and that was Pyro at 5-1. Interestingly enough, the filly Eight Belles was the only other horse below 17-1 and she finished second.

This year's field should have three horses in single digits with eight or nine at 20-1 or lower. If that winds up happening, look for more than a few colts above 40-1.

What follows are two sets of odds. The first is what I expect them to be at post time and the second is the odds I would place on them. Outside of picking one's favorite horse and betting him to win, the best way to attack the race is to find the biggest underlays and overlays. I hope this section helps in that regard.

1) Ocho Ocho Ocho, 48-1 (50-1); 2) Carpe Diem, 12-1 (11-1); 3) Materiality, 12-1 (13-1); 4) Tencendur, 32-1 (35-1); 5) Danzig Moon, 25-1 (20-1); 6) Mubtaahij, 10-1 (7-1); 7) El Kabeir, 23-1 (30-1); 8) Dortmund, 4-1 (4-1); 9) Bolo, 32-1 (28-1); 10) Firing Line, 18-1 (14-1); 11) Stanford, 38-1 (32-1); 12) International Star, 20-1 (20-1); 13) Itsaknockout, 45-1 (39-1); 14) Keen Ice, 44-1 (50-1); 15) Frosted, 9-1 (13-1); 16) War Story, 42-1 (45-1); 17) Mr. Z, 45-1 (49-1); 18) American Pharoah, 3-1 (3-1); 19) Upstart, 18-1 (15-1); 20) Far Right, 32-1 (34-1)


Given a bankroll of $100, throw $34 to win on Mubtaahij. Play four $4 exactas with Mubtaahij over Firing Line, American Pharoah, Dortmund and Danzig Moon, with $2 savers of those four over Mubtaahij. With the final $42, play a $1 trifecta, keying Mubtaahij for first, with Carpe Diem. Danzig Moon, Frosted, American Pharoah, Dortmund, Firing Line and International Star each for second and third.


1) Mubtaahij - All systems go for UAE Derby winner

2) Firing Line - A top-three finish could happen if he can rate

3) Dortmund - Low odds prevent win play; a must use in exotics

4) American Pharoah - No value as the chalk, but could easily win

5) Danzig Moon - Don't overlook despite just one career victory

6) Carpe Diem - Got the worst of the draw from the No. 2 post

7) Frosted - Will be the wise-guy horse once betting opens

8) International Star - Closer needs to work out a clean trip

9) Materiality - Too much, too soon for the son of Afleet Alex

10) Upstart - Needs to avoid a wide trip from the No. 19 post

11) Bolo - Could work out dream trip to spoil many superfectas

12) Itsaknockout - Long-distance pedigree makes him top longshot

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