HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Mouheeb, winner of last week’s Gr3 UAE 2000 Guineas, will decline his invitation to the $1.5 million Saudi Derby on 20 February 2021 and instead point directly to the Gr2 $750,000 UAE Derby at Meydan on 27 March 2021- a race that awards 170 Kentucky Derby qualification points (100 to winner).
It is believed that Salem bin Ghadayer’s Meshakel, whom the son of Flatter defeated by a neck in the one-mile Guineas, may take his place in the starting gate in Riyadh.
The Nicholas Bachalard trainee is a head from being undefeated in three starts. A 2 3/4 length winner on debut over subsequent multi-winner Hurry Up on 18 Decemeber 2020, he returned four weeks later in the UAE Guineas Trial, where he battled the top-rated sophomore male in Dubai, Rebel’s Romance, to a head margin.
He returned for his third run in seven weeks in last week’s eye-catching triumph. There is a 16-day gap between the Guineas and Saudi Derby.
“He will head directly to the UAE Derby and miss the Saudi Derby,” said Mohamed Saeed Al Shahi, racing manager for HH Sheikh Ahmed. “He came out of the race well, but His Highness, myself and Nicholas felt he had two tough races and we need to give him a bit more time with the UAE Derby being his main target.”
Bachalard added: “We thought he had room to progress between his races and he did. I wasn’t sure how much, but he definitely has improved with every run. We think he can handle the added distance in the Derby. We were strongly considering the Saudi Derby, but we just felt that the race took too much out of him and we’ll wait.”
Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby-trained Rebel’s Romance is expected for the Saudi Derby and will likely vie for favouritism with American import Cowan, Japanese invader France Go de Ina and possibly Saeed bin Suroor-trained UAE 1000 Guineas (Listed) winner Soft Whisper.