EPSOM, ENGLAND // The Derby was the first. Then there was the Kentucky Derby in America, and now it seems every country in the world has one. And although today's English Derby is the 233rd to be run over the idiosyncratic horseshoe track of Epsom it will be still a landmark event.
Hayley Turner, who made history in Dubai when she became the first woman to ride a thoroughbred on World Cup night in March, will become only the second female jockey to ride in the race when she partners Cavaleiro for her maiden outing in the 12-furlong contest.
Godolphin, so long the flag-bearer for the UAE in European racing, do not field a runner for the first time since 2007. And Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa, who has proved so successful during the Dubai Carnival with Mike De Kock, will see his yellow and blue silks feature in the race for the first time when Mickdaam lines up against eight rivals.
On the face of it, the son of Dubawi faces a daunting task. Aidan O'Brien, who won yesterday's Oaks with Was, saddles Camelot, a horse who is being hailed as the sport's next superstar. The colt bids to become one of the few that can translate his ability from a win in the English 2000 Guineas over a mile, to a success here over four furlongs further.
What's more, Mickdaam could only finish fourth in the UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse in March when fourth to Daddy Long Legs, a lowly stablemate to Camelot. When Mickdaam returned to England after four runs in Dubai when trained by Mike De Kock, he fluffed his lines at Newmarket in a lucrative but easy target. When he edged past Model Pupil at Chester Racecourse last month to secure the Chester Vase, however, trainer Richard Fahey had no hesitation when nominating today's event.
"At Newmarket he was beat a long way out and he never travelled," said Fahey, who will be without De Kock's expertise after the South African failed to take his intended flight to London this week.
"Halfway down the track Jamie Spencer felt the trip to Dubai had taken it out of him and he was over the top.
"He had a hard race but two days later he was bouncing again - he is a real professional. The owner is very keen to see the horse run."
It is not the first time Mickdaam has underperformed. Last year as a juvenile he went to Goodwood, and finished tamely. It was crushing blow for Fahey, who didn't run his charge for another three months. It is an experience he does not expect to endure this afternoon despite the similarities between the two racecourses.
"He was always a backward horse," Fahey added. "He ran disappointingly at Goodwood and we lost him and he went into his shell.
"Three months later I ran him again and he won his maiden.
"Just before he left [for Dubai] he had just started to improve. I saw him in Dubai this year and he looked a different horse.
"My fella will stay all day and gallop all the way to the line. O'Brien will not want a fast pace for Camelot so what's going to make the pace. He's got a chance but I've done nothing differently though because it's just another race."
If there is a hint of optimism about Mickdaam's chance, there is little for Minimise Risk, owned by Fitri Hay. The colt may have cost the Dubai-based owner an eye-watering 410,000gns but is considered to be more of a St Leger horse for trainer Andrew Balding, who had two winners here yesterday.
Minimise Risk shared a paddock as a yearling with stablemate Bonfire and both are set to be Balding's first runners in the race. Camelot also was reared in the same field as those two colts at Highclere Stud. If the three share the podium this afternoon, then we really are in landmark territory.
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