NEWMARKET, ENGLAND // Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa's blue-and-yellow silks are well known in Dubai, but so far in Europe they have failed to make a significant impact at the highest level.
This European turf season may be a landmark year for the chairman of the Dubai Land Department, however, and the chosen standard-bearer is Moohaajim, who makes his seasonal debut under Martin Harley in this Saturday afternoon's Greenham Stakes at Newbury Racecourse.
The seven-furlong contest was used by Frankel two seasons ago as a stepping stone to his extraordinary performance in the English 2,000 Guineas over a mile, and the trainer Marco Botti hopes Moohaajim can follow that path.
Botti bought Moohaajim for the princely sum of 200,000 guineas (Dh1.18 million), at auction last April.
The son of Cape Cross was mature enough to win on debut at Ascot racecourse in July before proving in three subsequent races that he was one of the best juveniles in Europe. His campaign culminated in a narrow defeat in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes to Reckless Abandon, but since then has thrived at the Italian handler's Green Ridge Stables.
"Last year, he wasn't the biggest two year old, but he has definitely grown and you could call him medium-sized now," Botti said. "He's got a lot stronger, though, and a mile will be no problem for him.
"He is in good form, and today is a good opportunity for him and a good prep race for him for the Guineas."
Moohaajim is one of seven horses owned by the Sheikh who are trained by Botti this season.
Botti is particularly keen on two colts.
One is sired by Sea The Stars, the 2009 English Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, and the other is by Oasis Dream, who was a champion juvenile sprinter in 2002. It is a filly by Cape Cross, Sea The Stars' sire, that really is the apple of Botti's eye, however.
Moohaajim faces just four rivals including Olympic Glory, owned by Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad of Qatar. Olympic Glory hails from Richard Hannon's yard and, like his stablemate Toronado, who won a key 2,000 Guineas trial at Newmarket on Thursday, will be ridden by Richard Hughes.
Whatever happens this afternoon, Olympic Glory will not head to Newmarket next month for the English Guineas but will instead cross the Channel to run in the French equivalent, where he beat subsequent Group 3 winner What A Name on Arc day at Longchamp.
"He's huge, he's an absolute bull of a horse and every time I go in and look at him I think he's too fat," Hughes said. "His homework suggests he is pretty straight; he goes on any ground and is really pleasing us."
SINGAPORE MAY BE IN PLANTEUR'S PLANS
Botti has yet to decide whether an attempt at the riches of the International Cup on May 19 is preferable to a run in the Prix D'Ispahan a week later.
Planteur was entered at the initial entry stage for the Dh8.9 million event at Kranji but as the six-year-old bay has ground preferences, and was initially trained in France by Elie Lellouche, the Longchamp race in Paris seems more likely.
"Planteur is doing really well and those are our two options," Botti said. "He's a little bit ground dependent and likes good-to-soft going, so we won't campaign him during the summer."
Botti also had an update on Jakkalberry, who sustained an injury in a gate incident on Super Saturday before going on to win the Dubai City of Gold from Await The Dawn and subsequent Dubai Gold Cup winner Cavalryman.
Godolphin's Masterstroke went down in his gate ahead of the race at Meydan Racecourse, which was one along from Jakkalberry.
The stalls handlers took out Jakkalberry for him to be checked over but a hematoma was found in the horse's leg the next morning, following his win.
"It's nothing much more than soft-tissue damage, but there is no point in risking him," Botti said.
"He will be out of action for the summer, but we remain on course for the Melbourne Cup in November."
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