Trainer banks on World Cup-winning jockey Barzalona to land elusive Group 2 contest.
Mandaean out to make his mark for Godolphin
Godolphin put to bed the idea they were going through a drought in the Dubai World Cup with a one-two finish and Mandaean bids to register a long-awaited victory for the Dubai-based operation in the Dante Stakes at York in England today.
The talk in the lead-up to the world's richest race in March centred on Godolphin's failure to land the US$10 million (Dh 36.7m) contest for six years.
It was a statistic blown away completely when Mahmoud Al Zarooni saddled Monterosso to beat stablemate Capponi at Meydan Racecourse.
Both of those horses started their careers with Mark Johnston, and the international production line set up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has once again unearthed a thoroughbred that is packed with potential.
Unlike Monterosso and Capponi, Mandaean is a colt that has few miles on the clock.
The son of Manduro, the triple Group 1 winner, was with Andre Fabre in France last season before he trod the well-worn path to Newmarket in England.
Mandaean was last seen on a racecourse in November when he denied seven rivals on his second career start in the Grand Criterium de Saint-Cloud, the final Group 1 race of the European season.
The colt was given a racecourse gallop last month and is fit and ready for today's assignment, according to Al Zarooni.
"He has done well and is ready to go," the trainer said.
"Hopefully, this run can get him ready for the Derby if he is good enough. I don't really know how good he is yet. He is a nice horse and he is in good form."
The Dante Stakes is one of the most consistent trials for the English Derby next month, having produced subsequent victors at Epsom Racecourse such as the Aga Khan's Shahrastani, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's Erhaab and Workforce, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Godolphin have not won the Group 2 contest, run over an extended 10 furlongs, since Moon Ballad scored a year before his Dubai World Cup victory in 2003.
They have had some notable defeats.
Chabal was considered the most likely winner in 2010 but could only manage fourth behind Cape Blanco, the subsequent quintuple Group 1 winner and Dubai World Cup fourth.
Palace Episode was virtually pulled up in 2006 and Songlark was just not good enough in 2003.
In comparison to his fellow Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor, however, Al Zarooni has a superb record at York having saddled six winners from 26 runners.
With such statistics it is easy to gloss over that the trainer is taking a risk by utilising Mickael Barzalona in preference to Frankie Dettori.
York is a track where it pays to race prominently and the young Frenchman's style of holding up horses may not be perfectly suited to the long straight, which stands at just over four furlongs.
"We are letting Mickael ride because we want to give him a chance to get used to the English style of racing," Al Zarooni said.
"In France, the racing is very different as they go slow and then speed up.
"There should be plenty of pace in the Dante and it is a good chance for him to learn more."
Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, revealed that Barzalona was the choice of Sheikh Mohammed but that Dettori could well ride in the Derby, should Mandaean win this afternoon.
"It doesn't mean he will be riding him in his next race," Crisford said.
"Nothing is set in stone with regards future races."