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Essence of Dubai Looking Good

April 27, 2002

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Essence of Dubai was back on the race track Saturday, galloping 1 1/4 miles two days after a 7-furlong workout at Churchill Downs.

Assistant trainer Tom Albertrani says the colt has worked well this week after arriving from Dubai and then spending several days under quarantine in Lexington.

``We’re very happy with the way he’s going,″ Albertrani said, adding that Essence of Dubai would have a final 5-furlong workout either Tuesday or Wednesday with jockey David Flores aboard. ``We think he’ll do well here.″

With Essence of Dubai in the field, it marks the fourth straight year Godolphin Racing, operated by Shiek Mohammed and his brothers, has Derby contenders. Essence of Dubai, who won both of his Derby preps this year, may be Godolphin’s strongest entry.

The son of Pulpit won the UAE Derby, run at the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles, and also took the UAE 2,000 Guineas. As a 2-year-old, he raced in the United States and won two of four starts, including the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita.

``Having run 1 1/4 miles can only help,″ Albertrani said. ``We know he can get the distance, now we have to see how he stands up to the other horses here. We know that the competition there (in Dubai) may not have been as stiff.″

Essence of Dubai will be ridden for the first time by Flores, who replaces Frankie Dettori. Dettori will ride Imperial Gesture for Godolphin in the Oaks on Friday, then return to England to ride Naheef in Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas.

The other Godolphin starters in the Derby were Express Tour (eighth, 2001); China Visit and Curule (sixth, seventh, 2000); and Worldly Manner (seventh, 1999).

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NO DECISION: As of Saturday afternoon, there was no final word on which Hall of Fame rider _ Jerry Bailey or Gary Stevens _ would replace Michael Kinane aboard Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Johannesburg.

``Haven’t talked to anyone today about it,″ Stevens’ agent Brian Beach said Saturday. ``Still waiting to hear from them about what they want to do.″

Kinane’s appeal of his suspension for ``irresponsible riding″ was upheld Friday in London, and his ban ends after Saturday’s Derby.

Currently, Bailey is the listed rider for Castle Gandolfo, Johannesburg’s stablemate, but the owners were considering their options.

Stevens, a three-time Derby winner, already has a contender in Sunday Break, but the colt probably won’t make the field because he hasn’t earned enough money. That would clear Stevens to ride either Johannesburg of Castle Gandolfo.

Bailey is a two-time Derby winner.

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HARLAN’S HOLIDAY: Trainer Ken McPeek’s expected Derby favorite Harlan’s Holiday is set for a half-mile work on Tuesday following Saturday’s jog and 1 3-8 miles gallop under exercise rider Helen Pitts.

Edgar Prado is scheduled to be aboard Harlan’s Holiday on Tuesday.

The Ohio-bred will be McPeek’s third Derby starter. His Tejano Run was second behind Thunder Gulch in 1995, and Deputy Warlock was 10th behind Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

``Tejano Run was really a hard horse to train, because he had a lot of physical ailments,″ McPeek said. ``I had to tiptoe around a lot of little stuff, but not with this horse. This has been a lot easier, very easy. A lot can happen, but I don’t think I am getting shaken up about the race this year. We are going to get him ready; lead him over; run him and come home.″

Harlan’s Holiday has six wins and four seconds in 10 career starts. He comes into the Derby off wins in the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.

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NICK ZITO: Two-time Derby winning trainer Nick Zito hasn’t given up hope of getting Straight Gin into a full 20-horse Derby field. His colt is 23rd on the graded-stakes money list and he needs three horses ahead of his to drop out.

``We’ll see,″ Zito said.

Owned by Mary Lou Whitney, Straight Gin worked five furlongs in :59.60 under exercise rider Jamie Sanders on Saturday morning. The work matched the second fastest of 26 at the distance.

``This horse is good right now,″ Zito said. ``Another couple of lengths in the Blue Grass and we’re in. We still have to be ready.″

Straight Gin was fourth in the Blue Grass, beaten less than 2 lengths for second.

``There’s always Baltimore,″ Zito, referring to the Preakness on May 18.

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