A race previously defined almost entirely by the prospects of one colt, Motivator, has suddenly acquired intriguing new dimensions. Yesterday Kieren Fallon had his Epsom options complicated by Scorpion, whose luminous promise could not be obscured even by a narrow defeat at the Curragh. And Frankie Dettori, who had feared that Godolphin would fail to muster a single runner, instead finds himself with a colt that could easily supplant Motivator as favourite for the Derby.
Dubawi, his reputation restored by an extrovert performance in the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Saturday, was yesterday confirmed an intended runner at Epsom on Saturday week. Certainly no other runner will be the focus of more intense ambition. For Dettori, the Derby has been a source only of torment. For Sheikh Mohammed, Dubawi is the most poignant legacy of Dubai Millennium, who died halfway during his first season at stud. He detects the same air of destiny in Dubawi, who made his debut last year on June 4 - a year to the day before the Derby.
Naturally the race will be won and lost on rather more practical grounds, such as whether Dubawi can stretch his brilliance over another half-mile, not to mention the ground itself. Dubawi lost his unbeaten record when only fifth on his reappearance and Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, gave Epsom the same caveat as has already been issued on behalf of Motivator. "It was too fast at Newmarket and we wouldn't be running him on ground like that again, whatever the race," he said. "But hopefully the ground will be nice for him at Epsom."
That seems a very safe assumption. Yet Dubawi and Motivator are prey to the same paradox, in that the sort of conditions sought by their connections may also discover the stamina limitations lurking in their pedigrees. Neither is certain to cope with a searching test over a mile and a half, and both have shown lavish speed before hanging in the closing stages of their races.
But while Dubai Millennium notoriously failed to get home at Epsom, Dubawi's dam offers a very doughty contrast. Winner of the Italian Oaks over 11 furlongs, Zomaradah was by Deploy out of a Dancing Brave half-sister to the 1998 Derby winner, High Rise. The next dam won the Park Hill Stakes over 14 furlongs and was herself a half-sister to the dam of In The Wings. If Dubai Millennium was ever going to sire a Derby winner, no mate could have given him a better chance.
"We'd be confident that a mile and a quarter is well within Dubawi's range, but the extra two furlongs are an altogether different ball game," Crisford reflected. "Over the years plenty of top mile-and-a-quarter horses have won the Derby. We'll only know on Derby day whether the trip is within Dubawi's compass."
Having won two Classics inside a week, the Godolphin team have soon quelled the impatience with which their early runners are always received. They now have the luxury of sending Shamardal back to France for the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly the day after Epsom.
Their rivals at Ballydoyle, conversely, go to Epsom with quantity rather than quality. Scorpion replicated almost precisely the recent Chester performance of his stablemate, Gypsy King, when betrayed by his inexperience in the Gallinule Stakes. But whereas Gypsy King managed to beat Im Spartacus by a short-head, Scorpion was just denied by the same colt after being switched and taking time to get organised. It is asking a lot to win round Epsom inside a month of his debut, but his strong finish and sturdy pedigree certainly entitle him to progress again over another two furlongs.
Oratorio, who chased home Dubawi so purposefully on Saturday, and Grand Central will also contribute to some restless nights for Fallon.Reuse content