Racing: Maktoums enter 209 for the 2005 Derby

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The Independent Online

It may be Sheikh Mohammed's divine intention to win a first Kentucky Derby, but the grandaddy is no bagatelle either. In fact, it could be argued that Dubai's crown prince has not yet won Epsom's Blue Riband. True, Lammtarra was officially under the guidance of Godolphin when successful in the 1995 Derby, but he did not carry the Royal blue silks which have subsequently become synonymous with the harem globetrotters.

Before then, many of the animals bedecked in the Sheikh's maroon and white personal silks had turned up on the Downs in early June and also been turned over. Now, the world's leading owner is keeping all bases covered.

The announcement of a record 648 yearlings for the 2005 Derby yesterday contained a monstrous entry from the Maktoum family. Sheikh Mohammed himself has 73 early considerations for the premier Classic, at £1.25m the richest race in Europe, while his Godolphin operation is responsible for a further 67.

Older brother Hamdan Al Maktoum, who was successful in 1989 with Nashwan and, five years later, with Erhaab, has 37 in there, while the most senior of the family, Maktoum Al Maktoum, has nominated a further 32.

If their horses try as hard as Dubai's rulers, then the destination of the Derby of 2005 is already scripted. But then racing, as the bookmakers will grinningly tell you, is not like that.

Other substantial block bookings come from Sue Magnier, who, in this instance, is better referred to as Mrs John Magnier. A total of 32 entries, all but one trained by Aidan O'Brien, have been made in her name.

The Aga Khan, who has won the great race more times than any other current owner with four victories (Shergar 1981, Shahrastani 1986, Kahyasi 1988 and Sinndar 2000), has 27 entries, while there is a consideration of 20 from the Chantilly yard of André Fabre, on the prowl for one of the few major contests to have eluded him.

Epsom are also rather proud of the fact that the 2005 race has a record 199 different owners, with more than 60 syndicates, partnerships or studs entering yearlings. It is a hugely small step towards democracy on the turf.

There was a blip in the monopoly of the multiple champion trainer Martin Pipe yesterday when he was fined £1,100 over the running and riding of Yourman. If Pipe's New Year resolution was for his horses to try harder, then it was soon broken at Hereford where Yourman was deemed to have transgressed rule 155, the rule that governs when horses are "not off".

Pipe's juvenile hurdler, who was sent off at 16-1, was always behind under the amateur rider Tom Malone in the 17-furlong race, eventually finishing 50 lengths adrift of the winner, Predestine. The Hereford stewards inquired into his performance and they interviewed both Malone and Pipe's representative, Bob Hodge.

Excuses were given, but excuses were not accepted. Malone was banned for seven days, while Yourman was also suspended from running for 40 days.

More positive statistics emerged from Punchestown, where Kicking King's facile success prompted further reduction in his price for the Irish Independent Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Tom Taaffe's six-year-old is now generally a 10-1 shot for the Cotswolds in mid-March.

Further clues will be put on the Cheltenham canvas this weekend, but none will come from Sir Rembrandt, who was yesterday removed from considerations for the Tote Classic Chase at Warwick. The eight-year-old will wait for either the Pillar Property Chase at Prestbury Park later this month or the Aon Chase at Newbury on St Valentine's Day.

Warwick is likely to be graced, though, by the Paul Nicholls pairing of Ad Hoc and Montifault, both around 14-1 chances. "One always looks at races and thinks 'well could we have won them?' and I think that Ascot was a race where he was probably just never quite near enough to win," Barry Simpson, the racing manager to Ad Hoc's owner, Sir Robert Ogden, said yesterday.

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