Pat Cummings of Dubai Race Night is in Dubai for the Dubai World Cup this weekend and as usual his comments, observations, and reportage in his blog are excellent.
He sent me the following email last night: “Word seems to be out about the Godolphin Mile hopes of Al Morhij, who was clocked in 1:35.29 over a mile in Saudi in February, what some say is the fastest mile of the year there. That being the case, , the ERA handicapper, said that the Saudis don’t want to run last — they are only sending horses here that can make a decent showing . . . so it is worth noting Al Morhij’s appearance.”
In his blog entry today, Pat wrote of Al Morhij, a Saudi-bred son of the Gone West stallion Race Leader: “There is some mild buzz around Nad Al Sheba about Al Morhij’s time in a February 13th race at Janadriah where he recorded a blitzing mile in 1:35 over the deep artificial surface. ‘He worked for it,’ [trainer Badar]Resaque indicated as I asked him if Al Morhij went easily or was ridden out in the race. Aside from that, Al Morhij was all over the Nad Al Sheba track this morning and the jockey nearly fell out of the irons, fighting him through the lane. I had difficulty determining whether or not Al Morhij was full of run and fighting the restraint or simply rank. Regardless, the connections have driven over to watch him intently each of the past two mornings and seemed to leave pleased.”
Al Morhij’s connections are Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and his sons, the owners of Janadria Farm. They have been slowly upgrading and improving the quality of “local-bred” horses in Saudi Arabia, and last fall the King and his sons were active at the Kentucky mixed sales, purchasing seven broodmares between Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton for $4.9 million under the banner of SKAS.
Al Morhij is out of the Pine Bluff mare Sweet Honey, an unraced half-sister to stakes winners Silver Crown, Powerful Punch ($873,379), and Silvery Topping. There are five stakes winners under the next dam, and the entire family is characterized by hard-hitting runners. Notable, too, is that Pine Bluff is the broodmare sire co-leader of unrestricted stakes winners through March 22, with four.
Al Morhij’s sire, Race Leader, was a European stakes winner who was second in the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre at 2 and a half-brother to to four-time Group 1 winner Golden Snake (by Danzig) and 1000 Guineas winner Sayyedati.
On February 13, Al Morhij won a 1600-meter race at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz racetrack for horses with “four wins and above” in the time of 1:35.29 by 6 lengths. One race later, the US-bred multiple Grade 3 winner Zakocity ($638,530 in US earnings) covered the same trip in 1:36.41.
Al Morhij’s race was not a fluke because in his prior start on Dec. 19, 2008, in a conditions race for horses with “1-3 wins,” the horse won by 5 1/2 lengths in 1:36.44 for the 1600 meters.
I scanned through a number of 1600-meter events at the track this year and could not find a faster race.