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Mubtaahij a Puzzle for 2015 Kentucky Derby Bettors

Mubtaahij a Puzzle for 2015 Kentucky Derby Bettors: Analyzing spring three-year-old races held in America is an annual challenge for handicappers. The debate over which region held the toughest events goes on right now. Imagine the difficulty in deciding where a horse that only raced in Dubai this year fits into the puzzle. Figuring out where the GII UAE Derby champion Mubtaahij fits will pose a problem, as most racing fans here do not follow international racing close enough to gain a feeling for what kind of horses Mubtaahij defeated. But, Mubtaahij does offer some clear positives for bettors as well.

Mubtaahij

If Mubtaahij fires his best race, even without lasix, then he will likely hit the board in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. Even so, whether he runs the same in America or not remains a mystery. Photo: Arlington International

Without knowing the field quality of his starts, Mubtaahij has looked great in Dubai, even when he lost the GIII UAE Guineas 2000. To be fair, he received a good trip saving ground and finding an opening turning for home. When Mubtaahij found the opening, he accelerated beautifully and opened up on most of the field. Unfortunately, Maftool accelerated equally on the outside and edged out Mubtaahij for the win. They both ran well, with a large margin back to third place.

In Mubtaahij’s next start, the ungraded Al Basktakiya without Maftool, he had another comfortable trip sitting just off the leaders on the outside. Some handicappers might note Mubtaahij ran three wide for the entire far side. When they turned for home, only Sir Fever put up a fight and Mubtaahij outdueled him. Again, the field separated nicely towards the end.

Mubtaahij is best known for his last start, when he won the UAE Derby impressively in front of a worldwide audience. The trip was good also, as he sat inside and waited patiently for the four-horse speed duel in front to collapse. Once they turned for home, Mubtaahij powered home, while his rival Maftool struggled to come late for second. Perhaps the added distance benefited Mubtaahij and hindered Maftool.

From watching these replays, Mubtaahij appears versatile and saves his best kick for the last quarter. He takes dirt in the face well. In the Kentucky Derby, nearly all closers will take some dirt, especially the ones that save ground. In addition, Mubtaahij possesses tactical speed, which remains a positive because the horse can position himself better. The truly deep closers, in other words any horse emulating Mine That Bird, must negotiate more traffic. Most recent editions of this race turn into a staggerfest in the stretch. If Mubtaahij cuts his way through the field, the turn of foot displayed overseas would come in extremely handy.

Ask this question though: if Dortmund or American Pharoah were in the UAE Derby, where would they have finished? Some horses that ran behind Mubtaahij had nice pedigrees, including the fifth place finisher Tap That, whose dam is a sibling to the former Bob Baffert star Flashback. Third place Golden Barrows is a son of hot American sire Tapit too. Still, without watching Japanese racing daily, who really knows how good those two horses are?

The other huge question mark is whether not using lasix makes Mubtaahij a step behind his American opponents by default. Some people believe that lasix simply lets a horse run to his true potential. Others think that lasix acts as a performance enhancer, regardless of any legitimate benefits. Mubtaahij will run without lasix in the Kentucky Derby and handicappers need to decide whether this makes a difference. The last non-lasix Derby winner came in 1996.

At least, Timeform ranks Mubtaahij high on their numbers. Then again, the TimeformUS speed figure guru uses a different method than their overseas counterpart. Use caution before thinking the Timeform numbers around the world automatically match their scale here.

Certainly, Mubtaahij’s value fits into the equation. If bettors think his fair win odds are 10/1, and he opens at 15/1, then placing a win bet on him is a good idea. Many bettors will think about Mubtaahij’s closing ability and include him underneath in exotics. Trainer Michael de Kock owns a good record when sending horses over here. If Mubtaahij fires his best race, even without lasix, then he will likely hit the board. Even so, whether he runs the same in America or not remains a mystery.

The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby is set to take place at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Gates open early at 8:00 am ET with post time for the first race at 10:30 am ET. Post time for the Kentucky Oaks is approximately 5:45 pm ET on Friday May 1, 2015. Post time for the Kentucky Derby is approximately 6:24 pm ET. Visit KentuckyDerby.com for official information.

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