Thursday, August 6, 2020
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Classic glory beckons for Ihtimal in two continents

Dubai: While Ihtimal has emerged as a serious Classic contender for Godolpin following her breath-taking UAE Oaks victory, it will be interesting to see if she runs in the UAE Derby (G2) or will be preserved for a more challenging European campaign.

While both her trainer, Saeed Bin Surour, and jockey, Silvestre de Souza, appear committed to a tilt at the Derby on Dubai World Cup night in four weeks time,, it remains to be seen if the Qipco 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 4, may have a bigger influence on the decision making.

Ihtimal is clearly one of the most exciting prospects Godolphin have unearthed over the last two seasons, and perhaps she is as good a filly as Blue Bunting was when she won the Newmarket Classic three years ago.

She may still be a baby with only eight races under her belt, but the manner of her four victories, and in particularly her most recent in the UAE Oaks at Meydan last week, suggest she is a horse that has so much more to offer. Which may seem a wild boast considering she won that race by 10 lengths, and was by no means huffing and puffing when flying past the finishing post on the Meydan all-weather.

The obvious option would be to aim her at the UAE Derby and to allow her a chance to take on the boys and create a piece of history for herself as only the second filly to win the Classic after Khawlah in 2011.

But in that case what of Newmarket? Will she have adequate time to recover from those exertions, travel to Newmarket and be fit and ready to take on the best fillies in Europe at the Rowley Mile course.

Perhaps yes, and that’s what most of us will say, as we would love to see her run again in a race like the UAE Derby.

Bred by Darley in Ireland, Ihtimal has fast become a favourite of Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour, who has seen many top class horses of her ilk pass through his hands. But even he makes it a point to emphasis just how special a horse she is.

“Ihtimal ran a huge race and I was very happy with her performance. She showed her class and displayed her impressive turn of foot again,” he said on the stable’s website after the Oaks.

“The distance suited her and she improved on her win in the UAE 1000 Guineas.

“We will keep the options open for her now. She could head for the UAE Derby on World Cup Night (March 29) or go to Newmarket for the QIPCO 1000 Guineas (May 4).”

Bin Surour also revealed that the final decision on which race Ihtimal will head to next rests entirely on His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who is the founder and creative head of Godolphin.

“She’s a horse that can handle both the all-weather and the turf, but His Highness Shaikh Mohammad will decide which race to go for,” he said.

Meanwhile, bookmakers in the UK took heed of her Oaks romp and have once more slashed her odds for the Newmarket showpiece.

In a market headed by Oh So Sharp Stakes (G3) scorer Miss France (Andre Fabre) Ihtimal is still an attractive 9/1 chance with oddsmaker Betfairwith Molyglar Stud Stakes (G1) third Tapestrythe 7-1 second favourite. Shadwell Fillies Mile (G1) runner-up Rizeena shares favouritism with Ihtimal.

Godolphin has won the Newmarket Guineas three times with Blue Bunting (2011), Kazzia (2002) and Cape Very (1998). Will Ihtimal, should she take her place in the starting line-up, make it a fourth for the Boys In Blue?

But for the moment, lets hope she gets a chance to take on the colts at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night.