LOUISVILLE (WAVE) – You'd think it would be impossible for Kentucky Derby handicappers to ignore a colt that's owned by what is arguably the most influential breeding and racing operation in the world.
Yet that's the plight of Enticed, who will carry the royal blue silks of Godolphin Stable into Saturday's 144th Derby at Churchill Downs. Nobody is touting him. Nobody is paying attention to him. He might as well be invisible.
Of course, that's fine with Goldolphin's founder, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashad Al Maktoum, vice-president and premier of the United Arab Emitres and ruler of Dubai.
He's one of the world's most powerful and wealthy men, in other words, and there's no telling how many millions of dollars he has spent on well-bred young horses since he began indulging his childhood passion for racing.
In the late 1970s, when Sheikh Mohammed first began coming to Keeneland to buy royally-bred yearlings, he usually flew in on his private 727, which he had parked directly across from the track's main entrance.
It was impossible to miss the plane or the Sheikh's message: We're here and we're going to spend whatever it takes to get the yearlings we want.
His Highness has been rewarded handsomely with multiple victories in the Breeders Cup and various classics in America, Europe, and his home Dubai, where he built a stunning track in the desert and sponsors lucrative races such as the Dubai World Cup and UAE Derby, which always draws standout horses from around the world.
But Sheikh Mohammed has never won the Kentucky Derby, either with Godolphin or various partnerships. In 1992, for example, he owned Arazi, the winter-book Derby favorite, in partnership with airplane magnate Allen Paulsen.
Winner of the 1991 Breeders Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs because of one of the most breathtaking moves ever seen at the track, or anywhere else, for that matter. Arazi finished eighth to Lil E. Tee in the 1992 Derby.
Since 1999, Godolphin is 0-for-10 in the Derby, its best finish a fourth by Frosted in the 2015 race won by eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Last year Godolphin's Thunder Snow balked coming out of the starting gate and did not finish.
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Maybe Godolphin's Derby futility is why trainer Kieran McLaughlin, a native of Lexington, doesn't like to be in the middle of a bunch of reporters toting notepads and cameras. He knows he'll be asked repeatedly how Godolphin can spend so much money over the years without coming close to winning the Kentucky Derby.
The only answer is the Derby is something that money can't buy. It's all about luck and timing. Some horses are at their peak on the first Saturday in May, and some aren't. Even though he must wonder why his horses can't win the Derby while a Funny Cide or Mine That Bird can, Sheikh Mohammed never complains. He just keeps coming back.
Blue-collar America probably gets a certain amount of satisfaction out of Godolphin's frustration. There should be some things in life that money can't buy. Sheikh Mohammed has all the material things that this life can offer. Why should he also have a Kentucky Derby trophy?
But maybe Enticed, a son of the Godolphin stallion Medaglia D'Oro out of the Mineshift mare Tricky, will be the one Sheikh Mohammed has been awaiting. His credentials certainly suggest that the handicappers who are ignoring him could be making a big mistake.
Last Nov. 23, he won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill, and it's always been axiomatic that a win over the track is a real plus for a Derby horse. In his first start this season, he was favored in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, but finished only fourth to Audible, who later won the Florida Derby.
Shipped to New York, Enticed rolled to victory in the Grade II Gotham Stakes, a victory impressive enough to make him the favorite in the Wood Memorial on April 7. However, he was beaten three lengths by Vino Rosso, who was listed at 12-to-1 in the morning line to Enticed's 30-to-1.
The colt has been ridden in all starts by Junior Albarado, a native of Venezuela who has been riding in the U.S. since 2007. He was supposed to be named after his father Rafael, a prominent jockey in Venezuela, but his dad made a mistake in filling out the birth-certificate form, listing Junior as his first name.
Albarado and Enticed will break from the No. 12 post, and probably seek a position a few lengths off the lead. Handicappers say his breeding indicates he will like the Derby's mile and a quarter, a distance that none of the field has been asked to run.
Enticed arrived at Churchill on Monday afternoon from the Palm Springs Training Center, and was accompanied by stablemate Take Charge Paula, an entrant in Friday's Kentucky Oaks. McLaughlin, who arrived Monday night, said the colt will gallop up to the Derby.
Wherever they run in the world, Godolphin horses usually get more respect than poor Enticed has gotten this week at Churchill. But that good be a good thing.
Sometimes, in the crazy Kentucky Derby, forgotten horses comes up with a performance that will long be remembered.
Billy Reed is a longtime sportswriter who contributes regular columns to WAVE3.com.
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