The royal blue silks of Godolphin were carried to an impressive victory in Thursday's $250,000 Al Bastakiya at Meydan, but not by Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Vale of York (Ire) (Invincible Spirit), who ran evenly in fifth. Instead, it was the lightly-raced MENDIP (Harlan's Holiday), a nominee to the American Triple Crown, who stormed to a 6 1/4-length triumph in his stakes debut. The Saeed bin Suroor colt extended his record to a perfect three-for-three, and in the process, stamped himself as a major player for the March 27 U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2).
The about 1 3/16-mile Al Bastakiya serves as the middle leg of the Dubai Triple Crown. The first leg, the February 18 U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-G3), went to Musir (Redoute's Choice). A champion in South Africa last year, Musir would have ranked as a key contender in the Al Bastakiya, but he wound up being scratched. Hence there will be no sweep of the Dubai Triple Crown this season.
Mendip did not contest the U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas, with his connections opting for a February 11 conditions race at about seven furlongs for his reappearance. The dark bay posted a comfortable success by a half-length that day, but was stepping up considerably in distance for the Al Bastakiya. He was also facing his first meaningful test of class.
Breaking from the far outside post 14 with Frankie Dettori, Mendip had enough tactical speed to angle over and track the front-running Della Barba (Della Francesca), who set a dawdling early pace. Meanwhile, Vale of York was overeager in his three-year-old bow, pulling on regular rider Ahmed Ajtebi as he raced a few lengths back on the outside.
Mendip was in the perfect striking position turning for home, and when Dettori turned him loose, he shot clear in style. After putting the race away in a matter of strides, Mendip continued to pour it on through the stretch to win with complete authority in a final time of 1:59 2/5 on the Tapeta.
"He is a horse we have always really liked, and the U.A.E. Derby is his main target," bin Suroor said.
Della Barba held on for second in a tightly-bunched finish. Godolphin's other runner, Enak (Orpen), checked in a neck adrift in third. Izaaj (Giant's Causeway) was a similar margin back in fourth, and a one-paced Vale of York was another half-length astern in fifth. Next came Solid Choice (Redoute's Choice), Uncle Tom (First American), Maroon Machine (Muhtathir [GB]), Saboteur (Shamardal), Landowner (Shamardal), Kona Coast (Oasis Dream [GB]), Storm Chispazo (Bernstein), Jardim (Ski Champ) and Moran Gra (Rahy).
The undefeated Mendip boosted his bankroll to $188,495. Based in England last year, he captured his only juvenile start over Kempton's Polytrack in September. It remains to be decided whether he will return to England, where he holds an entry in the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) on May 1, the same day as the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Bin Suroor spoke to Racing Post about possible plans for both Vale of York and Mendip.
"We cannot be too disappointed, as the early pace did not help Vale of York at all and we thought he would need the run," the trainer said. "He will be back for the U.A.E. Derby and only then, for both horses, will we decide their summer campaigns."
Bred by Jayeff B Stables in Kentucky, Mendip is the first registered foal from Well Spring (Coronado's Quest), and he has a juvenile full brother named Waterfall and an unnamed yearling half-sister by Latent Heat. Mendip's second dam is Test S. (G1) and Ballerina H. (G1) queen Chaposa Springs (Baldski), herself a half-sister to Metropolitan H. (G1) winner and sire You and I (Kris S.). Mendip has toured the sales ring twice. A $130,000 Keeneland September yearling, he attracted $375,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Calder two-year-old in training.