The new experience of shipping Kentucky Derby contender Mubtaahij from Dubai to Kentucky has required improvising from trainer Mike de Kock -- but when it comes to racing without raceday medication, the respected South African-based conditioner will not change the Dubawi colt's routine.
Mubtaahij has never raced on the anti-bleeding medication furosemide (Salix, commonly called Lasix) and the U.A.E. Derby Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group winner will run without it in the May 2 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the first horse in 10 years to do so.
"He's never run on it, he doesn't bleed, and I'm not prepared to take my chances running him on a substance he's never run on before," de Kock said. "He's good enough without it. I'm not experienced enough to say whether Thoroughbreds in general will or won't run well on Lasix, but [in South Africa] we only use it in training in very minute doses and he doesn't bleed so he's never had it.
"If I gave him Lasix he may run better, he may run worse, but I'm not going to experiment. Lasix is not even a consideration for him."
The most recent horse to race in the Kentucky Derby without Lasix was B. Wayne Hughes' fourth-place finisher Don't Get Mad in 2005. The year before, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Lion Heart finished second, without the medication, to winner Smarty Jones . The most recent horse to win the Derby without Lasix was Overbrook Farm's Grindstone in 1996.
Mubtaahij, who has started five times in Dubai and twice in England, already faces some changes in routine. Because of international shipping regulations, the colt's usual groom was not allowed to travel with him to the U.S. Also, a special feed mix developed by de Kock was not permitted in the country. Mubtaahij will enter the biggest test of his career on a new diet.
"You've got to be adaptable, so we're doing a bit of thinking on our feet," the trainer remarked.
The pre-race schedule also is being changed a bit for Mubtaahij, who originally was scheduled to spend two days in quararantine at Arlington International Racecourse before shipping to the privately owned Skylight Training Center near Goshen, Ky., and then to Churchill . The 3-year-old Irish-bred son of Dubawi, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, will now remain at Arlington after quarantine before shipping to Churchill.
"We just felt it might be better for the horse to settle down there on the Polytrack," said de Kock, who in 2013 sent The Apache to compete in the Arlington Million. "We're very familiar with Arlington Park, and very comfortable and welcomed at Arlington Park by some lovely people, so it does make it a good place for him to train."
Mubtaahij, who was shipped from Dubai April 15, is scheduled to breeze on the synthetic surface at Arlington before being vanned to Churchill the evening of April 27. The trainer himself is scheduled to arrive in Kentucky April 26.
"He'll work at Arlington and I'm hoping to show him Louisville on [Derby week] Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, paddock schooling and going to the gate and those sorts of things," de Kock said.
De Kock will be sending out his first Derby starter in Mubtaahij, who won the UAE Derby by a dazzling eight lengths after taking the Al Bastakiya Sponsored by Emirates Skywards and getting beat a head in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors. By winning the last two legs of the UAE Triple Crown at about 1-3/16 miles, he becomes only the second horse, along with Canonero II, to compete in the Derby having run in two races longer than 1-1/8 miles.
Frank Angst contributed to this story.