Three of the five foreign winners—Tempera, Fantastic Light and Johannesburg—are Kentucky-breds. "The Arabs and the Irish are beating us up with their wallets, not their horsemanship," said U.S. trainer Bill Mott, standing in the paddock after Fantastic Light's victory. "I've been the underbidder to those guys on several yearlings. They've got money to spend, so they're getting the best horses."
Arabs have worked U.S. yearling sales for two decades, spending hundreds of millions of dollars. "You know how, when you go to Kentucky, you see the miles and miles of white fences around the [breeding] farms?" says trainer Bob Baffert. "There would be a lot less white fence in Kentucky if it wasn't for the Arabs."
It is inevitable that aggressive, wealthy outfits like Godolphin, Prince Ahmed bin Salman's Thoroughbred Corporation and that of Michael Tabor of Britain, who co-owns both Johannesburg and Galileo (winner of the Irish Derby and sixth in Saturday's Classic), will continue to win big races. Europeans have always been strong in grass events, but on Saturday, Tempera and Johannesburg won on dirt. "They're learning how to beat us at the American game," says trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "You can see it in the pedigrees they're buying, hi the beginning they took Nijinskys, which are good on the turf. Now they buy from other lines that have speed on dirt."
Godolphin in particular is obsessed with winning the Kentucky Derby. To that end, last year the stable began sending 2-year-olds to train for the summer with former Baffert assistant Eoin Harty in California, a program that readied Tempera for the Breeders' Cup. So far, Godolphin hasn't conceded that any of its 60 juveniles need to race in the U.S. as 3-year-olds, before the Derby. "That won't change," says Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford.
Yet the group's passion is palpable. "I remember when I won the '99 Derby with Charismatic," says Lukas. "I was on the infield for the trophy presentation, and [ Godolphin's] whole group just stood by the opening to the infield and soaked up the presentation. Nobody does that when they don't win."
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