Saudi Arabia prince to assess Epsom Derby credentials of Crossed Baton

Prince Khalid Abdullah could have a Derby winner on his hands in Crossed Baton. (Getty)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia prince to assess Epsom Derby credentials of Crossed Baton

  • Prince Khalid Adbullah's horse goes in the Dante Stakes on Thursday
  • No horse had ever lost the Dante Stakes and then prevailed at Epsom

Only one of Prince Khalid Adbullah’s three Derby winners at Epsom carried entirely obvious credentials going in to the famous race and connections of Crossed Baton are understandably looking to test what they have got in Thursday’s Dante Stakes at York.
Commander in Chief turned up to Epsom in 1993 unbeaten, whereas Quest For Fame three years earlier had been turned over in a three-runner Derby trial at Chester before his signature career triumph.
In 2010 Workforce had won only a maiden before he pitched up to York for the Dante, and his inexperience was there for all to see as he pulled the bit through his mouth and wandered around the track to lose what is considered the Derby trial nonpareil.
No horse had ever lost the Dante Stakes and then prevailed at Epsom, but Workforce developed rapidly on that steep learning curve and became the first horse in more than 50 years of Dante history to go on to score at Epsom. He did it in record time, too.
What the Saudi Prince has got on his hands with Crossed Baton, a horse whom he bred through his Juddmonte Farms operation, is hard to fathom after he showed the required ability, and more importantly the agility for a big horse, to win Epsom’s Derby trial three weeks ago. That, historically, has not been a strong race, but was upgraded to Listed status at the end of last season following the exploits of Cracksman, now rated the best horse in Europe, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed of Dubai’s tough but ill-fated Permian.
“Crossed Baton worked pleasingly on Friday morning,” Lord Grimthorpe, the owner’s racing manager said. “I felt it was a very solid performance at Epsom. It’s always difficult to make all there and he did that. The form is at least appreciable. With the Derby all things become engrossing and he has come through an Epsom trial, progressed pretty nicely physically and in his work he is going the right way. So he deserves a shot at the Dante.
“I think that will give us a pretty good idea. Then you have to look at what’s going (to Epsom) and assess your chances as realistically as possible. Obviously if there’s a chance he could be a serious Derby contender we want to give him that chance.”
That is hardly a ringing endorsement of his chances in the most important race in the world in two weeks, but this is trial season and dreams need to be turned in to reality. The son of top-class miler Dansili does not obviously have the breeding to indicate that he will be the strongest stayer over another two furlongs at Epsom on the first Saturday in June and today’s test could well see him win a battle along the way but ultimately lose the war.
The mount of Frankie Dettori faces eight rivals, with Roaring Lion, who beat Crossed Baton on their racecourse debuts at Newmarket in August, appearing the most likely winner.
Crossed Baton’s stablemate at Gosden’s Newmarket base is not an entirely straightforward ride for Oisin Muprhy, however, but was good enough to finish on the heels of Derby favorite Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas 12 days ago and again in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at the end of last season.
He is not the only danger. The Dubai Royal family fire a twin-pronged attack at the race with Charlie Appleby’s unbeaten Nordic Lights set to represent Godolphin, and Mildenberger, who showed he was worth a dice roll in the more exulted company for owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince Of Dubai, when a solid winner of a Listed race at Newmarket last month.
Aidan O’Brien is never short of a potential Derby runner and send over James Cook, who was fourth to Crossed Baton at Epsom, and Zabriskie from Ireland, while Wells Farhh Go, a winner at the track last season, and White Mocha complete the field.


Asian Cup heartbreak for Jordan as Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Green Falcons chase glory against Japan

Updated 54 min 17 sec ago
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Asian Cup heartbreak for Jordan as Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Green Falcons chase glory against Japan

  • After extra-time finished at 1-1, BT Dung rolled in the decisive spot-kick for a 4-2 shootout win for Vietnam
  • The dramatic win will definitely be considered an upset after Jordan were the first to qualify for the knockout stages

DUBAI: It was Asian Cup agony for Jordan on Sunday after Vietnam emerged victorious from a penalty shoot out to become the first team to reach the quarterfinals — after being the last side to scrape into the round of 16.
After extra-time finished at 1-1, BT Dung rolled in the decisive spot-kick for a 4-2 shootout win and saluted the crowd after Baha Faisal and Ahmed Samir had missed for Jordan.
The dramatic win will definitely be considered an upset after Jordan were the first to qualify for the knockout stages, and Vietnam only went through because of their disciplinary record after they finished with an identical points and goals record to Lebanon.
However, the south-east Asian champions came back from a goal down to force extra time, and they were, on balance, the stronger and more positive team over the 120 minutes of play.
Vital Borkelmans’ Jordan came into the game as the form side and they spurned a number of chances before opening the scoring six minutes from half-time.
Baha Abdel-Rahman, taking a free kick from the right edge of the penalty area, hit it just right as the ball bent around the wall and flew into the top corner.
However, the goal stung Vietnam into action and they nearly hit back when Hung Dung’s dipping shot was tipped over by Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafi.
Vietnam, who won the Suzuki Cup in December, levelled six minutes after the break, when Cong Phuong showed great technique to steer home a volley from close range.
On the hour-mark, Van Duc nearly snatched it for the Vietnamese but his dink over Shafi was hacked off the line by Anas Bani-Yaseen.
And Jordan’s Yaseen Bakheet had a great chance to grab the win in the first period of extra time, but from a high ball into the box he ballooned his volley over.
One could cut the tension in Dubai’s Al-Maktoum Stadium with a knife as the spot-kicks got underway and when Faisal hit the bar and Van Lam saved from Salih, Vietnam were very much in the driving seat.
Shafi, diving low, saved Minh Vuong’s attempt but it was only delaying defeat as Dung coolly netted the winner, giving a military salute in celebration before being mobbed by his team-mates.
Just 20 kilometers to the east, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi Arabia were adding the finishing touches to their preparations for the huge round of 16 clash with Japan in Sharjah, which kicks off today.
And the Argentine coach was in confident mood, despite the “Samurai Blue” being one of the favorites for the the title.
“We have great ambition, we are facing a main candidate for winning (the tournament), our confidence is in our team and we came into the tournament knowing it would be tough,” he said on Sunday.
“All of our players are ready, injury-free and available for the game.”
When asked about the defeat to Qatar in the last game, Pizzi said his Green Falcons side were using it as an opportunity to learn for their “do-or-die” clash with Japan.
“If we lose (on Sunday) then we go home, we know that.
“I have followed the Japanese team in the past few matches, and consider them as one of the best teams.
“They are among one of the most consistent and 10 out of 11 (first-team) players play abroad. I consider them as strong candidates to win, but I also trust my players abilities,” he said.
As has been his wont throughout the Asian Cup, Pizzi was keen to dedicate Saudi Arabia’s progress in the tournament to the fans.
“I know the history of the two teams, especially in World Cup qualification, and I am also aware of the joy of Saudi people when we qualified.
“You have to focus on what’s in front of you as all matches are different. We are highly committed toward our fans and we will play in the best manner to win because our fans deserve the best,” he added.