"Etched" botched his first Kentucky Derby prep in his Godolphin debut at Nad Al Sheba on Thursday night, as he finished a one-paced fourth behind race-winning Honour Devil, who was giving trainer Mike de Kock and owner Mohammed bin Khalifa al-Maktoum a second successive victory in the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas. Running for the first time since his handy victory in the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct on Oct. 28, Etched was reportedly fit and ready for this Group 3 mile, according to trainer Saeed bin Suroor - but events proved otherwise. Fifth behind leaders Paveroc and Honour Devil, he had a clear run approaching the four furlong post but showed nothing through the last two furlongs, crossing the line under Frankie Dettori six lengths behind the winner. A maiden winner in his Argentine debut last March, Honour Devil had scored an impressive 5 1/4-length victory in a seven-furlong Nad Al Sheba allowance on Jan. 24. Here, he and rider Johnny Murtagh prevailed by a hard-fought half-length over stablemate Royal Vintage, who was running for the first time since winning a seven-furlong Group 2 turf race in South Africa on June 2. It was another 3 3/4 lengths back to Etched's Argentine-bred Godolphin stablemate My Indy. Etched finished 2 3/4 lengths in front of another Godolphin runner, Aqueduct maiden winner Numaany, who was fifth. The time for the mile on a fast dirt track was 1:34.80, equaling Bachir's 2000 stakes mark and just 0.13 off Cornish Snow's 9-year-old track record. Following in the footsteps of last year's winner, Asiatic Boy, Honour Devil was giving Southern Hemisphere-breds their fifth UAE 2000 Guineas triumph in the last six years. Even the 4,5 kg edge that Etched was receiving on the scale from Honour Devil, as well as Royal Vintage and My Indy, failed to be a factor as Etched was beaten fairly and squarely. While this half-hearted effort does not disqualify Etched from Kentucky Derby consideration, it makes victory in the 1700 meter UAE Derby on March 29 virtually imperative if the Forestry colt is to line up at Churchill Downs. But in the UAE Derby he may again be faced with the imposing presence of Honour Devil and Royal Vintage, both of whom will run beforehand in the listed 1700 meter Al Bastikiya on World Cup Preview Night, March 6.
The Big G