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Master of The Seas Sails in Capturing Maker's Mark Mile

Godolphin runs 1-2 with Naval Power finishing second.

Master of The Seas wins the Maker's Mark Mile Stakes at Keeneland

Master of The Seas wins the Maker's Mark Mile Stakes at Keeneland

Mathea Kelley

One season after winning group or graded stakes in four different countries on three different continents, Master of The Seas looked as good as ever in opening his 6-year-old season with an emphatic win in the $517,775 Maker's Mark Mile Stakes (G1T) April 12 at Keeneland.

With regular rider William Buick also making the trip to the United States, Godolphin homebred Master of The Seas saved ground early while racing comfortably in third. The son of Dubawi then engaged the top two runners entering the stretch and for a few strides Buick tried to angle him out for the finish but that lane would be taken away by his group 2-winning stablemate Naval Power.

Seeing that, Buick redirected Master of The Seas inside and the classy gelding smoothly responded to those wishes, charging through a wide lane and quickly locking down the race as he drew off to a 2 1/4-length victory.

Buick acknowledged initially thinking he'd move outside.

"I wasn't sure where (Irad Ortiz Jr. on front-running Emmanuel) was going to go so I thought I better leave myself some options," Buick said. "He eventually did leave the rail and that was the obvious option to go in."

"When you have that much horse underneath you, you can do those sorts of maneuvers," said winning trainer Charlie Appleby, who also made the trip to Keeneland. "To be honest with you—and hindsight is always great—I think it was the right maneuver because Master of The Seas loves a target. If Will had managed to wheel him out, he might have got there too soon and then started to just think he's done enough. So having to just wait a stride or two longer was no harm."

WATCH: Master of The Seas Impresses in Maker's Mark Mile

In a seven-start campaign last year, Master of The Seas won the Zabeel Mile (G2T) in January at Meydan Racecourse, the Summer Mile Stakes (G2) in July at Ascot, the Woodbine Mile Stakes (G1T) in September at Woodbine, and the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) in November at Santa Anita Park. Appleby believes an early start to travel helps horses.

"At the end of the day, you've got to have the good horses, you have to have the engines, but I feel that the way we campaign our horses—starting them early enough in their careers, even if it's not shipping all the way to America—we ship them around Europe," Appleby said. "Therefore, hopefully they gain that experience early on and build on it as the years go on."

Friday's victory also avenged a close runner-up finish in Master of The Seas' previous start at Keeneland. In the Turf Mile Stakes (G1T) last fall, Up to the Mark  edged Master of The Seas by a nose for the win. That slim margin of victory helped land Up to the Mark an Eclipse Award as champion turf male of 2023 and may have cost Master of The Seas the honor. 

It would be a different story Friday as Master of The Seas, who appeared full of energy in the paddock and warming up on the muddy track, settled once the gate opened. He stalked from third as multiple graded stakes winner Emmanuel led the field through a half-mile in :49.2 and six furlongs through 1:12.89. Master of The Seas then launched his winning rally, completing the mile in 1:37.1 on a fast track.

Buick said the pre-race energy likely traced to the race being his first of the season.

"You could definitely see he was fresh coming out onto the track, but I was delighted to see him settle down some in the parade ring, settling down and walking better, because last year he was still on the muscle," Appleby said.

Adding to Godolphin's big day would be the runner-up finish by Naval Power, who rallied from last in the field of six to secure the first grade 1 or group 1 placing of his eight-race career that has included six victories. Appleby noted that it was the first U.S. start for the 4-year-old Teofilo gelding and he had a bit of a slow start. The trainer predicted that will improve next out.

"This was his first start Stateside so I kind of figured (he may have a slow start)," said jockey Tyler Gaffalione. "He got into a rhythm in the backstretch and I just followed Master of The Seas around there. A spot opened in the stretch and my horse responded. ... I'm very proud of his effort."

Also landing a top-level placing for the first time was West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing's Integration, a 4-year-old son of Quality Road  making just his fifth career start.

As for the winner, Appleby plans to keep him in the U.S. for his next start either in the May 4 Turf Classic Stakes (G1T) at Churchill Downs or the Fort Marcy Stakes (G2T) the same day at Aqueduct Racetrack. Both turf races are 1 1/8 miles.

Out of French stakes winner Firth of Lorne, a daughter of Danehill, Master of The Seas is half brother to group 3 winner Falls of Lora and stakes winners Latharnach and Etive.

Based in England at Godolphin's Dalham Hall Stud, powerhouse Dubawi has finished as leading sire in France in 2015 and Ireland in 2022. He already boasts a previous top-level win this season with a horse familiar to U.S. fans as 2022 Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T) winner Rebel's Romance won the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1T) on the Dubai World Cup (G1) undercard. Other group/graded stakes winners this year for Dubawi include Warren Point, Siskany, Francesco Clemente, and Military Law.

Video: Maker's Mark Mile S. (G1T)