DUBAI WORLD CUP: Pavel Full of Promise; DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC: Garlingari Gets Green Light; DUBAI TURF: Vivlos Revving Up
DUBAI WORLD CUP: Pavel Full of Promise
DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC: Garlingari Gets Green Light
DUBAI TURF: Vivlos Revving Up
DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN: X Y Jet Back Flying High
AL QUOZ SPRINT: Ertijaal Gets Test Run
UAE DERBY: Ruggero One to Watch
GODOLPHIN MILE: Heavy Metal Weighs In
DUBAI GOLD CUP: Vazirabad on Schedule
DUBAI WORLD CUP: Pavel Full of Promise – Hopes have always been high for Doug O’Neill trainee and Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (Group 1)-bound Pavel (pronounced ‘PAH-vell’), but the Reddam Racing-owned son of Creative Cause has consistently given his conditioner every indication that he can live up to them. A good-looking, well-balanced and athletic gray colt, Pavel has continuously caught the eye physically, but it is within the Grade 3 winner’s work and constitution that his two-time Kentucky Derby-conquering and five-time Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer has seen prodigious potential.
“He really has a lot of class,” O’Neill said. “He covers a lot of ground and has a tremendous amount of stamina. On top of that, he has a lot of speed, so he can place himself. Those three –class, stride and stamina – really separate him from the average horse of his caliber.”
Lightly raced and heavily challenged so far in his seven-race career, the Brereton C. Jones and WinStar Farm-bred 4-year-old did not begin his career until July 1st of last year, winning a Santa Anita maiden special weight so impressively over 1300m that his trainer shipped him across America to Saratoga to take on the Kentucky Derby (Group 1) and Preakness (Group 1) winners four weeks later in the 1800m Jim Dandy (Group 2). He wound up finishing a head behind the former, Always Dreaming, and the same margin to the good of the latter, Cloud Computing.
One start later, he outclassed all in the 1700m Smarty Jones Stakes (Group 3) at Parx in a measured romp before finishing a game third in the prestigious 2000m Jockey Club Gold Cup (Group 1) behind Diversify and Keen Ice – amazingly just his fourth start. After a 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Group 1), he was fourth in a pair of Santa Anita starts that were arguably better efforts than they appear on paper – especially last out in the San Pasqual (Group 2) over 1700m.
“I’m really excited about him,” O’Neill continued. “He’s in a consistent place right now and he’s very fit and ready. In (the San Pasqual), it was very unfortunate with all the traffic trouble he had. I’m very, very happy with how he’s doing right now. He’s acting like he’s going to run the best race of his life and he would need to in order to win the Dubai World Cup.
“He’s a proven shipper who eats well and you need a horse who takes his track with him like he does,” he continued. “He checks all the boxes and has the characteristics you look for when shipping to Dubai and could be very successful. Horses of that quality, sometimes it’s just a matter of staying happy and healthy during the trip.”
O’Neill has shipped across the globe with success before. In 2007, he won the Godolphin Mile (Group 2) with Spring At Last, also donning J. Paul Reddam’s purple and white colors, and in 2003 the 49-year-old won the Japan Cup Dirt (Group 1), now the Champions Cup (Group 1), with Fleetstreet Dancer.
“Pavel has displayed that if he has a clean trip and is somewhere near the action, he’s going to be a force,” O’Neill concluded. “Sometimes it even takes a great horse a little time to figure it out. He has it in him.”
Reddam was second in the 2006 Dubai World Cup with Craig Dollase-trained Wilko.
The local picture for the Dubai World Cup will naturally become a lot clearer after Super Saturday’s course and distance prep, the Group 1 $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3. Godolphin’s 2017 UAE Derby (Group 2) and last-out Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (Group 2) winner Thunder Snow will be take on the likes of 2017 Godolphin Mile (Group 2) winner Second Summer, improving Round 2 runner-up North America, Group 1 winner Special Fighter, gritty globetrotting mare Furia Cruzada and highly promising Godolphin banner-mate Boynton.
On Tuesday in France, Godolphin’s top-rated hope for the $10-million international showcase, the flashy Talismanic, aced his prep in eye-catching style. The emblazoned bay took the 1900m Listed Prix Darshaan over the Chantilly all-weather, beating Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (Group 1)-bound stablemate Cloth of Stars decisively under jockey Maxime Guyon. Talsimanic’s regular rider Mickael Barzalona was aboard the latter.
A win on March 31st would be a first for iconic French trainer Andre Fabre in the race – one of the few races of this magnitude he has yet to win. The closest Fabre has come was a game third with Loup Sauvage in 1998, who had the misfortune of running into titans Silver Charm and Swain, losing by 2½ lengths.
In America, all eyes will be on the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap (Group 1), where both Mubtaahij and Hoppertunity are expected to spar for trainer Bob Baffert. The three-time Dubai World Cup-winning trainer already has Dubai World Cup favourite West Coast ready to ship, but could have as many as three in the race if each of those run well and bounce out just the same.
Current Dubai World Cup Possibles (not necessarily invitees): West Coast, Forever Unbridled, Talismanic, Thunder Snow, Mubtaahij, Pavel, Diversify, Awardee, Hoppertunity, North America, Second Summer, Furia Cruzada, Special Fighter
DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC: Garlingari Gets Green Light – Over the European classic distance of 2400m on turf, it is no surprise that contenders from said continent loom large in the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (Group 1) at this stage.
France’s Garlingari is the latest to join the bunch. A two-time Group 2 winner, he has improved with age for breeder-owner-trainer Corine Barande-Barbe, the same horsewoman who crafted the great career of Cirrus des Aigles.
Recovering from his ninth two back in the Hong Kong Cup (Group 1), the 7-year-old son of Linngar outclassed foes on February 24th in Listed company and will now prep in the Prix Exbury (Group 3) on March 17th before heading to Dubai to compete in the same race Cirrus des Aigles won in 2012 and was second in 2014.
Godolphin’s Cloth of Stars, the highest-rated expected starter, had his final prep when second to Andre Fabre-trained stablemate Talismanic in the Prix Darshaan over 1900m on Chantilly’s all-weather track on Tuesday. The son of Sea the Stars was a Group 1 winner last year and earned his lofty 125 rating when second to Enable in last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Group 1).
Still, he has to prove he can be a decisive winner against the highest point of the Group 1 range.
Godolphin has backup in the form of Charlie Appleby-conditioned 2016 Coral-Eclipse (Group 1) winner Hawkbill, who returns on Super Saturday at Meydan as the likely favourite in the Dubai Sheema Classic’s course and distance prep, the $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (Group 2).
A trio of Group 1-placed foes appear the dangers, including brilliantly bred Group 1-placed 5-year-old Frontiersman, a son of Dubawi and wonder-mare Ouija Board, talented upstart Called to the Bar and impressive last-out Carnival winner Best Solution.
Japan looks very tough this year, with freshly crowned 2017 champion 3-year-old Rey de Oro and multiple Group 1 winner Satono Crown being joined by improving mare Mozu Katchan as pointing toward the race. While Satono Crown, 6, has been a mainstay at the top level of east Asian racing for four consecutive years, Mozu Katchan is on the rise and displayed top form when taking the 2200m Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Group 1) in November, Japan’s top race for fillies and mares.
As is the way of the Group 1 racing world, all eyes will await who shows up for the powerful Ballydoyle operation of Aidan O’Brien. The conditioner of a world record 28 Group 1 events in 2017 has a plethora of options, but the most likely at this point could be Idaho, already a well-versed tourist.
The dual Derby-placed full-brother to seven-time Group 1 winner Highland Reel could be joined by a couple others from his yard, including all-weather enthusiast Clear Skies.
Current Longines Dubai Sheema Classic possibles (not necessarily invitees): Cloth of Stars, Satono Crown, Hawkbill, Rey de Oro, Idaho, Mozu Katchan, Clear Skies, Frontiersman, Called to the Bar, Best Solution
DUBAI TURF: Vivlos Revving Up – Defending champion Vivlos was brilliant taking the 2017 edition of the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (Group 1) and this year is apparently impressing her connections with her preparation for a defence.
“She is in even better condition now than she was last year,” said Yasuo Tomomichi, who trains the 5-year-old nearly black mare for former Seattle Mariners pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki.
The daughter of the great Deep Impact has not won since overtaking Heshem and Ribchester in the final 100m last year and it appears she must fire her best shot to win this year, as two horses who have beaten her in the past back home, Crocosmia and Neorealism, are pointing toward the 1800m event. Japan’s quintet of possibles also includes 2016 Dubai Turf winner Real Steel and Deirdre, whose call to fame was a win in the Shuka Sho, much like Vivlos last year.
The Jebel Hatta (Group 1) will tell the locals a few things on Super Saturday, not the least of which is whether improving and recently dominant Benbatl can win at the top level. His well-fancied fellow Saeed bin Suroor-trained female companion Promising Run also sports a pair of Group victories during the Carnival and will get plenty of respect in the 1800m grass event. On the other side of Godolphin’s training ranks, Charlie Appleby will be represented by Folkswood, who was second in this event last year, third to the great Winx last fall in the Cox Plate (Group 1) in Australia and returned a smart winner here in the 2000m Dubai Millennium (Group 3) on February 22nd.
Perhaps the most intriguing horse in the race is Whisky Baron, who should improve off his game fourth last out in the Zabeel Mile (Group 2) behind Mike de Kock-trained fellow South African Janoobi. The stretch out should also be to the liking of the son of Manhattan Rain, as he won his country’s top event, the J & B Met (Group 1) over 2000m at Kenilworth 14 months ago.
There is a possibility of getting well-travelled Lancaster Bomber from Ballydoyle, but such has yet to be confirmed by trainer Aidan O’Brien and the now-proverbial Lads. Another from the yard’s enviable rolodex who may have it on his radar is Group 1 winner Deauville. More will be revealed soon, but one can be certain that whoever O’Brien deems worth sending is worth regarding highly for the prize.
In France, hopeful Trais Fluors ran well, but ultimately disappointed in his comeback race at Chantilly over its all-weather surface when second to Hunaina as the 4-5 favourite. Trained by Andre Fabre, the son of Dansili had been off 205 days and is a proven Group 1-level horse, having finished second to Thunder Snow in the Prix Jean Prat (Group 1) and a fine fourth in the Prix Jacques le Marois (Group 1).
Current Dubai Turf Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Vivlos, Benbatl, Lancaster Bomber, Deauville, Promising Run, Championship, Noah from Goa, Thunder Snow, War Decree, Janoobi, Furia Cruzada, Neorealism, Real Steel, Crocosmia, Deirdre, Trais Fluors
DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN: X Y JET Back Flying High – Multiple graded stakes-winning X Y Jet continues his impressive comeback from a string of injury-laden layoffs. The 2016 Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (Group 1) beaten favourite and runner-up has conditioner Jorge Navarro, also the trainer of expected Godolphin Mile (Group 2) favourite Sharp Azteca, excited for this year’s 1200m event, despite the strength of the field expected.
After racing only twice between March 26, 2016, and December 23, 2017, the muscular gray gelding won three consecutive stakes this winter, including a romp last out in the Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 17th and a sharp comeback in the Mr. Prospector (Group 3). He has since given his connections positive vibes in spades as he prepares to ship over from his South Florida base.
“He’s just one of the boys of the barn,” Navarro said. “I really like our chances going into the race – perhaps just as good or better than Sharp Azteca’s. Everything has gone right for him since he came back and he ran a huge race last out at Tampa.
It was a gutsy call to take him up there and I stressed about it for two weeks, but I’m glad we did. Now I don’t have to put six or seven works in him and he will be ready (because of that race).
“He hasn’t been an easy horse to train because you have to figure him out,” Navarro continued. “He’s an old warrior with battle wounds, so you just have to manage him and let him tell you when he’s ready to do things. His attitude hasn’t changed at all. He’s still a mean horse who wants to tear you up sometimes and (when he runs) he loves the competition, but he also protects himself.”
Owned by Rockingham Ranch and Sharp Azteca’s owner Gelfenstein Farm, X Y Jet will be joined in the gate by some of the top sprinters in the world, including his own banner-mate, champion American sprinter Roy H, who is trained by Peter Miller. Still, Navarro remains confident that his charge will give him every chance of taking home a personally coveted Dubai prize.
“When we did the last surgery on him, there was worry that he wouldn’t come back, but I knew that he would let us know,” Navarro said. “We really took our time with him and he was in the barn for seven months before he started galloping. It has paid off and now he’s doing extremely well.
“Walking into Meydan… I can’t explain it,” Navarro concluded. “It’s like going to the top of the racing world and is just a thrill. I was a hotwalker when I started and wasn’t supposed to be doing what I’m doing right now. To have a chance to win those two races… I can’t explain what that would feel like. There are Derbies and Breeders’ Cups out there, but this is Dubai, and to think that I could win one or both is pretty amazing.”
In other news, Roy H worked a solid 600m on Wednesday morning and remains on target for the Dubai Golden Shaheen, skipping the Triple Bend (Group 1), as does defending champion and revenge-seeking Mind Your Biscuits, who was third to him in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Group 1) in November.
Locally, Comicas and My Catch get a chance at a tiebreaker on the Carnival when the respective Dubawi (Group 3) and Al Shindagha Sprint (Group 3) winners clash in Super Saturday’s Mahab Al Shimaal (Group 3), the 1200m course and distance prep for the Dubai Golden Shaheen. It is worth noting that the latter, who adores low barrier draws and a rail-skimming ride, drew poorly in post 10 of 11. The frontrunner has speed to his inside and outside in Yalta (post 8) and Raven’s Corner (post 11).
In Japan, a pair of solid sprinters are confirmed as pointing toward the race. Group 3 winner Dios Corrida, a four-time stakes winner over this distance, will take a second shot at the race after finishing 11th last year. Appearing to be in better form, he won three of his final four races in 2017, including the Capella Stakes (Group 3) at Nakayama for trainer Yoshitada Takahashi. He will possibly be joined by Matera Sky, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Speightstown who has shown promise this season with a pair of 1200m dirt stakes wins, including the Kashihara Stakes at Kyoto on February 17th.
Current Dubai Golden Shaheen Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Roy H, Mind Your Biscuits, Takaful, X Y Jet, Matera Sky, Dios Corrida, D B Pin, My Catch, Comicas, Reynaldothewizard, Raven’s Corner, Muarrab, Yalta
AL QUOZ SPRINT: Ertijaal Gets Test Run – A course and distance prep is in the works for Super Saturday in the form of the $200,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint and local hero Ertijaal surprisingly showed up in the entries with intention to run. A gritty winner over possible Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments (Group 1) favourite Blue Point just two weeks ago, he will not have an easy go of it when he takes on the likes of Baccarat, D’Bai and Jungle Cat – a fierce triumvirate from Blue Point’s team of Godolphin and Charlie Appleby.
“We wanted to give him a chance over the 1200m, so he is going to run,” said Gilani Siddiqui, assistant trainer to Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. “He’s training well. We will have another three weeks to the Al Quoz after that.”
Meanwhile, Ballydoyle is still figuring out its plans for Al Quoz Sprint runners, but one would imagine that strong possibilities will be Washington DC or perhaps sophomore Declarationofpeace – two proven shippers who flashed solid form when going from Ireland to California last November. The former ran credibly in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (Group 1) and the latter won on the undercard – both races over 1000m.
Speaking of America, Gary Barber’s Conquest Tsunami is on the bubble after running a huge race to defeat Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal decisively over the about-1300m down the Santa Anita turf hill in the Daytona (Group 3).
Whether he runs for trainer Peter Miller or Mark Casse is uncertain, as he has swapped between their barns in the past. Either way, each trainer has an additional horse pointing toward the event – Richard’s Boy for Miller and Holding Gold for Casse. Miller-trained Stormy Liberal, at this point, appears a soft maybe, while his stablemate Richard’s Boy (a solid fifth last year after a slow start) worked well this week toward his possible return date in Dubai.
The Europeans at this point appear quite strong. Group 1 winners Brando and Librisa Breeze are considered possibilities, while Rosa Imperial is expected to start for Godolphin and Andre Fabre.
Current Al Quoz Sprint Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Ertijaal, Baccarat, Faatinah, Richard’s Boy, Music Magnate, Librisa Breeze, D’Bai, Declarationofpeace, Washington DC, Stormy Liberal, Jungle Cat, Hit the Bid, Steady Pace, Holding Gold, Brando, Supido, Illustrious Lad
UAE DERBY: Ruggero One to Watch – Talented Japanese sophomore Ruggero adds no small amount of intrigue heading into the UAE Derby sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (Group 2). In a race that is looking like a showdown between Godolphin’s Gold Town and Coolmore’s Mendelssohn, it is highly exciting to see a proven dirt stakes winner adding flavour from Japan. A winner of the Cattleya Sho over 1600m on November 25th, he exits a good third in the Hyacinth Stakes over the same course and distance at Tokyo Racecourse.
A great-grandson of Sunday Silence, he is out of a mare by 1999 Dubai World Cup (Group 1) winner Almutawakel. His dam, Silver Cup, won the Italian 1000 Guineas (Premio Regina Elena) and a pair of Group 2s for Martin Schwartz and trainer Bobby Frankel in the United States.
Another from Japan, Taiki Ferveur, is a possibility to make the trip. A progressive type, he began to wake up at the tail end of his juvenile season and was a fine second, one spot to the good of Ruggero, in the Hyacinth Stakes, the same race Epicharis used en route to a nose loss last year in the UAE Derby.
The Al Bastikiya (Listed) over the UAE Derby’s course and 1900m distance will give locals a better idea of who will move on to the big day. Masar, the highest rated in the field, makes his dirt debut for Charlie Appleby, but one must also respect stablemate Last Voyage, who ran on well to be third in the UAE 2000 Guineas (Group 3) over a 1600m trip that seems well below his long-striding optimum. Another worth watching is Yulong Warrior, who should relish the step up in trip from a 1600m maiden victory, being a son of Street Cry (like Gold Town) out of a Bernardini mare from the family of multiple Group 1 winner Wild Rush.
Current UAE Derby Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Mendelssohn, Taiki Ferveur, Ruggero, Gold Town, Seahenge, Threeandfourpence, Gotti, Masar, Yulong Warrior, Last Voyage, All Out Blitz
GODOLPHIN MILE: Heavy Metal Weighs In – While much of the talk about the Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One (Group 1) is about American invader Sharp Azteca, no dirt miler in the world has been more impressive this year than Heavy Metal and the speed demon will go for yet another Group victory in the $200,000 Burj Nahar (Group 3) on Super Saturday.
Mickael Barzalona rides from the outside post 13, which could easily be to his advantage when avoiding an early squeeze and assuring clearance with his usual burst out of the barrier. ‘Mr. Godolphin Mile’ trainer Doug Watson will send out graded stakes-placed Kimbear and Keeneland track record setter Drafted, with the former expected to show much more speed out of the gate and the latter a confirmed closer.
Last year’s Godolphin Mile (Group 2) runner-up Ross, one of the more vocal horses on the grounds during morning track work, brings back-class and some impressive morning gallops that hint that a step up is possible. Hong Kong raider Classic Emperor will get a second chance at a full race with the jockey in the saddle when he breaks from post seven under rising star of the saddle Oisin Murphy.
Elsewhere, a pair of Japanese dirt horses appear to be on their way in Adirato and Akito Crescent, according to JRA officials. The former is a stunning horse on the physical whose three wins have all been at 1400m. Last year, he was a disappointing 12th in the UAE Derby (Group 2) after a poor draw and showing speed.
Akito Crescent, one of the rare sons of American champion and breeding-ambivalent War Emblem, was a good third in the Tokyo Chunichi Sports Hai Musashino Stakes (Group 3) over this trip on left-handed Tokyo Racecourse in November. A dual stakes winner, he took the 1400m Galaxy Stakes on December 24th and returned to finish 12th in the Negishi Stakes (Group 3) over sloppy conditions.
Current Godolphin Mile Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Heavy Metal, Ross, Kimbear, Boynton, Classic Emperor, Adirato, Akito Crescent
DUBAI GOLD CUP: Vazirabad on Schedule – Two-time $1 million Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors (Group 2) winner Vazirabad proved that his preparation is right on schedule for trainer Alain de Royer Dupre last week in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (Group 3), rallying to be a game second behind Rare Rhythm under Christophe Soumillon. The Aga Khan homebred appeared to take the race well, training enthusiastically this week.
“The main goal is the Dubai Gold Cup, again,” de Royer Dupre said. “The older horses like him, you don’t have to train too strong because they know what to do. I think he likes the track here and likes the turn and also he prefers
to turn right.
“Normally we stop the season when the ground isn’t too firm and then he had an injury, but is okay now,” de Royer Dupre continued.
“What makes him good, his main quality, is his turn-of-foot. He has a very, very good acceleration and can pass horses. He is one of the best (I have trained).”
Other Dubai Gold Cup Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Sheikhzayedroad, Torcedor, Big Orange, Zamaam, Los Barbados, Prince of Arran, Rare Rhythm