DUBAI WORLD CUP: West Coast and Forever Unbridled Fire Warning Shots.
Two multiple Grade 1-winning newly crowned American champions who have never met have each fired warning shots leading into their expected clash a world away in the $10 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1).
Gary and Mary West’s West Coast, champion 3-year-old of 2017, worked about-1200m in 1:11.80, the fastest of 17 breezes at the distance at Santa Anita Park in greater Los Angeles. The son of 2000 champion 2-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Caressing is trained by three-time Dubai World Cup winner Bob Baffert. Breaking off about five lengths behind stakes-winning stablemate Cat Burglar, he inhaled his workmate at the top of the stretch and easily cleared him in the lane to stride out impressively.
Meanwhile, a few days prior, one of his main rivals burned up the track in the Big Easy. Charles Fipke’s Dallas Stewart-trained Forever Unbridled blitzed about-1000m in 59.60 seconds at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. A four-time G1 winner, the 6-year-old daughter of Unbridled’s Song and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever is America’s reigning champion dirt mare on the strength of a perfect 3-for-3 2017 campaign. She has not raced since her win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Del Mar.
“She went in 59 3/5 (seconds) and her last quarter (-mile) in 23 seconds after getting her three furlongs in 37 3/5,” Stewart said. “She picked it up nicely the last quarter.
“She’s dedicated to winning all the time: every race, every work, every gallop,” Stewart continued. “We’re very happy to be invited to Dubai and hopefully we can meet the challenge. After last year and her season, we’re confident in her and excited for the Dubai World Cup. She’s won eight races over eight different racetracks. She loves it wherever she goes and she gives it her all.”
Dubai World Cup Likely Runners: West Coast, Forever Unbridled, Talismanic, Gunnevera, North America, Pavel, Mubtaahij, Thunder Snow, Awardee, Furia Cruzada
DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC: Cloth of Stars’ Time to Shine
Godolphin’s Cloth of Stars is the highest-rated (125) contender going into the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, but it seems that he is one of the least heralded by the press. Perhaps this due to his lack of flashy characteristics like his emblazoned stablemate and Dubai World Cup runner Talismanic, with whom he is a gallop mate in the mornings at 5:00 a.m. since arriving in Dubai early last week. Perhaps it is because expected foes Rey de Oro and Satono Crown bring such lofty reputations from Japan into the 2410m event.
Either way, it does not seem to bother the good-looking dark bay son of Sea the Stars. Just as he has in his racing career, he goes about his business with precision and consistency. Competing against the best since his juvenile season in 2015 and straight through to a 2017 season in which he won the Prix Ganay (G1) and was second in the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) for famed conditioner Andre Fabre.
Lisa-Jane Graffard, who captains the ship for Godolphin’s French operation, agrees that perhaps he does not get the respect he deserves.
“He broke two (2000m) track records last year in the (Group 3 Prix) Exbury and the (Group 2 Prix d’) Harcourt and, as a 3-year-old, he won the (Group 2 Prix) Greffulhe in a very fast time,” she said. “He won the Ganay and he then put in a top-class performance to finish second in the Arc to Enable. He deserves plenty of credit for what he has done so far – a G1 performer at 2, 3 and G1 winner at 4.”
Cloth of Stars will get his moment to shine in the about-1½-miles grass event, nonetheless. There are no Enables or Cracksmans in the race, but he will be tested by the likes of the aforementioned, as well as top-class G1 horses Idaho, Mozu Katchan and Hawkbill scheduled to contest the race. In his prep run earlier this month, a second-place finish to Talismanic over the Chantilly all-weather going 1900m, he was unable to match strides with his yardmate over a trip far below his best.
“He’s only been in Dubai for a few days, but the trip went well and he is settling in well, so everyone is happy with his preparation so far,” Graffard continued. “The Dubai Sheema Classic is one of the best mile-and-a-half races in the world and it always takes a good performance to win it. He should come on a lot for his prep race – the trip was on the short side and he hadn’t run for four months.”
Longines Dubai Sheema Classic Likely Runners: Cloth of Stars, Satono Crown, Rey de Oro, Idaho, Poet’s Word, Hawkbill, Mozu Katchan, Best Solution, Desert Encounter, Khalidi
DUBAI TURF: Lancaster Bomber Finally the Lead
Coolmore’s Lancaster Bomber has gained the respect of the racing populous the hard way. He has often played second fiddle in his own yard, but such is understandable, considering he hails from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle. Still, he has been consistent and hard-trying, earning himself a pair of Breeders’ Cup runner-up efforts and placed in no less than five G1 events in three countries. Now, in his 2018 bow, he may finally have a chance to prove he’s not simply an honourable mention. The son of War Front will likely be a tough customer over a 1900m trip in the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World that should be right up his proverbial alley.
O’Brien has reported that his consistent charge is training well. He brings back-up in G1 winner Deauville, but this time it is Lancaster Bomber (117) whose name appears more likely to be in lights at the end of the show, especially considering he is the co-third-highest rated of the 15 expected to contest the Dubai Turf.
Dubai Turf Likely Runners: Vivlos, Neorealism, Deirdre, Lancaster Bomber, Real Steel, Crocosmia, Blair House, Janoobi, Monarchs Glen, Trais Fluors, Benbatl, Championship, Deauville, Promising Run, Leshlaa
DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN: Mind Your Biscuits Flies in Final Drill
In what was his final major workout before shipping to Dubai, J Stables, Head of Plains Partners, et al.’s Mind Your Biscuits zipped through an about-1000m drill at Palm Meadows in South Florida in 59.45 seconds. Joel Rosario, who was aboard for his dominant win in last year’s $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News, was back in the irons for the final serious move of his preparation.
The Chad Summers-trained son of Posse lands in Dubai late on March 21st and will defend his title in the 1200m dirt affair.
“The work was exactly what we were looking for,” Summers said. “He worked in company with a filly of (trainer) Eric Guillot’s who ran in a Grade 1 last time out and the turn-of-foot he showed was tremendous.
“We won’t do much with him now,” he continued. “We’ll let him get settled in and blow him out down the lane early next week. Being prepared for all the minute details and crossing your T’s (is important). Hydration is key (in Dubai) and keeping him happy. We do need to watch the track, as inside speed has continued to look strong at the current (Dubai World Cup) Carnival.”
In other news, D B Pin, Hong Kong’s lone expected runner, came out of his last breeze poorly and will miss the race.
Trainer Doug Watson expressed confidence with the way Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) winner My Catch is coming into the race. Last year, My Catch was off the board after a less-than-ideal series of preps. This year, he enters in much better form for his leading local conditioner.
“He’s training extremely well,” he said. “He’s a gentleman, but he’s not an easy horse to train. It’s a tough race, but he earned his way into it with his Group 3 win and if he gets to the rail, I think he can definitely get a check.”
Dubai Golden Shaheen Likely Runners: Roy H, Mind Your Biscuits, Muarrab, My Catch, X Y Jet, X Y Jet, Jordan Sport, Reynaldothewizard, Matera Sky, Shillong
AL QUOZ SPRINT: Brando out, Washington DC and Magical Memory in
Some light last-second shifting has occurred in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments, as one of the expected favourites, Group 1 winner Brando, has withdrawn after a sub-par piece of work. The 14th and 15th horses to join the thrilling in-your-face (straight down the grandstand-side chute) 1200m turf affair are Charlie Hills-trained G2 winner Magical Memory and Aidan O’Brien’s well-travelled multiple G1-placed Washington DC.
Al Quoz Sprint Likely Runners: Librisa Breeze, Ertijaal, Blue Point, Music Magnate, Jungle Cat, Stormy Liberal, Faatinah, Richard’s Boy, Conquest Tsunami, Hit the Bid, Holding Gold, Illustrious Lad, Baccarat, Magical Memory, Washington DC
UAE DERBY: Rayya Ready to Roll
While much of the focus is rightfully on the two budding possible superstars in Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby-trained Gold Town and Coolmore’s Aidan O’Brien-conditioned Mendelssohn, the two colts will have to clash with a talented Group 3 stakes winner over the course and distance who seems to be peaking at the right time – who also happens to be female. On a day when fillies will likely hold their own on more than one possible occasion – namely Forever Unbridled in the Dubai World Cup, Vivlos in the Dubai Turf and Rosa Imperial in the Al Quoz Sprint – Doug Watson-trained Rayya deserves just as much respect in her March 31st test, the Group 2 $2 million UAE Derby sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group.
Over 1900m, or about 1 3/16 miles, it is common for 3-year-olds to have not tried a trip so far – but Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid al Nuaimi’s chestnut daughter of Tiz Wonderful did just that, and with aplomb in the UAE Oaks (G3) at the commencement of April. Going gate-to-wire under jockey Pat Dobbs, the half-sister to Curlin Road dominated in the final straight, hinting at the same stamina that saw said half-sibling annex the Cougar II (G3) over 2400m on dirt last summer at Del Mar.
“She’s doing super,” Watson said. “She had a nice piece of work (on March 18th) and she’s in really good shape. The four weeks after racing every three weeks will definitely be helpful. It’s nice to have that 30 days and she’s handled it well, having come out great. She’s just going to do a couple pieces of work and go over there with a good chance.
“I know Gold Town is a good horse and Aidan’s horse I don’t know much about, but hopefully we can get the trip and have home field advantage in our favour and we know she can get the distance,” he continued. “Hopefully the race doesn’t draw but eight or nine horses and we can have a clean trip. She can sit off the pace if Gold Town goes, like she did in her maiden win, or she can go forward. She’ll get into that great rhythm and stride she has; that excellent cruising speed.”
Sold for $190,000 at OBS April 2017, Rayya has four starts with two wins and two seconds. After breaking her maiden over 1400m, she returned to finish second in both the 1400m UAE 1000 Guineas Trial and 1600m UAE 1000 Guineas (Listed) before winning the UAE Oaks by open lengths. Watson indicated that a run in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks in May could be in the cards if Rayya runs well in the UAE Derby.
UAE Derby Likely Runners: Mendelssohn, Gold Town, Seahenge, Threeandfourpence, Taiki Ferveur, Rayya, Ruggero, Reride, Yulong Warrior
GODOLPHIN MILE: Watson Loads Up in Sharp Azteca Absence
The most significant news this week was that expected heavy favourite Sharp Azteca is out of the $1 million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One (G2), which opens up the race in a big way. Trainer Doug Watson, who has won the last two editions of the race, added two more invitees to the field in his lieu. He will now start Kimbear, defending champion Second Summer, Muntazah and Shamaal Nibras.
“Kimbear is really training well,” he said. “Both he and Second Summer have been working nicely. Second Summer is just going to have one more piece of work and I might take the tongue tie off him. I hope we can get him right on the night and he can run a big race. He hasn’t been himself and it’s upsetting because I know he’s a very good horse.”
In other news, Andre Fabre-trained Godolphin filly Rosa Imperial may try her luck on the dirt in the Godolphin Mile. The turf sprinter has yet to try the surface, but enters the race as the co-highest rated (114) along with Heavy Metal.
Godolphin Mile Likely Runners: Heavy Metal, Rosa Imperial, Economic Model, Kimbear, Second Summer, Special Fighter, Musawaat, Secret Ambition, Shamaal Nibras, Adirato, Akito Crescent, Muntazah, Raven’s Corner
DUBAI GOLD CUP: Godolphin Fleshes Out Full Field
In one of more wide-open affairs on Dubai World Cup night, Godolphin is rolling big. That is obviously not a surprise. What is a surprise is that only one of a quintet of expected runners appears to remotely be one of the favourites in the 3200m $1 million Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors.
Frontiersman leads the phalanx, but must face off with seasoned stayers at the top level, Ascot Gold Cup (G1) winner Big Orange and three-time G1 winner and two-time defending winner of this race, Vazirabad. Each appear tough in this spot, as does, arguably, blue bannermate Rare Rhythm. Another pair to watch, who have been flourishing in their local gallops are G1 winners Sheikhzayedroad and Al Sahem.