So wants Classic Emperor clear of the Meydan kickback

Classic Emperor wins the Hong Kong Shipowners Association 60th Anniversary Cup in January. Source: HKJC

Trainer Chris So wants Classic Emperor to “jump and go” to avoid facing Meydan’s often harsh kickback in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar (1600m, dirt) at the Dubai World Cup Carnival’s Super Saturday fixture tomorrow, 10 March.

“The kickback is a big factor,” So said after watching Classic Emperor exercise at Meydan this morning (Friday, 9 March). “The plan is for Oisin (Murphy) to let him get away from the gate fast and get forward. We should jump better than last time – just go and then see how we finish.

“Last time I was here I saw that not many horses can make up ground, that’s the way it seems to be here. The track is quite heavy and horses struggle to come from behind.”

Classic Emperor will break from gate seven in the field of 13 and So is content with that berth.

“The draw is not too bad,” he said. “It looks like there might not be a whole lot of pace on the inside. The main contenders seem to be drawn outside and Heavy Metal, who looks like maybe the one to beat, he is drawn widest in 13.”

Heavy Metal is a six-time course and distance winner with a three from four record this term. The eight-year-old brushed off Godolphin’s Thunder Snow to win the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (1600m) in January and last time out proved far superior to his rivals in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes (1600m). The Salem Bin Ghadayer-trained bay is top-rated on 114.

With Classic Emperor rated 103, So knows that his charge will likely need to post a career best to secure a berth in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile over the course and distance on the Dubai World Cup card in three weeks’ time.

Last year, two horses squeezed into that contest rated 104 – including runner-up and Burj Nahaar contender Ross – but in the previous four editions, no starter went to post with a rating lower than 106, and in 2016 the bar was 109.

“We want to come again for the Godolphin Mile on the 31st and maybe to do that we need to rate 107, but we’ll see after the race,” So said.

As for Classic Emperor’s overall preparation, So is pleased. This morning, the Medaglia D’Oro six-year-old reproduced his work of the previous day, a steady canter around one lap under Robo Wong.

“He’s very relaxed in his work – he’s fit so this was just routine exercise,” the trainer said.

“He’s always relaxed in the morning, he just plays around in the parade ring before his races but we know that. When the jockey sits on, he really wants to go, that’s why in Hong Kong we send him out as the first horse. He did that here last time and we’ll do the same again on Saturday.

“I’m happy,” he added, “everything’s going well; the horse is in good form, he’s eating, he looks fine, he’s a happy horse. It’s a field of 13 and it’s a competitive field but Classic Emperor should run well.”

The line-up also features the Godolphin four-year-old Dream Castle (gate 12), third in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort (1400m) two starts back. The Satish Seemar-trained Secret Ambition (gate 10) is a three-time handicap winner on dirt at Meydan this term, including when beating the re-opposing Musawaat (gate 5) – another in-form handicapper – over 1400m on the track last time out. The field also features the Doug Watson-trained course and distance winner Kimbear (gate 1) and useful stablemate Drafted (gate 4).

The Burj Nahaar is the fourth race on Saturday’s seven-race card and is due to start at 5.45pm UAE time (9.45pm Hong Kong time).