by Julian Muscat
Chalk and cheese.
That’s the make-up of America’s twin-pronged challenge on the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), sponsored by Gulf News, at six furlongs at Meydan Racecourse March 31.
Yet that’s where the contrast ends. Both sprinters have trained impressively on the Tapeta surface that represents the great unknown.
Parboo has told anyone prepared to listen that Giant Ryan (by Freud ) is ready to erupt. He discounts the 6-year-old’s tame effort when eighth in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov 5 last year.
“We found something that was bothering him,” said Parboo, who trains Giant Ryan for his father, Shivananda. “It’s all behind him now, and I’m pretty sure you will see that on Saturday.”
Giant Ryan, whose fluorescent yellow and orange silks have rendered him the most visible horse at morning exercise, will break from post 3. It’s an ideal post for a horse blessed with plenty of early speed.
The Factor, for his part, is berthed in post 7. A 4-year-old son of War Front , he is owned by George Bolton and David Shimmon, who races under the lapel of Fog City Stables.
Shimmon got Bolton involved with racehorse ownership when the latter took a part of Shimmon’s grade I winner, Roman Ruler, in 2004. The two friends have since shared numerous talented horses in Baffert’s barn.
“Bob keeps it simple,” Bolton said of their trainer. “He tells us he doesn’t want a lot of horses, just the good ones. He is the funnest guy. When we try to talk about something serious he always tells us to stop and pull ourselves together.”
The Factor trains at Hollywood Park, where Baffert believes the Cushion Track is more similar to Tapeta than any other surface.
“He can be a headstrong horse,” Bolton said. “Come the race, my hunch is that if he wants to run when he breaks, Rafael (Bejarano) will let him go into the first turn.”
Big purses on World Cup night have acted like a magnet.
“The real issue for me is that 10 California sprints are worth the same as this one race,” Bolton said.
Said Shimmon: “At home, if you are the favorite, they can ride against you. Everyone out here will be running their own race. It’s real competition. I like that.”
Shimmon’s links with Baffert go back 10 years. “I started out loving horses when I was growing up,” he said. “One led to another, and before I knew it, I was involved. There are great people on the (racetrack) backside, and nothing beats the thrill of the race itself.”
Twelve months ago American horses suffered a rare Golden Shaheen reverse in a race they have dominated since the purse was raised to $1 million in 2000. Singapore’s Rocket Man returns for a follow-up bid, but Giant Ryan and The Factor represent formidable obstacles.