The $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) program will be the ultimate goal after a possible start in the Dubai City of Gold (UAE-III), the primary prep for the Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba racecourse.
“He’s a very exciting horse,” McElroy said. “And he looks like he’s rounding back into the form that put him on the map. If he gets back into his old form, there are not too many that can beat him.”
McElroy will retain part ownership in the horse, joining several of his primary American clients and another based in Ireland, all of whom he declined to immediately identify. Now in quarantine prior to his trip to Dubai, Gun Salute will be trained there by Doug Watson, the leading UAE trainer in the 2005-06 season and currently co-leader of the young 2007-08 season.
Previously trained by Bill Mott for owner and breeder Brant Laue, Gun Salute won the 2005 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park over English Channel, recent winner of the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT).
Also during his 3-year-old season, Gun Salute won the American Derby (gr. IIT) at Arlington over eventual grade I winner Purim, the Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) and the Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland.
He started his 4-year-old season with a third-place effort in the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. IT) but then nearly lost his life when he suffered an allergic reaction to a vaccination, McElroy said.
On the sidelines for almost a year, Gun Salute returned to racing in January and won a Keeneland turf allowance on Oct. 12 before finishing third in the River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23.
Since Gun Salute has done his best running on firm turf, McElroy said he should relish the conditions in the desert climate of Dubai.
“He’s a very, very good looking horse,” he added. “And at the end of the day, he’s a good stallion prospect.”