Track work at Nad Al Sheba took off with a real purpose on Tuesday morning as the international competitors were out in force in pursuit of the US$21.25million in prize-money on offer on Saturday’s Dubai World Cup night extravaganza.
Breeders’ Cup Classic winner INVASOR, one of the leading chances, along with Godolphin’s DISCREET CAT for the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), sponsored by Emirates Airline, again took the eye as he limbered up on the main track.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was on hand for his first morning of track work after arriving in the UAE March 26 and pronounced that the horse is “doing great.”
McLaughlin said he would very much like to win the race on behalf of owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, who the trainer has worked with for more than a decade.
“He’s a great friend and a great man,” McLaughlin said. “Winning the race for Sheikh Hamdan would be the biggest victory of my career.”
Japanese Dubai World Cup hope VERMILION also appeared in good order as he went out on the main track. Spokesman Toshi Kiyota said: “He had a steady canter today and he’s just getting better and better each day. He will have a breeze-up tomorrow, probably around six furlongs.”
The Clive Brittain-trained KANDIDATE, also a Dubai World Cup contender, put in a final piece of preparatory work on the turf track ahead of Saturday’s assignment.
Several of the highly-rated challengers in the US$5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I), sponsored by Nakheel, run over the 2,400-meter turf course put in appearances at track work.
COLLIER HILL was out at around 5.30 a.m. on the straight grass track and pleased his jockey Dean McKeown in his workout. “That’s as well as he’s worked since he’s been out here,” he said.
Todd Pletcher’s HONEY RYDER looked in good order when putting in a strong canter on the man track around 9 a.m., while stablemate and fellow entrant HOST remained on the training track for a jog.
Other Sheema classic contenders SIR PERCY, YOUMZAIN and BELLAMY CAY all put in routine canters on the main track. SIR PERCY will have his final turf work on Wednesday morning, according to his trainer Marcus Tregoning.
Earlier Japan’s Sheema Classic contender POP ROCK was seen out on the turf track to good effect, as was OBRIGADO from Neil Drysdale’s stable in California.
“We stretched his legs a bit, that’s all,” Drysdale said of the half-mile jaunt. “I’m very happy with him.” Exercise rider Debra Biggs reported that Obrigado seemed to relish the course, which she said “should be perfect for him.”
Another runner from the Pletcher stable, the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) hope ENGLISH CHANNEL looked on good terms with himself as he cantered on the main track.
Another USA hope, the Doug O’Neill-trained LAVA MAN, also impressed as he galloped about two miles on the turf ahead of Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free. “He’s a happy camper,” said Leandro Mora, O’Neill’s assistant, of Lava Man.
Much earlier in the day, 2006 American champion turf male MIESQUE’S APPROVAL breezed about 800 meters on the turf course in :48, reported Andrew Malek, who is overseeing the horse for trainer Marty Wolfson. “He was flying down the lane. He loves the grass here,” Malek said after the pre-dawn workout.
The French challenger STORMY RIVER had his first look at the track this morning, and followed up with a brief paddock school, watched by his trainer Nicolas Clement.
Afterwards, Clement said of his top French miler: “He hasn’t run for a while, but I hope he’s fit enough; his preparation has gone well. You want to win – nobody remembers who came second, but I’d have to be happy to be in the first three. He’s got a good kick, but he needs a decent pace and as always luck in running.”
The Japanese Dubai Duty Free contenders ADMIRE MOON and DAIWA MAJOR also put in routine canters on the main track.
Several of the speed merchants who will contest the US$2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), sponsored by Gulf News, on Saturday were out, including the massive KELLY'S LANDING from the USA, who took a turn or two around the paddock in the course of his morning exercise. “He was perfect,” said exercise rider Gerry Carwood, who calls the laid-back gelding “gentle giant.”
The Japanese pair AGNES JEDI and SEEKING THE BEST exercised on the main track, as did the Pletcher-trained duo FRIENDLY ISLAND and BISHOP COURT HILL and Gary Marano’s NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, all from the USA.
All the Pletcher runners were getting their first feel of the main track after previously exercising on the training track. Ginny DePasquale, Pletcher’s assistant, expressed pleasure, saying, “They seemed to handle it nicely.”
Another Dubai Golden Shaheen entrant, HARVARD AVENUE, galloped on the training track under the supervision of Mora. Mora said Harvard Avenue has been declared to wear a visor, called blinkers in the USA, for what he thinks is the first time in his five-year career in order to sharpen his focus in the 1,200-meter sprint. “Blinkers should be the key to get him in the race,” Mora said.
The Godolphin Mile (UAE-II), sponsored by Etisalat, hope VORTEX, trained in the UK by Gay Kelleway, worked well on the main track at around 7.20 a.m., watched by his trainer who was happy with her horse, but unhappy to be drawn out in gate 15 of 16.
“He’s very well, but I must just be unlucky. We were badly drawn on his last start here, and he’s drawn high again this time too. Having said that, there’s usually a good pace on here, so hopefully Johnny (Murtagh) can tuck in and come through horses and we won’t be far away.”
Another Godolphin Mile contender, the O’Neill-trained SPRING AT LAST, looked exceptionally well as he went through his routine on the main track.
The muscular bay is viewed by the O’Neill team as their best chance for a win on Saturday’s program, said Mora, who expects the 4-year-old son of Silver Deputy to be on the lead. “I can see him break on top and stay on top,” Mora said.
Julio Canani, trainer of Godolphin Mile entrant DIXIE MEISTER, described the 5-year-old gelding as “looking very, very good” after his 1 1/4-mile gallop on the main track. “I’m just trying to keep him happy and smiling, and I’m trying to do the same thing,” Canani said.
The US$6 million Dubai World Cup looks set to feature a field of seven, with the news that the South American bred STORM MAYOR will not now make the final line up, while Blatant has been withdrawn from the Godolphin Mile.