Connections of Spring At Last, a convincing winner of the Feb. 2 Donn Handicap (gr. I), have decided to bypass the $6-million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 29 and aim instead for the $300,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 5.
Trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed the decision March 6, saying the main consideration was to give Spring At Last a little more time between races.
“We’re very honored by the invitation to the Dubai World Cup,” he said. “It’s just the timing — we think it’s a little too much at this point.”
Spring At Last has never won at the Dubai World Cup distance of 2,000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles), but O’Neill did not cite as factors the distance or the fact 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin already is waiting in Dubai with a victory at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse under his girth.
However, he did note that Spring At Last underwent surgery for a bone chip in an ankle last year that sidelined the 5-year-old son of Silver Deputyfor about nine months following his impressive win in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) at Nad Al Sheba.
“We just thought after winning the grade I race in Florida that we would focus on giving him plenty of time afterward,” O’Neill said. “Maybe if the Dubai race was in another month or so, it would be a lot more tempting. Right now, it would just be too much to ask.”
Spring At Last worked a half-mile at Hollywood Park in :50.20 the last week of February, at which time O’Neill said the Dubai World Cup was still the next objective for the earner of $1,137,650. Nothing has gone awry since then, he said; the horse is “doing fantastic.”
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Spring At Last races for the farm in partnership with J. Paul Reddam. WinStar will be represented in the Dubai World Cup by homebred San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) winner Well Armed, a son of Tiznow who is trained by Eoin Harty.
Reddam and O’Neill could have another opportunity to compete in Dubai this year with grade II winner Notional. O’Neill said they are hoping to receive an invitation to race in the $5-million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I), a 1,777-meter event on the turf.
“He’s a fantastic colt — we’re just so excited about him. We’d love to try him on the turf over there,” he said of the 4-year-old son of In Excess. “He’s doing well, came out of his prep in great shape, and is ready to go if we get the invitation.”
Notional finished third by a neck in the 6 1/2-furlong Daytona Handicap on the Santa Anita Park grass Feb. 17. Last year, he was a strong classic candidate, winning the San Rafael (gr. II) and Risen Star (gr. III) Stakes before finishing second to Scat Daddy in the Florida Derby (gr. I).
A fracture of his left front cannon bone kept him away from the races for almost 11 months, with the Daytona marking his return to competition.