There’s no tearing Rick Dutrow away from the United States this weekend. With IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr.’s unbeaten 3-year-old Big Brown making his third career start in the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I) instead of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), the trainer has canceled his trip to the Dubai World Cup meeting and will stay at Gulfstream Park to saddle the horse he’d like to take to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
But Dutrow’s World Cup runners are not to be discounted. With Diamond Stripes set to run in the $1-million Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) and top speedster Benny the Bull peaking into the $2-million Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), the New York trainer stands a good chance at having a winner cross the wire overseas.
Benny the Bull, owned by IEAH Stables and partners, enters the Golden Shaheen off a convincing 4 ½-length win in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Jan. 26. The six-furlong score came following a similarly confident victory going the same distance in Laurel’s Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) last November. A 5-year-old son of Lucky Lionel, Benny the Bull has his trainer convinced he’s sitting on the race of his career.
“I love where he’s at,” Dutrow said. “He’s entering a race with a $2-million purse, and obviously that’s very good. I’m under the impression he’s gonna run big; he’s giving all the signs, especially coming off two big races. He’s training the way he wants to train, and a huge plus for us is that he’s coming into this race as good as he’s ever come into any race.”
Reports from Dutrow’s assistant in Dubai, Michelle Nevin, have Benny the Bull in top form.
“His last two races have just been unbelievable,” Dutrow said in a March 25 teleconference hosted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “I’m getting reports that say he’s so excited; he’s building himself up again. He’ll come out of a race and it takes two or three weeks for him to start feeling that enthusiasm – and he’s got it there for sure. He’s in a hurry to get to the track, he knows something big is coming, and he’s getting into his zone and getting his game on again.”
Diamond Stripes, Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ 5-year-old Notebook gelding, does not enter his race off a victory. However, the steady runner seems to like the surface for his upcoming test, which is less than Dutrow can say about his last start in the Jan 26 Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita.
“I don’t think he cared much for (an artificial surface); I won’t do that again with him,” the trainer said. “He ran a good race, but I don’t think synthetic is his game, at least not the Santa Anita track.”
From surface woes to traffic troubles, Diamond Stripes has not had an easy time of it in his last three efforts, which include an eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) and a fourth in the Nov. 23 Clark Handicap (II). His most recent win came in October of last year, when he took the Meadowlands Cup Handicap (gr. II) by a half-length over Magna Graduate.
“In the Clark he was in trouble the whole way,” Dutrow said. “He should have won; he was the best horse in the race. For this race coming up he’s doing very good and a one-turn mile might be his best game. He still has to show up there on Saturday, but he’s doing good and we’re hoping for a big run out of him.”
Much like Steve Asmussen’s move of schooling Derby hopeful Pyro through morning works with 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, Dutrow sent out Big Brown in company with Diamond Stripes. In this case, however, the schooling wasn’t just for the younger runner.
“That was a good work for Diamond Stripes as well; I was happy with those two going like that together,” the trainer said. “He’s always been a physically sound horse but his biggest issue was to let his mind come around. He’s really nice to be around, we just had to figure out how to get his mind right.
“Now we’re looking forward to a very exciting day and it looks like we have a very good chance getting there.”