After arriving in Dubai and clearing quarantine, United States-based Twilight Eclipse made his first appearance on the track at Meydan March 23 with an energetic gallop ahead of the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) March 29.
The 2,410-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) race is one of seven stakes on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) undercard. West Point Thoroughbreds' Twilight Eclipse is one of only three American-based horses to make the trip to Dubai for the $27 million card at Meydan Racecourse.
Observers noted the 5-year-old Purim gelding put on a strong effort and was a little sweaty but on his toes nonetheless under Dave Wallace, assistant to trainer Tom Albertrani.
On March 24, Twilight Eclipse appeared on the track at about 6:30 a.m. local time and jogged for a good bit of time before galloping a little easier than he had the previous day. He comes into the Dubai Sheema Classic off a win in the Mac Diarmida Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 15 at Gulfstream Park and will be seeking a breakthrough top-level win after placing second twice in grade I races last year.
A large contingent representing the West Point Thoroughbreds ownership group is expected to make the trans-Atlantic flight to be on hand for the race.
Overall, 15 horses were declared for the Dubai Sheema Classic, including 2012 Japanese Horse of the Year Gentildonna, who was runner-up to St. Nicolas Abbey in last year's race; 2013 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Magician ; 2012 Dubai Sheema Classic winner Cirrus des Aigles; and 2011 Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) victor Dunaden, who was fourth last year.
Among the contenders for the Dubai Sheema Classic:
Cirrus des Aigles—Corine Barande-Barbe's stable star arrived from France March 22 and will clear quarantine the morning of March 25.
Denim And Ruby—The runner-up to Gentildonna in the 2013 Japan Cup (Jpn-I) put in a routine canter for a lap on the all-weather track March 24. Work rider Manabu Ikezoe commented, "She is eating up very well and is in a good condition. She is very relaxed. Everything up to now has gone smoothly."
Dominant— "He traveled well, possibly the best of our three. I'm very happy with him," said assistant trainer George Moore.
Dunaden—Worked on the turf on March 23. On March 24 he cantered on the all-weather track and his work rider, Matthieu Brasme said: "He just went round once. He cantered as usual and all is going well."
Empoli—Cantered on the all-weather track March 24. He was ridden by his usual work rider Ilke Hildebrand, who is also trainer Peter Schiergen's assistant. She said: "Empoli did his final work last Saturday and his jockey Adrie de Vries was very happy with him. This morning he just went for a canter once around the track."
Gentildonna—Put in slow laps on the turf track on March 24. Assistant trainer, Taihei Inoue commented, "Last year when she worked on turf for the first time at Meydan, she was shying at the markers which kept her on the outside rail. But this time, she got used to them and cantered smoothly. She was settled and keeps her good condition."
Mars—"He has needed his two runs and improved from both outings. The blinkers did not really suit him last time and he endured a few traffic problems," said trainer Mike de Kock. "He is better than that and can hopefully run a big race."
Meandre—"He has been running well all year and remains in great form. Obviously it is a tough race but we are very happy with him," said trainer Doug Watson.
Mount Athos—The Marco Botti-trained 7-year-old completed one circuit of the main track at a brisk canter, having finished third in the Dubai City of Gold on Super Saturday (March 8) on turf. The gelding is expected to complete his preparation with a 1,400 meter (about seven-furlong) workout in the middle of the week. "He pleased us with his run on Super Saturday," said Botti's wife, Lucie. "It was very much a prep race for the Sheema Classic. He needed the race and it was his first start for us. We are still learning about him but (regular jockey) Jamie Spencer was very happy with him."