Jockey Willie Martinez knows it only takes one good horse to help you realize your dreams.
The Tampa Bay Downs-based Martinez rode Trinniberg to victory in the Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) last November at Santa Anita Park. He departs March 26 for the United Arab Emirates and a return engagement with the 4-year-old colt in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (UAE-I) at Meydan Racecourse.
The 1,200-meter (about six furlongs) race is part of a nine-race card March 30 at Meydan capped by the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). The Golden Shaheen, which is the sixth race on the card, will be contested at 7:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m. EDT).
"We wouldn't trade places with anybody else," said the 42-year-old Martinez, a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, who is making his third trip to Dubai. "You can never be too confident in this game, but we're going there to prove Trinniberg is not only the best U.S. sprinter, but the best in the world. That would be awesome to achieve."
Owned by Sherry Parbhoo and trained by her father, Shivananda Parbhoo, Trinniberg won the 2012 Eclipse Award as North America's leading male sprinter. Besides his Breeders' Cup victory, he also won the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park, the Bay Shore (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack, and the Swale (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, all with Martinez in the saddle.
The dark bay son of Teuflesberg has not raced since his three-quarter length win in the BC Sprint Nov. 3.
Martinez traveled to Gulfstream March 13 to work Trinniberg five furlongs from the gate in 1:01.32 on a cuppy surface, a move he believes set him up perfectly for the Golden Shaheen.
"I was really happy with the way he felt physically. Mentally, I feel the time off (the Breeders' Cup Sprint was Nov. 3) is going to do him a lot of good," Martinez said. "He always runs his best races off a layoff when he is fresh, so we have to hope he takes to the (all-weather) Tapeta surface. We think he'll be OK, but it's not what we think or how we feel—when we get there, he has to show up that day."
The Golden Shaheen will be Trinniberg's first race over a synthetic surface, but Martinez believes in his colt's talent. "He can handle the pressure of being at the front, but he can be rated. He is brilliant fast and can kick from the eighth pole to the wire. If he takes the trip well, I expect him to be right there."
The competition will be extreme. Among those expected to compete are defending Golden Shaheen champion Krypton Factor; Emcee, who won the Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course last summer; Reynaldothewizard, who beat Krypton Factor two weeks ago in the Mahab Al Shimaal (UAE-III) on Meydan's Super Saturday card March 9; Australian Group I winner Mental and South Africa's Kavanagh, who finished 1-2 ahead of Krypton Factor in last month's Al Shindagha Sprint (UAE-III) at Meydan; and the improving Private Zone, second at Santa Anita this season in both the Malibu (gr. I) and Palos Verdes (gr. II).
Martinez went to Dubai last year to ride Giant Ryan for the Parbhoos, finishing fifth in the Golden Shaheen. His first trip to the desert in 2006 resulted in a second-place finish aboard Brass Hat in the Dubai World Cup.
After that race, trace amounts of a prohibited substance were found in Brass Hat's system and the purse money was withheld.
"That was a big blow, but you move on with time," Martinez said. "To get redemption for that would be nice, but I'm not going there with that mindset. I think Trinniberg is going to bring a lot to the table, and I just hope he runs the way we expect him to run."
Martinez has grown close to the Parbhoo family, which moved to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago 30 years ago. Shivananda (called "Ralph" by his friends) took over the training of Trinniberg from his father, Bisnath Parboo, last summer. He added blinkers for the Breeders' Cup Sprint and was rewarded with a lifetime achievement with a horse the family purchased for $21,000 as a 2-year-old. His career earnings are $1,483,300.
"We have a good chemistry," Martinez said. "The Parbhoos have a beautiful family, they show me love and they have a lot of faith in me. That means a lot to me and my family, to help make those dreams come true. They always knew I believed in Trinniberg. I'm just so glad to be able to be such a big part of the team, because I've put a lot of sweat and blood into it."