America's Super Saturday contenders, Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Little Mike and multiple grade I winner Dullahan, were released from quarantine and visited Meydan's all-weather track for the first time on March 4 as they prepare for their initial races in Dubai.
Stepping out before dawn, Dullahan took a leisurely jog around Meydan's sweeping expanse with trainer Dale Romans' partner and exercise rider, Tammy Fox, in the irons. Little Mike came out later in the desert sunshine and also jogged once around the track for Fox.
"I thought they both went really well," Fox said. "Dullahan was on his toes as soon as he hit the Tapeta. He was looking all around, which was good. On our walk back, we went through the tunnel and when we came back out on the Tapeta path, he thought it was the racetrack and he wanted to go again.
"Little Mike handled it well. He didn't show me any signs he didn't like it," she added.
"They were well behaved and trotted quietly. So far, so good," observed John Nicholls, who oversees the Dubai World Cup quarantine center.
The Romans horses arrived in Dubai on March 1 and were restricted to quarantine until they were cleared under United Arab Emirates protocols.
Fox said she was told by Dubai racing officials that they have "never seen horses ship so well" from the United States to Dubai. "So that's a plus," she noted.
Romans, the Eclipse Award winner as America's outstanding trainer of 2012, has not decided yet which races on the March 9 Super Saturday program that each of his stars will contest, Fox said. At entry time on Monday morning in Dubai, Little Mike and Dullahan were both cross-entered in the $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (UAE-I)) and in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar (UAE-III). Final declarations were to be made March 5.
It has been expected that Little Mike will race in the Maktoum Challenge. That event, the richest race of the Dubai World Cup Carnival and the main prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) on March 30, is run at the World Cup distance of 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) and also has drawn Godolphin's 2012 World Cup winner Monterosso.
If Little Mike handles Meydan's synthetic surface well, then he would be aimed at the World Cup, Romans has said. Otherwise, Little Mike has options for either the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) at 2,410 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) or the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) at 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles), and he has won elite races at both distances.
Owned by Priscilla Vaccarezza, Little Mike has made 17 of his 21 career starts on turf, with his other four on dirt. The 6-year-old gelding by Spanish Steps has won 12 times and placed in three other races while earning $3,074,412.
Donegal Racing's Dullahan is expected to race first in the Burj Nahaar over 1,600 meters (about one mile) before advancing to the Dubai World Cup. The big chestnut 4-year-old by Even the Score has collected all three of his grade I triumphs on synthetic tracks so the Meydan surface, while different from Keeneland and Del Mar where he has previously won, is not anticipated to be as much of a question mark for him.
Dullahan has won three of 14 starts and has placed five times while banking $1,714,091.