Gio Ponti

Gio Ponti

Mathea Kelley

Record-Setting Field Set in World Cup

Leading earner in the Dubai World Cup is Japanese Horse of the Year Buena Vista.

The 14 horses ready to start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 26 are expected to make history as the highest earning field in racing history outside Japan, where larger numbers are allowed to run in races and where purses are the most lucrative in the world.

Martin Talty, director of the Dubai Racing Club’s international department, said that the 14 runners represent six countries. Eleven are grade/group I winners, and together they have won a remarkable 27 grade/group I races while earning a staggering $40,816,859. “That means the average earnings per starter is about $3 million,” Talty observed.

The leading earner in the group is Japanese Horse of the Year and multiple champion Buena Vista, a 5-year-old mare who has bankrolled more than $12 million and is bidding to become the world’s all-time leading earner. If she wins the World Cup, which is worth $6 million to the victor, she will easily surpass 2000 Japanese Horse of the Year T.M.Opera O, who earned $16,200,300.

The seven Thoroughbred races are worth a total of $26 million, the richest day of racing anywhere on the globe. There are expected to be 13 countries represented by 71 international runners and 54 individual trainers.

Fourteen American-based runners are set to start on the program, with multiple champion Gio Ponti  and the talented Fly Down, who has placed in three top grade I events, leading the team.

Three American-based runners are expected to start in both the $1 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) and the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-II). Grade/group I winners I Want Revenge  and Crowded House will lead the American charge in the Godolphin Mile, and they will be joined by Make Music For Me. Also in the field will be the speedy Conveyance , who was sold last year prior to his start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and now races for Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum’s Dubai-based Zabeel Racing International.

Quick Enough, trained by Doug O'Neill, Stradivinsky, trained by Rick Dutrow Jr., and Mr Gruff, conditioned by Ron Ellis, will be America's representatives in the Al Quoz Sprint over 1,000 meters (about five furlongs) on the turf. 

Among those they will face are multiple South African champion J J the Jet Plane, winner of the 2010 Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I), international group I winner War Artist and locally based Happy Dubai, winner of three of four starts on the Meydan turf during the 2011 Dubai International Racing Carnival.

Harty arrives to ready Victor’s Cry for Dubai Duty Free

When Eoin Harty flew into Dubai March 19 to prepare Victor's Cry for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I), his arrival marked a homecoming as well as a return to the scene of his great triumph as a trainer. The California-based Harty previously spent several months a year in Dubai while training young horses for the Maktoum family’s Godolphin stable. In 2009 he saddled WinStar Farm’s Well Armed to win the Dubai World Cup.

Yet despite all his experience in Dubai, Harty said March 20 that he has never seen anything quite like the enormous grandstand of Meydan.

“I’m trying to get my mind around the place—I have no idea where I am or where I need to be,” Harty said with a bemused smile as he watched Victor's Cry gallop over Meydan's all-weather surface.

But when it comes to Victor’s Cry, a 6-year-old son of Street Cry owned by the Equilete Stable of Bob and Michele Billings, Harty is much surer. He said he was pleased with how Victor’s Cry had made the trip to Dubai and how he is training prior to a planned workout March 21.

Harty’s only complaint, a minor one, was that Victor’s Cry “got a little hot on the way up to (the track), but everything is new to him here.” All the American and other international runners have a long walk to the track from the quarantine barns and others also have gotten somewhat keen along the way. 

Victor’s Cry has been among the most impressive individuals entered on the World Cup program in terms of physical appearance, gaining accolades from the crowd gathered to watch training during the past two days. It has not been unusual to hear exclamations of “Who is that?” uttered in admiring tones as he has galloped past the public observation area.

A $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling, Victor’s Cry will be matched with jockey Victor Espinoza in the Dubai Duty Free. Espinoza has ridden Victor’s Cry in his last two starts, a victory in the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) in November and a third-place finish in the Thunder Road Handicap (gr. IIIT) in February.

Overall, Victor’s Cry has won six of 22 starts, placed six times, and earned $576,021. He has won from about 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, with five of his wins on turf, as is the Dubai Duty Free. However, Victor’s Cry has never won at the Duty Free distance of 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles), and he will engage the toughest field of his life in the race, including veteran international star Presvis, formidable South African mare River Jetez, $2 million earner Bankable, Hong Kong Mile (HK-I) winner Beauty Flash, and multiple Singapore champion Better Than Ever, winner of 14 of 15 career starts.

Mandella reveals the secret of winning in Dubai

When Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella travels to Dubai, he does not like to leave without taking home a souvenir of substantial cash and prestige.

With runners ranging from Soul of the Matter, who pushed Cigar to his limit down the stretch of the inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996, to 2004 World Cup winner Pleasantly Perfect, Mandella and his charges have reaped just shy of $8 million. 

He has saddled two other World Cup runners-up: Siphon in 1997 (the year when his other entrant, Sandpit, finished third) and Malek in 1998, and 2006 Dubai Duty Free runner-up The Tin Man. The least successful of his starters was Congrats , who finished fifth in the 2005 World Cup but who ranked as leading freshman sire in 2010.

With that kind of record on the world's richest racing program, it is no wonder that when Mandella turned up at Meydan on March 20 to oversee Champ Pegasus , his entry in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I), he was immediately asked by a local television reporter about how he has been so successful.

“The secret is to bring a good horse,” Mandella said with his typical dry sense of humor.

Champ Pegasus, owned by the Diamond A Racing Corp. of Pleasantly Perfect’s owner Gerald Ford in partnership with Arturo Vargas, pleased Mandella with his appearance while galloping for the second day over Meydan’s all-weather track.  “He looks great—I’m really happy with him,” Mandella said.

A 5-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus  bred in Kentucky by his owners, Champ Pegasus has been remarkably consistent under Mandella’s tutelage, winning or finishing second in nine of 11 career starts.
Winner of the 2010 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship Stakes (gr. IT) and second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), Champ Pegasus is coming off a nose victory over tenacious rival Bourbon Bay in the San Luis Obispo Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Feb. 19. 

Mandella pointed to Bourbon Bay as one of the Sheema Classic starters he is most concerned about, noting that “he looks good and he’s been a tough foe." Bourbon Bay defeated Champ Pegasus in the San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) in January.

Dangerous Midge also will be a clear threat in the race over 2,485 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) on turf, along with South African Horse of the Year Irish Flame, Juddmonte Farms’ European-based Canadian grade I winner Redwood, and French-based United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) winner Chinchon.

The early favorite for the Sheema Classic, Snow Fairy, a group I winner in four nations last year as a 3-year-old, was withdrawn March 20 after the Ed Dunlop-trained filly was diagnosed with a knee injury.

Japanese champion Transcend works for World Cup

Koji Maeda’s Transcend, the Japanese champion dirt runner of 2010, worked 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) March 20 at Meydan as he prepares to be part of an unprecedented three-strong Japanese team of champion contenders in the Dubai World Cup.

A complete time was not available for the move, but Transcend was clocked in :23 for a strong final quarter-mile down the stretch. 

By former Adena Springs stallion Wild Rush, a multiple grade I winner in the United States who was sold to Japanese breeders, Transcend brings a three-race win streak to Dubai, including victories in the February Stakes (Jpn-I) and Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I). He has won eight of 15 career starts and finished second three times while earning $4,761,778.

The main question mark about Transcend will be how effective he can be at the World Cup distance of 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles). To date, the 5-year-old has never won at that distance, with his victories being recorded from one mile to 1 3/16 miles.

The other Japanese champions entered for the Dubai World Cup are Buena Vista, second last year in the Dubai Sheema Classic; and 2010 champion 3-year-old male and classic winner Victoire Pisa.

None of the trio has competed to date on an all-weather track like the one they will be racing over at Meydan.