Front House Ready for Sheema Classic

Front House goes into Dubai Sheema Classic off an earlier win in Dubai.

(Edited Dubai Racing Club release)

Mike De Kock, who won the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) last year with Sun Classique, has a strong chance of repeating the trick in this year running, which us sponsored by Nakheel.

Principal hope in the $5-million contest at 2,400 meters (1 1/2 miles) looks to be Kevin Shea’s mount Front House, who won the Swain Dubai City of Gold (UAE-II) over the same course and distance in her previous start and is one of four De Kock has in the lineup.  

With Johnny Murtagh on King of Rome appearing as the second stringer, Darren Beadman is an interesting booking for Macarthur and Bernard Faydherbe partners’ Russian Sage.

“We were obviously delighted with Front House’s victory and we knew she had come on a lot after her first two runs,” De Kock said. “She remains in good form, and we were particularly pleased with King of Rome last time.”

Borrowing the title from one of Jack Nicholson’s most famous films, jockey Richard Hills climbed off British hope Youmzain after the colt’s final gallop on the turf and declared “That’s as good as it gets”.

Youmzain, twice runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), was accompanied by his grey lead horse Compton’s Eleven, but Hills sat five lengths off the pace before quickening up well in what was a proper workout.

Observing that the horse has already run well twice in the Dubai Sheema Classic, finishing third in 2007 and fifth a year ago, Hills believes that he can make it third-time lucky on Saturday.

Hills, who won the Dubai World Cup 10 years ago on Almutawakel, said: “I was very happy with the feel that Youmzain gave me, and he has had an even better preparation than he had in the last two years.

“Everyone knows that he is a horse who likes to find trouble, so my job will be to get him in a pocket, and then make sure I get out of it in the straight.

“The last two years he suffered from a lack of pace, but, hopefully, Front House will tow us along, and the faster the gallop, the happier I’ll be.

“Make no mistake, Youmzain is a very talented horse. He reminds me of Maraahel, and though he was one of my favorites, this fellow is much better.”

Luca Cumani, who has Purple Moon in the Dubai Sheema Classic, watched his daughter, Francesca, partner the luckless six-year-old, who had his last fast piece of work yesterday in a gentle canter on the track.

“Purple Moon has been narrowly beaten in a Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) and a Hong Kong Vase (HK-I), so nobody would begrudge him a big-race win, and he comes into this race in top shape,” Luca Cumani said.

“He was only beaten a nose by Doctor Dino at Sha Tin, and, while that was probably a career-best performance, he did himself too well through the winter and put on a lot of weight, so he needed his comeback run in the City of Gold more than I thought, and he is now much slimmer.

“I think Purple Moon can improve two or three lengths, so I have to be optimistic that we can reverse the form with Doctor Dino, but it looks like a very competitive race and whether that will be good enough to win remains to be seen. I just hope that there is plenty of pace on, as a crawl would not suit us at all.”

Richard Gibson was on hand to see his stable star Doctor Dino stretch his legs on the main track. Doctor Dino will be making his first start since successfully defending his Hong Kong Vase crown in December, and will be looking to improve on his third-place finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic last year.

Gibson has no fears about his horse’s readiness for Saturday. “I think he’s in good shape, as good if not better than last year” he said. “The race in Hong Kong was only three months ago, and we’ve been able to keep him going at home.”

Quijano, who split fellow Dubai Sheema Classic rivals Front House and King of Rome in the Dubai City of Gold, impressed trainer Peter Schiergen in his final piece of work.

“I liked what I saw,” Schiergen said. “Quijano is fresh and well. He was not 100% fit when Front House beat us in the trial, and he has definitely improved since. However, it is a tough race, and I’ll be happy if we finish in the first four.”

Kevin Bradshaw gave Spanish Moon a breeze at 1,200 meter (six furlings) on the grass, and connections are much happier with their Dubai Sheema Classic longshot than they were when he arrived Sunday.

John Cork, representing trainer Sir Michael Stoute, said: “It was so hot when he got off the plane that he became edgy, but he has settled down and seemed in good form out there.

“Stewart Messenger, who rides Spanish Moon every day at home, arrives today, and he will put the horse through the starting stalls tomorrow morning as he can be tricky and we want the starter to see him for himself.

“However, he went in straight away when he won at Kempton last time, so, hopefully, he’ll be fine. Win or lose, this race will make a man of him.”

Jaime McCalmont, the English-based racing manager for California owner J. Paul Reddam, liked what he saw through his binoculars on Tuesday morning, as Red Rocks  galloped strongly over 1 1/2 miles on the dirt track.

“The money available here is so good that we feel like we have nothing to lose,” McCalmont said, adding that the 6-year-old son of Galileo has almost always handled shipping to international locales very well.  “And, as you can see, he seems to be doing very well.”

Although Red Rocks has been somewhat inconsistent in his racing career, winning only six of 21 starts, he has proved himself a force to be reckoned with, particularly with his grade I wins in the United States in the 2006 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf and last year’s Man o’ War Stakes over Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Curlin .

McCalmont said Red Rocks has run his best races when there is a lively pace in front of him and he can kick on down the stretch.  So, obviously he is hoping the early frontrunners on Saturday move on with gusto.

This will be Red Rocks’ second tilt at the Dubai Sheema Classic trophy. He finished ninth in 2007, but McCalmont noted “they went at a pedestrian pace that night.” Additionally, that race marked Red Rocks’ first start in almost five months.

This year, Red Rocks had a prep race.  He finished eighth behind Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) contender Kip Deville in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) Feb. 1. McCalmont said Red Rocks found the turf at Gulfstream Park too firm and also noted that the 1 1/8-mile distance “was far too short” for the long-bodied distance specialist.

With trainer Neil Drysdale scheduled to arrive in Dubai Tuesday evening, Dubai Sheema Classic hopeful Marsh Side had an easy canter during training hours Tuesday at Nad Al Sheba. The light exercise followed a quicker move the day before.

Although a workout time was not recorded on Monday for Marsh Side, the 6-year-old did pick it up through the stretch of his turf gallop. will have exclusive online live coverage of the Dubai World Cup from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. ET