Pletcher Sending Five-Horse Contingent to Dubai World Cup

(Edited Dubai Racing Club report)

Todd Pletcher, coming off a record-smashing year in North America that earned him his third consecutive Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer, plans to send five horses to the United Arab Emirates for Dubai World Cup day, March 31.

Pletcher has confirmed that he is aiming two entries each for the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) and the US$2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), as well as grade 1 winner Honey Ryder for the US$5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I).

The contingent would be the largest ever sent by an American trainer for the Dubai World Cup program.

“Everyone is doing well at the moment,” Pletcher said from his base in Florida, where on Saturday he continued his superlative ways by sending out five winners at Gulfstream Park, including three in graded stakes.

Although all of Pletcher’s Dubai-bound runners have impressive credentials, if there is a star of the bunch it is James Scatuorchio’s English Channel, winner of three grade 1 races and earnings of $2.7 million.

Third in last year’s John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at 1 ½ miles (about 2400 meters), English Channel showed he is a major threat at the Dubai Duty Free distance of 1,777 meters by easily winning a Gulfstream allowance in course record time of 1:44.51 for the 1 1/8  miles (about 1,800 meters) on Feb. 22.

“It was an awesome performance,” said Pletcher, who set North American records in 2006 for earnings (US$26,820,243), stakes wins (100, with 57 different horses) and graded stakes wins (57, with 17 in grade 1 races).

His other entrant for the Dubai Duty Free is Eugene Melnyk’s Host, a Chilean champion and classic winner, and a grade 1 winner in the United States who finished fourth in last year’s Dubai Duty Free.

Host did not race again until he roared home to narrowly fail in the 1 1/16-mile (about 1,700 meters) Canadian Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a head at Gulfstream on Feb. 2.

“Basically, we just wanted to give him a vacation,” he said, adding that following the collapse of a deal which would have sent Host to Australia for stud duty, “we put him back in training and he’s done very well since then.”

Pletcher also praised Honey Ryder, who just missed capturing the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Turf Stakes (gr. IT) by a neck to Jambalaya on February 22 in her first start against males.

A 6-year-old mare owned by Glencrest Farm, Honey Ryder has been a model of consistency, winning 12 of 28 starts and placing 10 times while bankrolling $2.1 million.

“We expected her to run well, and hopefully she’ll improve off that,” Pletcher said of the Gulfstream effort. “She certainly earned her way over there to Dubai.”

Pletcher’s two candidates for the Dubai Golden Shaheen are Melnyk’s grade 1 winner Bishop Court Hill and Anstu Stables’ Friendly Island, who finished second to Thor’s Echo in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).

Both have won this year, with Friendly Island taking the Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park and Bishop Court Hill triumphing in the Paumonok Handicap at Aqueduct.

“Both horses tend to run the straightaways (straight course) really well,” Pletcher said, adding that Bishop Court Hill “breaks really well and is tremendously fast” and that Friendly Island “should be on track for a big performance.”

All the horses in Pletcher’s Dubai platoon have run only once this year, a strategy he said he is employing because he believes they are more competitive when they are fresh.

Although Pletcher has not yet won a race on Dubai World Cup night, his four previous runners have earned a total of US$2,450,000 and performed extremely well.

He saddled Harlan’s Holiday to be second to Moon Ballad in the 2003 Dubai World Cup, an effort that earned US$1.2 million and was at the time Pletcher’s biggest single payday in racing.

In 2004, he sent out Alke to be second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, and last year, in addition to Host’s Dubai Duty Free run, he dispatched Magna Graduate to earn third in the Dubai World Cup.

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