Golden Shaheen Opens Up After Xtra Heat Withdrawal

(World Cup report)
The withdrawal of America's outstanding mare Xtra Heat makes the $2 million Group I Dubai Golden Shaheen wide open.

Xtra Heat was in Dubai to make her second attempt on the Dubai Golden Shaheen after finishing third to Caller One in 2002. A win would have been her record 26th at stakes level.

American horses have dominated the Dubai Golden Shaheen since the race enjoyed a massive increase in prize money in 2000, a move that brought international sprinters to Dubai.

Big Jag in 2000 and Caller One in 2001 and 2002 both emerged from America to win the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Xtra Heat was favored to add her name to that list and continue the American dominance.

The American contingent for the Dubai Golden Shaheen is still a strong one but now numbers just three: Avanzado, Captain Squire and My Cousin Matt.

Avanzado is a winner of two Grade II events from his last four starts, the latest at Santa Anita on Jan. 26. Captain Squire also arrives in good form, having easily defeated a former Dubai Golden Shaheen runner-up Men's Exclusive at Santa Anita on Jan. 25.

My Cousin Matt has emerged from being claimed by leading owner Richard Englander for $85,000 last September. His last start was a winner in the General George Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park.

Crystal Castle from France, Nobel Prize from Sweden and Belle du Jour from Australia have arrived for the world's richest sprint to break the American dominance.

Crystal Castle and Nobel Prize have had the benefit for a run down the straight Nad Al Sheba dirt course, both finishing out of a place behind Conroy in the Group III Mahab Al Shimaal on March 8. However the run of Crystal Castle was impressive.

The John Hammond-trained sprinter would have come on a great deal for that effort and is capable of upsetting the Americans.

Belle du Jour, winner of Australia's premier sprint, the Group I Newmarket Handicap, in her latest race has settled into Dubai very well and appears to have quickly become accustomed to the dirt conditions she will face for the first time.

Conroy, Conflict and Persuasivo Fitz, the three horses who filled the placings in the main prep race, the Group III Mahab Al Shimaal, return while State City attempts to redeem a tarnished reputation after his sixth in the race.

Conroy won last year's Mahab Al Shimaal before a ninth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Conflict has his fourth run at the Dubai World Cup meeting having run in the last three Godolphin Miles. He won in 2000, finished third to Festival Of Light in 2001 and fourth to Grey Memo last year.

His first run over a distance less than 1,400 meters was a fast-finishing second to Conroy. He will be suited by the expected fast pace here.

Persuasivo Fitz has been a solid campaigner throughout the last four seasons in the Emirates and as a 9-year-old is racing in the best form of his career.

State City appeared set to become the leading sprinter in the Emirates after his impressive first-up win over this course and distance but then failed on the turf in the Al Shindagha Sprint Prep.

He then redeemed his reputation with a strong win in the Listed Jebel Ali Sprint on a return to the dirt, but disappointed in the Mahab Al Shimaal. There may have been excuses for him there as he was loaded early and it is expected he will be one of the last into the barriers in the Golden Shaheen.

Mugharreb and Abreeze both drop back from the 1,600-meter Burj Nahaar on their previous starts, finishing second and fourth respectively behind Imtiyaz.

This will Abreeze's second attempt at this race; he finished third to Ramp And Rave when it was known as the Nad Al Sheba Sprint in 1999.