Little Mike and Dullahan have emerged from their initial races in Dubai in good order, and trainer Dale Romans plans to send them for workouts March 24 prior to their starts on the $27 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) program at Meydan six days later.
"They're fine. They both came out of the Super Saturday races (March 9) in good shape," Romans said. "I'm glad we got a race into them over that track--it seems to help a lot of horses."
Romans plans to fly back to Dubai to oversee the workouts and remain training leading up to the big races for his multiple grade I-winning stars. He is the only American trainer to send his horses to race on Meydan's synthetic surface prior to World Cup events, even though results from the initial three years of Cup races at that track bear out the validity of prepping there.
Part of the value of being in Dubai early is getting acclimated to the expanse of Meydan and its lengthy prerace procedure, which involves shipping from the quarantine barn to a holding barn area and then walking through a long tunnel to the saddling paddock prior to going to the parade ring and then the racetrack.
Dullahan, who will run in the $10 million Dubai World Cup with Gary Stevens in the saddle, acted up in the holding area prior to his race in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar (UAE-III), Romans said. He then bounced around in the starting gate and missed the break, eventually finishing 11th in the 14-horse field after ranging up along the rail and then dropping back again under English-based jockey Kieren Fallon.
"Dullahan wasn't comfortable in the holding barn, but he will be by the big night," Romans said, adding that he plans schooling sessions for Donegal Racing's big 4-year-old son of Even the Score so that he can become more familiar with the Meydan system. Dullahan has collected all three of his grade I wins on synthetic surfaces.
Little Mike will be switched back to grass after gaining the lead in the latter stages of the $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (UAE-I) on the all-weather track but then fading to eighth in the 13-horse field under Fallon.
Romans used the Maktoum Challenge as a test to see if Priscilla Vaccarezza's Little Mike liked the surface; if so, he also could have run in the World Cup. Romans said he now is aiming the 6-year-old Spanish Steps gelding for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) at 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on turf with Stevens engaged to ride.
Little Mike had not previously raced on a synthetic track, but he has won 12 of 17 starts on turf including three grade I events topped by last year's Breeders' Cup Turf and Arlington Million Stakes.
While neither Little Mike nor Dullahan earned prizes on Super Saturday, the experience could prove invaluable in preparing for World Cup day.
"I learned a lot," declared Romans, who already has captured one World Cup trophy with Roses in May's victory in 2005 on the Nad Al Sheba dirt track. He is bidding to become the only American trainer other than Bob Baffert to win the World Cup more than once. Baffert sent Silver Charm to victory in 1998 and Captain Steve in 2001.