Thursday's Group 3 $200,000 Firebreak Stakes at Meydan will mark numerous firsts for multiple G2-winning American import, Quip. It will be his first start of 2020 and in the UAE, as well as for trainer Doug Watson and in the orange and black colors of Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi.
“If he runs a nice race, we'd like to go on to the Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge after this,” he continued. “North America and Benbatl might be in Saudi and I think he can stretch (to 2000m, or 1 1/4 miles). He has won over 1700m and 1800m in the States, so I think he can maybe do it. He can get into the Godolphin Mile with his rating, so there are options if it doesn't work out.”
A son of Distorted Humor, he was previously on the Kentucky Derby trail in 2018, but previous trainer Rodolphe Brisset elected to skip the American classic because he needed more time to mature. He has since won the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) over 1800m, adding to his popular win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) the year prior. Last June, he was second in the Stephen Foster (G2) over the same distance before finishing unplaced in his following two starts, the $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) and the Lukas Classic Stakes (G3). A break necessitated and his purchase occurred in the interim, followed by a few weeks of light training at David Scanlon's Florida farm. Quip arrived in Dubai in mid-December.
Stablemate Muntazah, last year's winner of the Firebreak for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, appears the horse to beat in the race. The 7-year-old gelding has historically needed a prep race coming off his long summer break and now, with such under his belt when fourth by 9¼ lengths in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) on Jan. 9, he should be a tough customer. Watson also will start Thegreatcollection, a reliable late-running sort who appears to be punching above his weight, but always comes out swinging late in the race.
“I'm really pleased with Muntazah, who always takes a run to get ready—just a big, massive animal who weighs at least 550kgs,” Watson explained. “We knew he would need that and we did as much as we could, but he ran the same way he did in his first dirt start last year. He's a good horse and one of the best we have when he's right. The plan is going to be to run in the Godolphin Mile after this, if all goes well.
“Thegreatcollection is training well and on his night, he can run a big race,” he continued. “He's a quirky horse, but he takes kickback and if it all falls apart in front of him, he can run on and get a nice piece of the race. He's a nice horse and if it doesn't work out, we have a handicap back in two weeks. It would be nice to run a big race, so that we could get him into (the Godolphin Mile). That would be nice for the owner.”
Watson also touched on multiple G3 winner Switzerland, who makes his Red Stables bow in the same silks as Quip in the 1200m dirt handicap on Thursday. The son of Speightstown was last seen failing to hit the board in the Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (G1) for trainer Steve Asmussen.
“He's had two really good works over at Meydan and (jockey) Pat (Dobbs) is really positive about the horse,” Watson said. “He's a big, heavy horse, but he's had some good works and is as well as we could have him. He looks lighter to me than he did last year and we thought we would never get him to the races when we got him, but he's flown along and is doing great. If he can run back close to his best, he will be right there.”
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