When it comes to pulling off some sensational illusions, racehorses could put Houdini to shame with their collective sleight.
They can act like the second coming during morning hours and then leave their conditioners fitful when the race day results fail to match. Conversely, they can give off airs of disinterest in their daily training only to hit the competitive switch when the starting gates open.
Throughout his nine-race career, Audible has mastered the art of leaving trainer Todd Pletcher suitably stumped. This time last year, the son of Into Mischief looked downright ordinary in his preparations, but went on to deliver his best efforts to date. While the last few months have seen Audible finally start touting himself in the morning, backing up that gusto in the results column has become the new challenge.
Which version of Audible will show up for his expected run in the US$12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline is the question for his connections. If it's the one that captured the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) last year prior to his third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, there stands a good chance the bay colt owned by China Horse Club, WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing could become the latest American-based runner to depart with the golden hardware.
In his last two starts, however, Audible has looked a notch below his best self, finishing second in the Harlan's Holiday Stakes (G3) last December and fifth in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes. He caught a sealed, sloppy Gulfstream Park main track on both occasions –conditions he didn't appear to relish – but he had also given his camp reason to think he would be sitting on go regardless.
“What's been frustrating about his last two starts is he's breezed better for those two races than he has really at any time in his 3-year-old year,” Pletcher said. “He's somewhat of an inconsistent work horse and during his 3-year-old year, I was concerned going into the Florida Derby because his final work wasn't quite as sharp as I was hoping for and he ran terrific. Since then, since coming back, he's really turned into a very consistent training horse. All of his breezes have been really, really good and we've gotten exactly what we've asked him to do. It kind of leaves us scratching our heads a little bit about his last two starts.”
One thing that has often been steadfast for Audible is his ability to give an honest account of himself even when victory eludes him. His outing in the Pegasus World Cup marked the first time he had finished worse than third and his five career victories have been earned at distances from 1400m to 1800m.
“He came out of (the Pegasus) well and trained well and really it's just such a lucrative opportunity that we feel like if he shows up and runs the kind of race that he did in the Florida Derby or Kentucky Derby, he's capable of getting a piece of it,” said Pletcher, who will also be represented by Coal Front in the Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One.
In a mantel already crowded with Breeders' Cup triumphs, classic victories, and seven Eclipse Awards, success in Dubai is one of the few remaining carrots left dangling for Pletcher. His 0-for-16 record on the Dubai World Cup card features such close calls as Harlan's Holiday's runner-up finish in the 2003 edition of the signature race, and Pletcher readily admits that leaving no elite stone unturned fuels his motivation.
“I would love to add (a Dubai win) to our stable's resume. We've knocked on the door several times,” Pletcher said. “We've had some really quality races over there and some good seconds, but that elusive win is what we're searching for.”
The weeks since his Pegasus run have seen Audible make his case as a viable Dubai World Cup threat through a steady series of bullet workouts. Everything Pletcher has seen has told him the colt can handle the mental and physical challenge of taking on the world's best.
He just hopes, this time, what he's seeing is a sign of things to come and not a reminder of what once was.
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