Dubai World Cup Contenders
Forever Unbridled – Charles Fipke's champion Forever Unbridled, looking to become the first female winner of the race, went to the track shortly after 5:30 a.m. and galloped twice around as trainer Dallas Stewart and his son, Cole, watched from the rail.
“We know she's gifted,” Stewart said of the decision to run the 6-year-old mare in the Dubai World Cup. “She knows how to win. We got the invitation, so we decided to take a shot. Mr Fipke is pretty game for trying new things, so here we are.”
Forever Unbridled has been working steadily since the start of February for her trip to Dubai, including a bullet work of 59.60 for 1000m on March 15 at her home base at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
“She's never missed a day of training,” Stewart said. “She's been training great. Her works have been great.”
Forever Unbridled, who shipped to Dubai on March 20, has pleased her trainer with her appearance and energy level.
“She's doing very well,” the former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas said. “We have video of her bucking and kicking. We're happy to see that. Her energy is good. She knows her job. We just need to get her over there.”
Gunnevera – American challenger Gunnevera, an earner of over US $2.9 million and third in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes in January, rolled through an easy gallop around the Meydan dirt track just after 7:00 a.m. on Monday morning.
With trainer Antonio Sano due to arrive in Dubai on Monday night, assistant trainer Jesus Prada stood at the rail watching Gunnevera cruise, a smile spreading across his face.
“The horse is doing very well. He feels very nice and he likes the track, the barn and all the attention from the people here,” Prada said, glancing around the huge span of Meydan. “This is a major place—very different from Gulfstream Park (in Florida where Gunnevera has been based). We came here to win the Dubai World Cup and he has a real chance to win.”
Pavel – Although lightly raced, the 4-year-old Pavel arrives with impressive credentials.
Pavel, named after hockey star Pavel Datsyuk, took some time to find his legs before skating to a runaway score in his July 1, 2017 debut, at Santa Anita. Just two starts later he iced his competition with a six-length romp in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx.
“He had some early issues, so we put him away and stopped on the (Kentucky) Derby dreams with him and I believe we now have a better 4-year-old,” Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill, said.
Owned by Reddam Racing LLC, Pavel was out just after 7:00 a.m. for an open gallop over the Meydan dirt track under exercise rider Amir Cedeno.
“He's a good traveller, so he's the perfect horse to move around with,” Mora said. “He loves what he does and he's adapted pretty well. So, now we pray that he'll do well on the evening.”
Pavel will continue the easy workload through the week.
“He did his big works at home. He'll just gallop into the race,” Mora said. “The more he trains here, the more I like it. He wasn't making any noise and there was no stress. He has a tendency to get wet. He's a sweater, but it's not a nervous thing. That's just him.”
Despite having just seven starts to his credit, the handsome Creative Cause grey has made three attempts in Grade 1 races including an impressive third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
Mora knows the young colt will have a tough task in the Dubai World Cup but believes the colt is sitting on a big effort following a difficult trip last out when fourth in the Grade 2 San Pasqual, at Santa Anita.
“He's facing some tough runners, but he's training well and a good trip will help him,” Mora said. “The last race he ran, he lacked room, but the ability is there.”
West Coast and Mubtaahij – Bob Baffert's pair were out on the dirt track under exercise rider Dana Barnes this morning and the trainer was all smiles after seeing his charges for the first time since they boarded the plane for the long flight overseas.
“West Coast is a big, tough, horse and he shipped well and is carrying his weight well,” Baffert said. “I gave him a little easy half-mile (800m) and he looked great doing it. He's happy and doing great and that's all you can ask for at this stage.”
Baffert is looking for back-to-back victories in the race and his fourth overall win, having scored with Arrogate last year, Silver Charm in 1998 and Captain Steve in 2001. Gary and Mary West's West Coast is the reigning American champion 3-year-old colt.
“He needs to show up and run his race,” Baffert said. “He should be the favourite based on what he's accomplished. He's run into some pretty nice horses and Gun Runner (second to Arrogate in 2017) is not in there and there's no Arrogate. I've been very fortunate. Every time I've gone over with the favourite I've been lucky to win it. Hopefully, that trend continues, but you still need racing luck.”
Mubtaahij is owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Kalifa Saaed Al Maktoum and finished fourth in the Dubai World Cup last year. He was second in the 2016 edition of the race behind California Chrome.
“That's all we wanted to do today,” said Baffert. “We're going to go easy from here. They won't come out on the track tomorrow. They'll just walk and then jog and gallop up to the race on Saturday. We're looking forward to it, but this race is a real challenge for a trainer, for me. It's totally different (from racing in America). You have to really know your horse and understand how they're responding. It's not easy, but to win the big prize is really exciting and I feel good about both horses.”
Dubai Golden Shaheen Contenders
Mind Your Biscuits – 2017 Dubai Golden Shaheen victor Mind Your Biscuits came to the Meydan Racecourse main track this morning just after 6 a.m. After jogging backwards, the chestnut son of Posse visited the saddling paddock before returning to the track for a gallop of about 2000m.
Paddock schooling is important to the two-time Grade 1 winner as he has been known to get worked up on race day when in the saddling enclosure and trainer Chad Summers hopes it helps him come race night.
“Race day gives him an edge,” Summers explained. “Everything you can do to help, you help. He schooled great today. Last year he was on his toes, looking around. He's different this year. More mature,”
Winless in his last four starts, Mind Your Biscuits will be reunited with Joel Rosario who piloted him to victory in 2017.
Roy H – American champion sprinter Roy H, winner of his last three races including the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), continued to make a stellar impression in his morning training in Dubai when he took an easy tour of the dirt track under the lights just after 5 a.m.
With exercise rider Amber Chapman up for trainer Peter Miller, Roy H arched his neck and powered off his massive hind end, striding out in a beautifully muscular frame.
“'Roy' loves this track,” Chapman said later. “He's feeling great. I love the way he trained today. The first time he came up here (to the Meydan dirt track), he was a little bit anxious. He relaxed today, walked back great to the barn and cooled out really well.”
A son of international sire More Than Ready, Roy H is set to breeze on Tuesday morning over the dirt track with regular jockey Kent Desormeaux in the irons. Miller is expected to be on hand for the work after a flight from the United States into the United Arab Emirates.
Roy H has banked nearly $1.5 million while winning seven of 18 career starts.
X Y Jet – Already known in Dubai as the runner-up by a neck to Muarrab in the 2016 Dubai Golden Shaheen as well as one of the fastest horses in training anywhere in the world, X Y Jet is purposefully being given an easy week prior to attempting to capture his first career victory in a Group/Grade 1 event.
Trainer Jorge Navarro said Monday after watching the 6-year-old gray gallop leisurely on the Meydan dirt track that, with three consecutive wins under his girth over the past 90 days as well as two workouts this month in Florida, X Y Jet is at a peak and does not need to do any speed training.
In his most recent race, the about 1200m Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 17, X Y Jet burst out of the starting gate faster than Navarro had ever seen the gelding run, recording blazing early fractions of 21.81 and 44.41 (for about-400m and -800m) before sauntering to a seven-length win in 1:09.17. That kind of early speed should serve him well in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, although Navarro conceded that X Y Jet will be taking on more accomplished horses including American champion sprinter Roy H.
“If he belongs, he belongs,” Navarro said philosophically when pondering the chances of X Y Jet. “If not, we took a chance. We have nothing to lose.”
Al Quoz Sprint Contenders
Holding Gold – Holding Gold represents top-flight North American trainer Mark Casse's first runner in Dubai but the Live Oak Plantation homebred has experience in his arsenal as he gears up for the Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments.
The 5-year-old gelding is getting put through his paces by the now Dubai-based exercise rider Carlos Rojas, who was formerly employed by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Rojas was the regular morning partner for Asmussen's 2008 Dubai World Cup winner and two-time North American Horse of the Year Curlin.
“He's just an extraordinary rider,” said Randi Melton, Casse's assistant, while noting that it is unusual to travel half-way around the world for an event of this magnitude without the stable's regular exercise rider. “He gets along great with the horse.”
Melton was part of Team Casse when they sent American champion Turf Mare Tepin to Royal Ascot for an enormous win against international competition. Melton said that the personality of Holding Gold makes her job easier.
“He's a cool dude. Everyone in our barn calls him that,” she said. “I'm impressed with the level of his intelligence, his laid-back demeanor, and his ability to handle shipping. That gives you as much confidence as you can have going into it. It's almost scary what a nice disposition he has.”
On Monday morning Holding Gold galloped one mile over the main track about 7:15 a.m., and Melton said that going forward in the last few days they will switch him to the smaller training track for easy jogs to keep him fresh for the race.
Stormy Liberal – When Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) winner Stormy Liberal traveled to Hong Kong last December, he didn't particularly enjoy the experience, and the now 6-year-old gelding wound up 11th in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (G1). But so far, the speedy bay seems to be relishing his sojourn to Dubai, according to exercise rider Amber Chapman, who reported that the son of Stormy Atlantic has been “super happy” since arriving at Meydan.
“He's cool. He's super chill,” said Chapman, who also accompanied Stormy Liberal to Hong Kong and feels his attitude in Dubai, as well as general similarities in racing at Meydan with the United States, will serve him well in the 1200m Al Quoz Sprint.
Stormy Liberal has been doing easy jogs and gallops in his initial days in Dubai but is tentatively set for a brief breeze on Tuesday morning after trainer Peter Miller arrives from his base in California, Chapman said.
UAE Derby Contenders
Reride – One year after Gun Runner finished second in the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline, Winchell Thoroughbreds and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will send out the developing 3-year-old Reride in the UAE Derby sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2). On Monday, the Candy Ride colt worked four furlongs shortly after 5:00 a.m.
“His energy level has been good since we got here,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “We just put an easy half mile in him to let him pick his feet up over the racetrack. I got him in :50 4/5. He felt good coming back to the barn.”
Reride enters the UAE Derby off a 2½-length victory over favorite Runaway Ghost in the Mine That Bird Derby Feb. 25. Runaway Ghost returned to win the Sunland Derby (G3) Sunday impressively.
“The Sunland Derby winner was who he beat last time, so if he runs his race, he should stack up well here,” Blasi said. “He was pulled away from a horse (Runaway Ghost) that came back and won at a mile and an eighth. He seemed to get better as the race went on and his stride lengthened late. I would think a mile and three-sixteenths is within his realm.”
Godolphin Mile Contenders
Economic Model – Economic Model, who was sold privately by his American owners to a member of the ruling family of Dubai following the horse's first graded stakes win in the Hal's Hope (G3) in Florida in his last start February 24, was sent out for his morning exercise at 7 AM Monday under Gaswell Cruz as he readies for the biggest test of his career in the Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One (G2).
Cruz is looking after Economic Model, now owned by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for Chad Brown while the trainer remains in the United States. Regardless of the outcome of the race, Economic Model will not be returned to Brown and instead will be transferred to Nicholas Bachalard as he is set to soon become the private trainer for the Sheikh's private Jebal Ali Stable here in Dubai.
“I saw him out on the track this morning and he looked good,” said Bachalard, who was on hand in an unofficial capacity until the transfer is complete.
Bachalard has spent the past eight years training in Saudi Arabia, following a 17-year stint as the assistant to the American-based Christophe Clement.
The one-mile distance of the race has proven to be optimum for the five-year-old Kentucky-bred and on Saturday he will make his first start outside the United States.
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