One of the more promising American 3-year-old sprinters was acquired over the summer and is about to make his UAE bow on the first night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival (Jan. 2). Gladiator King, an impressive winner of the history-laden Hutcheson Stakes (G3) and five-time victor for previous trainer Jaime Mejia and owner Thoroughbred Champions Training Center LLC, will race for Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi on Thursday and the winningest active trainer in Dubai, Satish Seemar.
“He's coming on well and he's ready to run his race in the Dubawi,” Seemar said. “Luckily we got him at the right time in the summer and he's acclimatized well. The American horses take a while to come along and he's enjoyed our program. We're pleased with him because he was actually stuck in the quarantine a bit too long, but once he got to Zabeel, he started properly climbing our steps and getting better. He's been working with some of our better sprinters, like (fellow Dubawi probable) Lavaspin and should only improve from this first race. Lavaspin has had his issues, but is doing well—so it will be interesting to run them both, as (Lavaspin) is a Zabeel-made product and the other is brand new.
“This is my first horse for Sheikh Rashid,” Seemar continued. “I got to meet him at the last Dubai World Cup day and it went from there. Owners like him are really needed in this business. He's keen, young, intelligent and mature. He really wants to be involved in racing and I hope we can win some races together.”
Gladiator King has earned $258,740 and was a $195,000 Ocala purchase. A son of Dubai World Cup winner Curlin, he also won the Roar Stakes—like the Hutcheson, at Gulfstream Park—and placed in the Chick Lang (G3) on Preakness Stakes Day at Pimlico. Thursday's 1200m test will be the grandson of Hennessy's first off a layoff, after having raced 15 times in 8½ months for his previous connections.
“All I've seen is improvement, every week, but he will definitely improve from the race,” added assistant trainer Bhupat Seemar. “He's about 95% fit and the race will bring him forward. We're still getting to know the horse. We'll see how he and Lavaspin break and let them do their thing.”
Zabeel won last year's Dubawi with Raven's Corner and have taken home the trophy in four of its six runnings, including three with Dubai legend Reynaldothewizard. Possible rivals this year include multiple G3 winner Drafted (second last year), Garhoud Sprint (Listed) winner Ibn Malik, Waady, Alfredo Arcano and Nine Below Zero.
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