California-based trainer Doug O'Neill is hoping that fitting Pavel with blinkers when he runs in the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline on Saturday is going to bring out the best in the 5-year-old son of Creative Cause. Already fourth in last year's edition, Pavel is very likeable individual, easily recognizable thanks to his grey coloring and powerful stride.
Like many other horses that have travelled to Dubai in the past, he seems to thrive in the desert sun and his trainer never hesitated when he received the invitation to return to Meydan.
“When we got the invite, we were very grateful and excited,” O'Neill said. “Pavel was doing well; he was super healthy, happy. He has shown numerous times and last year with a very credible run in Dubai that he runs really well when he is on the road. Travelling is not a problem for him and the US$12 million purse doesn't hurt anyone either. It is just a great opportunity. There are a couple of tough ones in there, but I think it is a pretty evenly matched race that is pretty much wide open.”
Not so long ago, Pavel had travelled to Japan where he ran in the Grade 1 Champions Cup at Chukyo racecourse. But unlike Meydan, he never took to the track and failed to sparkle. Since he has arrived in Dubai, he has loved the early morning gallops and his trainer continues: “I think he is a bigger, stronger version compared to last year. Of course the race will tell us a lot, but I am very happy the way he is doing. He has matured into such a class older horse and he has shown tons of energy in his morning exercises. And this time round Joel Rosario will be riding him and that will be an extra addition. It will be a real exciting race to watch for us.”
Up until now, Pavel had always been partnered by Mario Gutierrez, who is O'Neill's stable jockey. Gutierrez has won the Kentucky Derby twice for the O'Neill yard, first in 2012 with I'll Have Another and then again in 2016 with Nyquist.
“I have tons of respect for Mario, who is our guy, but Mario opted to stay in California to ride in a Grade 1 for the same owner,” O'Neill clarified. “It is always intriguing to go from our guy, a solid guy and a Grade 1, Derby-winning jockey to another solid guy like Joel Rosario, who is also a tremendous rider. It shouldn't hurt us at all. Just fresh hands, a fresh outlook and hopefully a great result.”
Rosario will be hoping for a repeat of the year 2013 when he won the Dubai World Cup on board Animal Kingdom. He knows what it takes to win this famous race, but Rosario is not the only change that connections have made regarding Pavel's Dubai World Cup bid. In fact, the winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) is going to wear blinkers for the first time in a race and his trainer concluded: “Pavel is a true racehorse. He is very kind, very professional and I would be shocked if Joel is not in love with him comes race time. He is going to have blinkers on in the race on Saturday.
“He is so willing in the morning. He doesn't act like a horse that needs blinkers, but we put blinkers on in the morning and he is just as willing. So we thought it would be kind of a little shake-up if you will, and maybe have him a little bit more forward placed without Joel having to do a whole lot early. And Joel and Pavel can save all the energy for the last quarter of a mile (400m).”
Gloria de Campeao, African Story and Prince Bishop are all horses that had been placed in the Dubai World Cup before winning it. Could Pavel be the next one to add his name to the list?
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