• · Chris Waller Makes Dubai Debut with COMIN’ THROUGH
• · DEAUVILLE Gets Do-Over in Rashidiya
• · WITHOUT PAROLE Eyes Dubai Turf
• · RAVEN’S CORNER to Skip Shindagha
• · McPeek, Hit the Bid and Asmussen
CHRIS WALLER MAKES DUBAI DEBUT WITH COMIN’ THROUGH
Arguably the best card thus far of the 2019 Dubai World Cup Carnival will take place on Thursday night at Meydan Racecourse, including a top-class field assembled for the evening’s co-featured Group 2 $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort. Chief among the competitors is Australia’s Comin’ Through, who exits a run in the Hong Kong Mile (G1) at Sha Tin on Dec. 9 for Sir Owen Glenn’s Go Bloodstock and is one of the few horses to have the misfortune of facing both Winx and Beauty Generation in the past year.
A Group 1 winner in his native country, the son of Fastnet Rock will be the first Dubai starter for trainer Chris Waller, who famously also trains Winx. He has won seven of 23 starts, including a pair of stakes in 2018—the Group 1 Doomben Cup over 2000m and Group 2 Tramway Stakes over 1400m. He returns to the latter distance for Thursday’s Al Fahidi Fort and faces a field that includes G1 winner Marinaresco and multiple G2 winners Championship and Janoobi. The winner of last year’s renewal, Jungle Cat, went on to win the 1200m Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments (G1), as well as Australia’s Sir Rupert Clarke (G1).
“It’s been the plan for a long time to get to race in Dubai,” Waller said. “We’re very respectful of racing there and the importance of it on the world stage. Last year, myself and (Winx’s jockey) Hugh Bowman travelled there to have a look at the facilities and get an insight into the racing and we were extremely impressed. While we wish we had a greater presence there, as far as horses, it’s hard at this point because of the Australian season, but that doesn’t mean we won’t in the future.
“Comin’ Through is one step below the top 10 horses in Australia, but he’s very talented,” Waller continued. “There’s good prize money in Dubai and we enjoy the challenge of taking a horse like him overseas. It’s very exciting. He’s also owned by Sir Owen Glenn, who’s a man who likes to promote his breeding stock, is one of Australia’s biggest owners and is looking to get to a higher level, especially on the international level.
“The distance should be fine for (Comin’ Through) while he’s fresh. He’s had a number of good wins over it. While the (barrier nine of 13) draw isn’t perfect, we’ll see how the race is run on the night. He is a horse who keeps (trying) and is hard to pass.”
Comin’ Through is a half-brother to four-time Group 1 winner Criterion, who was second behind Winx in the 2015 Cox Plate (G1).
“His brother was a multiple Group 1-winning horse and (Comin’ Through) is maybe one step below him, but he is doing similar things and can certainly (step up) to that level,” Waller added.
Last out, Comin’ Through faced a tall task in the Sha Tin Mile, taking on Beauty Generation on said rival’s home track and ultimately pressing the pace as the proverbial sacrificial lamb. Backing up badly into 12th of 14, he has been off since and shipped to Meydan just before Christmas.
“We basically allowed him to put on all the weight he lost from shipping from Australia to Hong Kong and then to Dubai,” said Waller’s racing manager Charlie Duckworth. “He was probably a fraction outclassed at Sha Tin and then obviously the barrier didn’t help. We have been able to freshen him up. As far as we are concerned, we are sending in a fit and happy horse and he has a genuine chance.
“This has been a brilliant insight into how Dubai works,” Duckworth concluded. “It’s a bit of a learning curve. We now know how to adapt it to our training and—if he performs well—we’ll have a pretty good insight into what horses we can bring in the future.”
DEAUVILLE GETS DO-OVER IN RASHIDIYA
Grade 1 winner and former Ballydoyle pupil Deauville was the class of the $200,000 Singspiel (G3) three weeks ago on opening night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, but unfortunately for his new connections—owner Victorious and trainer Fawzi Nass—he was unable to pass his first test. The son of Galileo will get another chance at extra credit on Thursday at Meydan, over the same course and 1800m turf distance in the $250,000 Al Rashidiya (G2).
“He needed the race in the Singspiel quite badly and more than we thought he did,” Nass said. “We will definitely know a lot more this Thursday.”
Switching things up, Nass sent Deauville over to Meydan’s turf course from his training base across town last Saturday for a bit of work.
“The work went alright,” Nass said. “We thought he would enjoy getting on the turf, rather than on the dirt, which I think he did. Hopefully he is ready to run this Thursday. He definitely still has (Group 1 quality) to him.”
Nass also touched on two additions to his yard who appear to be of considerable value. Another declared for Thursday is sophomore Bila Shak, a well-bred son of Scat Daddy who is a maiden from one start, but is regarded highly enough to run in the $100,000 Al Bastakiya Trial over 1900m. In his lone start, the half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) runner-up Giovanni Boldini and $250,000 yearling purchase was a good second to divisional leader Weekend Thunder over 1600m.
“He’s a nice horse,” Nass said. “The plan with him is to run in the Trial on Thursday and see how he does. I think he will need the distance and he has (improved) since his last run. Stepping up (from 1600m) isn’t a worry at all.”
Another who has impressed for the yard is Nine Below Zero, a 4-year-old son of Showcasing who defied his turf-heavy pedigree with a handy win on the Meydan dirt on Saturday. The former Ralph Beckett trainee went into the 1200m affair with a 91 rating and exited with a 99 after a 3½-length victory. Prior to his local triumph, he had three wins in England and was thought of highly enough as a juvenile to run in Royal Ascot’s Norfolk Stakes (G2), finishing 12th of 17. He is now bound for DWC Carnival action.
“He’s a fast horse, but the races obviously will be tougher from here,” Nass said. “We’ll have to look at the (condition) book and see what’s available. He seems to go well and he’ll probably go on to the next step at the Carnival.”
WITHOUT PAROLE EYES DUBAI TURF
The fields are gradually congealing for one of the top turf races in the world, the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) on Dubai World Cup night. While it is widely known that Vivlos, Deirdre, Benbatl, Dream Castle, Blair House and Century Dream are hoping to make the 1800m test, the grass feature got an added boost with the addition of another “possible” in John and Tanya Gunther’s Without Parole.
The Gunthers, a father and daughter team who also bred American
Triple Crown winner Justify and are among the three finalists for
champion breeder at the Eclipse Awards this weekend, are hoping that the
lightly raced son of Frankel can prove to trainer John Gosden that he
is worthy of a trip to the UAE.
“Fingers are crossed,” Tanya Gunther said. “Neither my dad or I have been to the Dubai World Cup, so it would be exciting if it happens. He’s doing well at the moment and Gosden will make the call in due course regarding whether he heads to Dubai.”
Arguably one of the more unexposed Group 1 winners in his division, Without Parole shot onto the scene last June with a brilliant tally in Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes (G1)—his first Group-level try in what was his fourth start. Thrown into the deep end, he finished off the board in consecutive Group 1 races behind the likes of Lightning Spear, Roaring Lion and Recoletos.
Victory on Dubai World Cup night would not be a surprise for his bloodline, as it were. His half-brother, Shadwell Stable’s Tamarkuz, won the 2015 Godolphin Mile (G2) with ease, as well as the Dubai World Cup Carnival’s Firebreak Stakes (G3) and Burj Nahaar (G3). The Gunthers also bred said eventual Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner, who now stands at Shadwell Stud in Kentucky.
RAVEN’S CORNER TO SKIP AL SHINDAGHA
In a slight blow to what was shaping up to be a rather fantastic $200,000 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) on Jan. 31, Touch Gold Racing and Sean Ewing’s Raven’s Corner has been declared out of consideration for the 1200m course and distance prep for the $2.5 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on Mar. 31.
“We’ve decided to skip the Al Shindagha on the 31st and go straight to (the Group 3 $350,000 Mahab Al Shimaal on) Super Saturday with Raven’s Corner,” said Mike Kaye, principal of Touch Gold Racing. “It looks like he stepped on a stone during the race and came out with a little cut, so rather than rush him back, we’ve decided to be patient.”
Raven’s Corner had a breakout performance in opening night’s Dubawi Stakes (G3) over the same distance and conditions. The son of Raven’s Pass stalked a breakneck pace before asserting himself under Richard Mullen for trainer Satish Seemar and ultimately holding off Garhoud Sprint (Listed) winner Drafted by 1¾ lengths. His effort shot him to a 109 rating from a 105 and stamped him as one of the top sprinters in Dubai.
“He probably showed us even more ability than we expected in the
Dubawi, so hopefully this turns out to be a blessing in disguise and we
arrive for the two big races with a fresher, stronger horse,” Kaye
concluded. “If we can get him to those in peak form, he must now have a
legitimate shot at making the frame in both.”
Multiple G3 winner Switzerland, Drafted, I Kirk and last year’s winner My Catch are among the list of remaining possibles for the Al Shindagha Sprint.
Quick Hits: American trainer Kenny McPeek will once again break new ground on Thursday when he starts as many as three on the card, including Argentine G1 winner Grecko in the $100,000 Al Bastakiya Trial. The 17-time G1-winning trainer was the first U.S. conditioner to start as early as mid-January during the DWC Carnival, while also the first to start a turf horse when Harlan Strong finished sixth of 10 in the 2000m handicap last week. Harlan Strong wheels back for Thursday’s 2410m turf handicap, while the third McPeek entrant is Senior Investment, the top weight in the night’s 2000m handicap—a race that likely will bleed into the $160,000 Curlin Handicap on Feb. 28… Hit the Bid has impressed in the mornings as he prepares for his rematch with Aussie sprinter Faatinah in Thursday’s $175,000 1000m turf handicap. The Irish-trained 5-year-old appears to have physically come on since said effort, prompting trainer Darren Bunyan to say “he’s almost like a different horse,” on Wednesday morning… American 3-year-old colt Tone Broke, who is one of the more experienced horses running in the Al Bastakiya Trial, will be Dubai World Cup-winning trainer Steve Asmussen’s first starter as early as January during the DWC Carnival. Previous DWC Carnival runners for Asmussen include Curlin, whose aforementioned Feb. 28 (2008) handicap race (a Dubai World Cup prep win) was renamed in his honour and Regally Ready, who was unplaced in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (2012).