• · WinStar Three-Wide in World Cup
• · Suave Richard Sets Sights on Sheema
• · Bravazo World Cup-Bound
• · Meydan Sprint Step One for Blue Point
• · Watson Chats Kimbear, Muntazah & Pop the Hood
• · Good Curry Spices Up Thursday Card
• · Poetic Charm Ready to Disarm
WINSTAR THREE-WIDE IN WORLD CUP
While Godolphin and Coolmore are the reigning superpowers of global racing and breeding, Kenny Trout’s WinStar Farm is not far behind as far as influence. The Versailles, Kentucky, operation is rising along much of the same lines as the two aforementioned titans, with a powerful racing operation, far-reaching breeding program and a 22-stallion roster that anchors on proven, world-class horseflesh such as Tiznow, Speightstown, Pioneerof the Nile and Distorted Humor.
With a slogan of “Think Big: Breed WinStar,” it is not a surprise that racing ‘big’ is also on the docket—and that is just what President, CEO and Racing Manager Elliott Walden has confirmed regarding this year’s $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (Group 1). The operation plans to possibly start three horses in the world’s richest race.
Candidates include Bill Mott-trained Yoshida (pictured above), Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Battle of Midway and Todd Pletcher-trained Audible. Yoshida, a G1 winner on turf and dirt, was fourth in November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), finishing a stride shy of passing 2018 Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow. Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Battle of Midway exits a game win in the San Pasqual (G2) over McKinzie, a horse many were already planning to make the early favourite for the Dubai World Cup before said upending. Audible is a G1 winner who has won his last five starts on dry dirt, but was third in the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1) behind Justify and fifth last out in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1)—both over sloppy surfaces.
“We’re looking at (running) all three,” Walden confirmed. “(Yoshida and Battle of Midway) are definite. I’ll speak to Todd (Pletcher, trainer) after Audible works this weekend.”
While WinStar, alone, is a powerful owner, which was never more evident than when its Well Armed brought the curtain down on Nad Al Sheba in the 2009 Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), aligning itself with power players such as China Horse Club, Starlight Racing Sol Kumin and Don Alberto Stables has allowed the burgeoning operation to consistently be part of the classics, as well as other high-profile events like Royal Ascot, Breeders’ Cup and Pegasus. WinStar, China Horse Club, Kumin’s Head of Plains Partners and Starlight were also the four owners of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify and together own both Yoshida and Audible.
Elliott, himself, is no stranger to doing well in Dubai. In his previous career as a trainer, he started four on Dubai World Cup night, including Victory Gallop (3rd, 1999) and Ecton Park (5th, 2000) in the Dubai World Cup, as well as Bet Me Best (3rd, 2000 Dubai Golden Shaheen) and Mr. John (6th, 2003 Godolphin Mile).
SUAVE RICHARD SETS SIGHTS ON SHEEMA
One thing already appears to be certain for the turf races on Dubai World Cup night: Japan will likely hold a hot hand. With the successes of such luminaries as Admire Moon, Gentildonna and Just A Way in the past, it is no surprise that the Japanese are not afraid to throw some of their best stock this way in order to take home a chunk of the combined $12 million in purses between the Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) and Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1).
Suave Richard may not be a known name outside of Japan, like his friendly rival Rey de Oro, but he is likely to join said champion in the gate for the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic on Mar. 30. Trainer Yasushi Shono confirmed with Japanese media representatives that the 2410m turf race was the target for the Nicks Co. Ltd.-owned son of 2006 winner Heart’s Cry.
Rated a lofty 121, Suave Richard was a rousing winner of the Osaka Hai (G1) over 2000m in April and has proven to be one of the more versatile runners in Japan, including third-place finishes in the 1600m Yasuda Kinen (G1) and 2400m Japan Cup (G1). His other victories include wins in the 2000m Kinko Sho (G2) and 2500m Copa Republica Argentina (G2) within a 5-for-13 career that has earned him roughly $4.8 million.
BRAVAZO WORLD CUP-BOUND
The field for the $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) of 2019 continues to grow in depth. In past renewals, superstars such as Arrogate, Dubai Millennium and California Chrome dominated the headlines, but this year the race appears to be wide-open and ripe for a new superstar to be crowned.
Another throwing his proverbial hat into that ring is Bravazo, who would represent a first Dubai runner for iconic American conditioner D. Wayne Lukas. The four-time U.S. champion trainer has circled the 2000m event as his next target for his Grade 2-winning son of Awesome Again and appears to have the horse coming into the race in top form.
Lukas confirmed with Oaklawn Park media officials that the Dubai World Cup is the plan for the bay 4-year-old colt and that he will train at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas—his winter base—until he ships to the UAE in mid-March.
Carrying the colours of the most prolific ownership in U.S. racing history, Calumet Farm, Bravazo has knocked heads with some of the top dirt horses in America over the last year and exits a fourth-place finish in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Previously, he was second in the Clark Handicap (G1), third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and placed in three other Grade 1 events, including coming within a half-length of defeating Justify in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
MEYDAN SPRINT STEP ONE FOR BLUE POINT
The highest-profile horse declared to race on Thursday night at Meydan Racecourse, Godolphin’s Group 1 winner Blue Point headlines the Group 2 $250,000 Meydan Sprint over 1000m on turf, a race in which he was second last year to the late, great Ertijaal. The well-regarded son of Shamardal is looking to make amends this year—not only for said runner-up finish, but also for a Dubai tenure that never truly reached its potential, thanks to a subsequent veterinary scratch at the gate of the subsequent Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments (G1).
One year later, much has happened for the Charlie Appleby trainee. After his Al Quoz quagmire, he finished down the field in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (G1) in Hong Kong after shipping in subpar fashion. Criticism naturally began to arise that the bay charge was an overrated sort—but that was quickly quelled when he stamped out some of the top turf sprinters in the world in Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand Stakes (G1) over the same distance he will dash on Thursday night.
Last seen finishing a somewhat disappointing third in the Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) during the Yorkshire Ebor Festival, Blue Point will start his campaign with the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night in his sights once again.
“He has been training well,” Appleby said. “He was disappointing in the Nunthorpe and came up with a dirty scope afterwards. We knew then that his future would be in Dubai during the Carnival.”
Thursday’s race looks to be an easier task for the six-time winner. A small field, including the David Hayes-trained Australian multiple Group 2 winner Faatinah, will oppose. Appleby thus expressed confidence in his runner’s chances.
“His preparation for the race has gone well,” he concluded. “He should come forward off the race like he did last year, though. He is eight pounds clear of the others in the field, is a Group 1 winner and likely the horse to beat. We are very pleased with him right now.”
WATSON CHATS KIMBEAR, MUNTAZAH & POP THE HOOD
Doug Watson knows what it takes to win the $1.5 million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One (G1), having tasted success with both Second Summer and the recently retired One Man Band. This week’s $200,000 Firebreak Stakes (G3) sees the reappearance of two of the leading trainer’s headline horses who each hope to earn their way to the 1600m affair: Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi’s Kimbear (pictured above, center) and Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Muntazah.
Another son of Dubawi who is proving to be effective on dirt, Muntazah showed ability in England during stints with Barry Hills and Owen Burrows. This included a third in the Royal Lodge (G2) as a 2-year-old. Second in the 2018 renewal of the Godolphin Mile (G2) to Heavy Metal (his first run on dirt), Muntazah finished a promising third behind fellow Dubawi offspring North America in the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 on Jan. 10. The 6-year-old held an entry for last week’s Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) but was not declared.
“He got a little steadfast (tied up) on declaration day last week,” Watson said. “It was mild; he just got overly excited behind horses cantering, feeling really good. It was strange, but it happened. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.
“We had wanted to run him in the (1900m) Maktoum Challenge, but this is the next logical spot, since he’s run so well at 1600m in Round 1 and was second in the Godolphin Mile last year,” Watson continued. “The good thing is he’s in a good form. He’s come back and worked really well. We might try him (going 2000m) in the (Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Mar. 9), but what we will most likely do is enter him in both races if he gets to Super Saturday (along with the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over 1600m). I think he can stay the trip. Some say he didn’t stay in England, but he ran some huge races against some very good horses there.”
Kimbear is due a stakes success at Meydan and will likely be well-fancied racing over the same course and distance as his victory in last year’s Burj Nahaar (G3). The 5-year-old son of Temple City has finished out of the money only twice in seven runs at Meydan and was second ahead of Muntazah in the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 (G2) on Jan. 10. He looks to go one better this time around.
“He ran a great race last time and North America is obviously an exceptional horse, but we thought that even though he was second, we were expecting a bigger run,” Watson explained. “The next day, we found a quarter crack and he had overreached badly. His foot has grown a little awkwardly, so that can make him a little weaker there. Since then, though, we’ve had a nice clean run with him and obviously we think a lot of him. It’s a tough race with horses like Secret Ambition (above, left) and Heavy Metal (above, far right), so we won’t take anything for granted.”
Thursday’s undercard has some competitive contests and Watson has Touch Gold Racing’s intriguing Pop the Hood entered in the $135,000 Handicap over 1200m, having his second run in the UAE.
“He’s a very fast and talented horse and we think highly of him,” he concluded. “Last out, it was his first run in a while and everything that could go wrong, went wrong. He stumbled out and didn’t get the cleanest of trips after that. He should move forward, hopefully, here. The race looks pretty open.”
GOOD CURRY SPICES UP THURSDAY CARD
One of the most popular horses in Turkey is set to make his local bow on Thursday, the amusingly named Good Curry. Taking on some (appropriately) salty competitors in the $135,000 1200m handicap, the three-time Group 1 winner has been training well locally under Turkish jockey Ismail Koyuncu. Named after American professional basketball player Stephen Curry II, the Bayram Kocakaya-trained horse will be facing tough rivals in dual Grade 3 sprint winner Switzerland, Touch Gold Racing’s Pop the Hood, Godolphin’s Victory Wave and the well handicapped Lavaspin.
“He is a very kind horse and you can ask him to do anything,” said owner Ismail Hadioglu via a translator. “At the moment, he is fit enough. He just had around 50 days of rest before he came here. Maybe he has a little condition, but a 1200m race I think he can win. The main target will be on the ninth of March (the Mahab Al Shimaal (G3)). After the ninth, we will go for the (Dubai Golden) Shaheen (G1) if there is a chance. It’s his first time (here), he needs to get around and then we will decide. In Turkey, he was racing the opposite way (right-handed).”
The son of Sharp Humor has raced over various distances, notching multiple Group 2 wins over 2000m on the dirt and all weather in his native Turkey. However, he rose to fame by winning at the highest level over 1500m three times, posting an average winning margin of about three lengths.
“He is a very fast horse; likes to go forward,” Hadioglu said. “Here in Dubai, this is a different track. I can’t decide exactly. We will see (how he is placed early). The jockey (Halis Karatas) is very experienced and is the champion jockey in Turkey. He will decide on the best tactic. Anything can happen and change in this race.”
Koyuncu has also been aboard Peri Lina, an immensely popular Turkish filly who will take on a tall order in the Group 2 Balanchine on Thursday. She exits an off-the-board finish in the Group 2 Cape Verdi against many of the same foes. The move up in distance by 200m may assist the Hasan Boyraz-trained filly, who has posted Group 1 victories over 2100m twice, as well as making her mark as a Group 1-winning miler.
“Peri Lina is very good,” said regular rider Ismail Koyuncu. “She’s reached a good point at Meydan. The (Cape Verdi) was a very tough race for her. She has started to become fresh and is much better now.”
Showing a touch of character when taking her time to load, the
four-year-old filly jumped clear of the rest when the gates flew open
during her last start.
“She’s ok now,” Koyoncu continued. “We teach her every day. We take our time and try not to rush her. She has become used now (to the surroundings). We have already done some schooling. She’s much better now, I can say that.”
Racing in counter-clockwise direction for the first time, the Peri Lina will have gained experience and a fitness edge from her mile outing. Cape Verdi victress Poetic Charm will seek to make it a Cape Verdi-Balanchine double, achieved by Promising Run last year, but the extra furlong will suit her Turkish challenger.
“In the winter time we couldn’t find any races for her,” Koyuncu said. “They run the Group races in the summer. This time I feel she can do much better. She likes longer distance, that was a mile and it was her first time out.”
POETIC CHARM READY TO DISARM
Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby-trained Poetic Charm towers over her fellow fillies and mares in Thursday’s $250,000 Group 2 Balanchine and looks to emulate her overpowering four-length local debut in the Cape Verdi (G2) over 1600m last month. The half-sister to Teofilo earned her second win over a mile in the process and will be attempting new territory when stepping up to 1800m for the first time in her career.
“She’s been doing well,” Appleby said. “She hasn’t done much work since her win and has been taking it easy. We believed the mile to be her optimal trip, but she galloped out well in the Cape Verdi. Nine to 10 furlongs is unknown territory, so we will try and see what happens. Hopefully it will open up some options.”
A small field will go to post for the Balanchine, with Poetic Charm the highest-rated runner in the field with Cape Verdi runner-up Asoof and multiple G1 winner Furia Cruzada re-opposing. Victory on Thursday will have connections dreaming of bigger things to come, with turf riches luring the royally bred daughter of Dubai to return to Europe.
“The Balanchine field consists of the same horses she beat on her first outing here,” Appleby concluded. “We think she will do well. This is probably her last run here and then she will likely go back to Europe.”