DUBAI WORLD CUP: Mike Smith to Ride Forever Unbridled – The reigning champion dirt mare in America has picked up the riding services of one of the top jockeys in the world. Charles Fipke’s homebred Forever Unbridled will be united for the first time with Mike Smith in the US$10 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), which was confirmed by trainer Dallas Stewart on Monday.
“He’s obviously a great rider and he won the race last year,” Stewart said. “Last fall, he told me he would love to ride her sometime and obviously (previous rider) Johnny (Velazquez) had a prior commitment. Smith was Chuck (Fipke’s) next choice and I’m glad to have him.”
Velazquez, who is committed to riding Audible in the Florida Derby (G1) on March 31st, rode Forever Unbridled in her last racetrack appearance in November, a half-length victory over subsequently crowned champion 3-year-old filly Abel Tasman in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). A race prior, under Joel Rosario, the 6-year-old bay mare defeated heavily favoured champion 3-year-old filly of the previous year, Songbird, by a neck in Saratoga’s Personal Ensign (G1) in late August. Smith was aboard both Songbird, whom she caught in the final stages, and Abel Tasman, whom she held off just the same.
“If you can’t beat them, join them,” Smith said. “Her last few races have really been tremendous. She’s running the kind of races where she can definitely compete with the boys. She’s a big filly, too, and pretty much as big as the boys she’ll be running against, so I’m very excited about the opportunity to ride her.
“The mile and a quarter (2000m) is something she should really like,” he added. “I’m just really blessed to get the opportunity.”
Adding intrigue to the affair is the fact that Bob Baffert-trained West Coast, the reigning champion 3-year-old in America and expected favourite in the Dubai World Cup, was previously the mount of Smith. They teamed to take the two 2017 races that earned him said title, the Travers (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G1). Jockey Javier Castellano will be aboard West Coast in the Dubai World Cup and has ridden him in his previous two races, a third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and runner-up effort in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1). The Castellano-West Coast match was originally necessitated when Smith chose to ride world champion Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup.
The plot thickens, as Smith and Castellano are no strangers in battle recently. Last weekend, they were involved in a high-profile throw-down between two of the leading contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) that ended in a controversial disqualification. Smith’s mount, Baffert-trained McKinzie, was disqualified for interference with Castellano’s Bolt d’Oro after drifting out during a stretch-long battle in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita.
“West Coast will be the favourite and we have to have a successful trip to beat him,” Smith said. “If there’s someone in the race who can upset the applecart, it’s Forever Unbridled and I’m excited about it. I think she’ll perform really well.
“She’ll come hard at you and I know this from experience,” Smith continued. “If she gets near you, she’s probably going to get by you. She’s raced against some very good mares the last few years and was only a length behind (Beholder and Songbird in the 2016) Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She simply has no quit in her.”
After a Super Saturday (March 10th) at Meydan Racecourse, where frontrunners performed quite well, Forever Unbridled’s closing style may appear to be at a disadvantage. Despite that, Smith remains confident.
“You can’t change her a whole lot,” he said. “She is who she is and you wouldn’t want to take her out of her game. In saying that, I know it’s going to be her first race since the Breeders’ Cup, so she might be a little sharper than people expect. I know, when talking to Dallas, that she is doing extremely well. It’s just a matter of getting a good trip and hopefully she’s good enough to get it done.”
Smith has fond memories of Dubai from last year, having been aboard Arrogate in his dramatic last-to-first Dubai World Cup victory that still resonates on racing’s collective psyche. Like Arrogate, Forever Unbridled is an offspring of champion Unbridled’s Song, whom Smith was the regular rider for during his 1995-97 career.
“He was a great racehorse and then was a great sire,” Smith said. “The good ones are just really good. They’ll get the distance and either come with a run or have that high cruising speed that will continue on. They can do it all. (Unbridled’s Song) was tremendous.
“I’m excited,” Smith concluded. “I can’t wait to get there. I love Dubai and the experience there. Last year, with the fashion in which Arrogate won, that made it all the more special. Hopefully we can repeat.”
In addition to Songbird and Abel Tasman, Smith also piloted top mares Zenyatta, Royal Delta, Inside Information, Stardom Bound and Azeri.
Current Dubai World Cup Possibles (not necessarily invitees): West Coast, Forever Unbridled, Talismanic, Thunder Snow, Mubtaahij, Pavel, Diversify, Awardee, Hoppertunity, North America, Furia Cruzada, Special Fighter
DUBAI TURF / SHEEMA CLASSIC: Hori Brings the Big Guns – To say that the Japanese have brought quantity, as many as a possible 14 runners, into the $30 million Dubai World Cup card is correct. To add that they have brought quality could be an understatement. Such is underlined by the presence of Satono Crown and Neorelism for one of the country’s top trainers, Noriyuki Hori.
Satono Crown has been competing against the best horses in Asia for five seasons, dating back to his juvenile season in 2014. A two-time G1 winner, he took both last June’s Takarazuka Kinen (G1) and the preceding Hong Kong Cup (G1) impressively and won two consecutive editions of the Kyoto Kinen (G2) in 2016 and 2017, skipping it this year. The dark bay son of Marju looks to return to form after two consecutive poor results in the Japan Cup (G1) and Arima Kinen (G1) to end his 2017 season in the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1).
Stablemate Neorealism is one of the top horses coming into the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1). A flashy chestnut, the 7-year-old took last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) in Hong Kong in fine style and was a good third in the Hong Kong Cup (G1) behind Time Warp. The last time he ran the 1800m of the Dubai Turf, he was beyond impressive annexing last February’s Nakayama Kinen (G2).
“Both Neorealism and Satono Crown have been back to my stable for a while and they are in good form,” Hori said. “All has (gone) as planned so far. I have been to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup meeting many times and have learned a lot from those experiences, so that I am now working hard to make the most of what I have got.
“I knew the (invites) from the Dubai Racing Club were coming, so I had already made a travel plan and I discussed the trip with the owners,” Hori continued. “(Satono Crown and Neorealism) definitely have chances. I am still organising the jockeys.”
In 2016, Hori was a good second in the Dubai Sheema Classic with Duramente, who was beaten by Postponed.
Elsewhere, Godolphin’s Hawkbill confirmed that he will be a force with which to reckon in 2018, defeating stablemate Frontiersman in his seasonal bow in the Dubai City of Gold (G2) over 2400m, stamping his ticket to the Dubai Sheema Classic.
Current Longines Dubai Sheema Classic possibles (not necessarily invitees): Cloth of Stars, Satono Crown, Hawkbill, Rey de Oro, Idaho, Mozu Katchan, Clear Skies, Frontiersman, Called to the Bar, Al Sahem, Best Solution, Garlingari, Gold Star
Current Dubai Turf Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Vivlos, Real Steel, Benbatl, Lancaster Bomber, Deauville, Promising Run, Championship, Thunder Snow, War Decree, Janoobi, Furia Cruzada, Neorealism, Crocosmia, Deirdre, Trais Fluors
DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN: Roy H vs. Mind Your Biscuits Rematch Looms – There are always storylines in these great races, but few more intriguing than the impending collision course of reigning U.S. champion sprinter, Roy H, and last year’s defending winner of the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (G1), Mind Your Biscuits. The former with tactical speed and a killer kick and the latter a deep closer with a proven affinity for the local dirt, the pair met in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in November over Roy H’s home track, Del Mar.
Mind Your Biscuits, at a disadvantage with the short stretch and speedy nature of that course, could only manage a gaining third, with front-running Imperial Hint faltering late behind an impressive Roy H. This time, they run on a course over which he has a victory when dominant in last year’s 1200m event.
Roy H will be part of a two-pronged Rockingham Ranch regiment in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, as the Peter Miller-trained horse will be joined by Jorge Navarro-conditioned banner-mate X Y Jet, who was second as the favourite in this race in 2016.
Locally, Jordan Sport rode the rail in his dirt debut to a front-running victory in the Mahab Al Shimaal (G3), while being chased home by fellow speedster Yalta. Surprisingly, favourites My Catch and Comicas failed to factor. In 2012, Jordan Sport’s trainer Fawzi Nas pulled off the Mahab Al Shimaal-Dubai Golden Shaheen double with Krypton Factor.
Horses now considered unlikely are Takaful and Dios Corrida. Imperial Hint, always a longshot to make the race, has also opted out and will have to have his Roy H revenge date down the road.
Current Dubai Golden Shaheen Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Roy H, Mind Your Biscuits, X Y Jet, Matera Sky, D B Pin, My Catch, Comicas, Reynaldothewizard, Muarrab, Yalta
AL QUOZ SPRINT: Rosa Imperial Ready to Step Up – Godolphin’s France-based Rosa Imperial is one of three under the blue banner for iconic French conditioner Andre Fabre to arrive on the grounds at Meydan. Looking well within herself and unbothered by the trek from Chantilly, the daughter of Pivotal went out to the main track with fan favourite Talismanic at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday and appeared in proper order with an easy gallop.
Last out, in Chantilly’s Prix Anabaa over 1300m on the all-weather, the 5-year-old homebred was out-finished by City Light to lose by less than a length under regular rider Mickael Barzalona. The run was her first since finishing ninth of 13 in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) over the same distance behind fellow $1 million Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments (G1) possible Brando in August. She won her first three starts before that, including the Prix de Ris-Orangis (G3) over the 1200m, the distance of the Al Quoz Sprint.
“We are delighted with Rosa Imperial’s run,” said Lisa-Jane Graffard, racing representative for Darley and Godolphin in France. “She showed a nice turn-of-foot. She’ll appreciate a faster pace, as well. She is a talented filly with more to come and my only concern for the Al Quoz Sprint would be lightning-fast ground, but the turf course is usually excellent in all conditions, so she should be fine. It’s a very tough race this year – it just keeps getting better and better.”
Fellow Godolphin runner Jungle Cat proved he is even better this year with a decisive victory in the course and distance prep for the Al Quoz Sprint, the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint on Super Saturday. Favourite Ertijaal held on for second and was not strained in the final furlong, as his ticket to the Al Quoz Sprint was punched when taking the 1000m Meydan Sprint (G2) two weeks prior.
Meanwhile, the yard of David and Ben Hayes confirmed that Australian sprinter Faatinah, a Dubai World Cup Carnival winner, has accepted his invite and will run in the big event. Countrymates Music Magnate and Illustrious Lad are confirmed for the race, as well, with the former arriving Wednesday the 20th and the latter a day later.
Decisions at this juncture prove strategically intriguing, as the connections of Washington DC, Intelligence Cross, Declarationofpeace and recent Daytona Stakes (G3) winner Conquest Tsunami have expressed serious interest in the event and appear on the bubble.
The last listed defeated reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) champion Stormy Liberal last out in said about-1300m downhill dash at Santa Anita. Stormy Liberal has since been confirmed for the Al Quoz and will be joined by fellow Rockingham Ranch runner Richard’s Boy, whom he defeated in a photo-finish in the Breeders’ Cup. Stormy Liberal, Richard’s Boy and Conquest Tsunami are all currently trained by Peter Miller.
All in all, this race truly appears to be a global free-for-all that should be one of the most thrilling races on the card.
Current Al Quoz Sprint Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Blue Point, Stormy Liberal, Jungle Cat, Ertijaal, Baccarat, Faatinah, Richard’s Boy, Music Magnate, Librisa Breeze, D’Bai, Declarationofpeace, Washington DC, Intelligence Cross, Hit the Bid, Holding Gold, Brando, Supido, Illustrious Lad, Amazing Kids, Top Score
UAE DERBY: Reride and Machismo Join, Mendelssohn and Yulong Warrior Impress – Americans to join the fray this week include a member of ‘Team Gun Runner,’ Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Steve Asmussen-trained Reride. Like Gun Runner, a son of Candy Ride, the game colt has two consecutive stakes wins and impressively took the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park last out in the desert of New Mexico.
Reride may be joined by fellow U.S.-based colts All Out Blitz and Machismo. The former is multiple graded stakes-placed with the latter just finished a respectable fourth in the Fountain of Youth (G2), a historically high-class Kentucky Derby prep over 1700m at Gulfstream Park.
Last week, much of the racing world had its eyes on an unexpected place, Dundalk Stadium in Ireland, as blueblood Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Mendelssohn began his Kentucky Derby (G1) trail in the 1600m all-weather event.
Closing well on the inside, the half-brother to Beholder led home a 1-2-3 for Coolmore partners and trainer Aidan O’Brien, with all three –including runner-up Threeandfourpence and third-placed Seahenge– aiming for the $2 million UAE Derby sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) over 1900m on March 31st.
Locally, Satish Seemar-conditioned Yulong Warrior dismantled the field in the Listed $250,000 Al Bastakiya over the UAE Derby’s course and distance. The son of Street Cry has continued to improve as the distances have increased and looms a danger in the big event if he continues on his current trajectory.
Interestingly enough, the second-place finish by Norway’s Nordic Defense in the Al Bastakiya could add yet another nation to a global event that already likely has representatives from the USA, UAE, Ireland and Japan.
Meanwhile Gold Town awaits in the wings as the possible race day favourite day on the strength of unchallenged romps in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial and UAE 2000 Guineas (G3).
Current UAE Derby Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Mendelssohn, Taiki Ferveur, Machismo, Reride, Ruggero, Gold Town, Seahenge, Threeandfourpence, Gotti, Masar, All Out Blitz, Yulong Warrior, Last Voyage, Nordic Defense
GODOLPHIN MILE: Economic Model Adds Value – It was only a matter of time, really. Trainer Chad Brown, the two-time defending champion trainer in the United States, was bound to have more of an international presence and that may commence on March 31st. The former Bobby Frankel assistant, based in Florida in the winter and New York throughout most of the remainder of the year, is pointing Economic Model to the $1 million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One (G2).
The presence of the son of Flatter, also the sire of West Coast, adds considerable depth to a race that appeared one-sided toward expected favourite –for the second consecutive year– Sharp Azteca. Jockey Joel Rosario is expected to ride the G1-placed two-time stakes winner who gamely defeated G1 winner Irish War Cry in the Hal’s Hope (G3) last out at Gulfstream Park over this same 1600m distance.
Meanwhile, locally, Kimbear proved one of the most resilient horses in recent memory when defeating heavy favourite Heavy Metal in the Burj Nahaar (G3). The win makes him one of two confirmed Godolphin Mile prospects for trainer Doug Watson, who has won the last two editions of the race. Last year’s winner, Second Summer, will now go for a defence, instead of pointing toward the Dubai World Cup.
Current Godolphin Mile Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Sharp Azteca, Economic Model, Heavy Metal, Kimbear, Second Summer, Boynton, Adirato, Akito Crescent, Ross, Secret Ambition, Musawaat
DUBAI GOLD CUP: Run Time to Represent USA – Trainer Mike Maker is known in the United States as one of the best in the game of going long on the grass and now he is taking that show on the road with a well-bred son of Dubai alum Gio Ponti. Run Time, owned by Allen Racing and Bloom Racing Stable, will represent America in the 3200m $1 million Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors (G2) on Dubai World Cup Day.
“While it took us quite a while to break his maiden, we had always expected him to move forward,” said Jeffrey Bloom, managing partner of Bloom Racing. “He acted like a good horse and finally the light switch went on. Also, it was apparent that the more distance of ground, the better and those types of races are hard to come by. He, of course, solidified our opinion in the Allen Jerkens, both with the distance and the quality of horses he beat. It seemed like an obvious time to take a shot in coming to Dubai with him.”
Two starts back, in the 3200m Allen H. Jerkens Stakes at Gulfstream Park, the long-winded 5-year-old defeated Grade 1 winner Bullards Alley in fine style. Last out, he was off the board in the Mac Diarmada Stakes (G2) over 2400m on the same turf course. Soon after, Bloom visited Dubai and now very much looks forward to having his horse run around its long sweeping Meydan turns.
“I just left (Dubai) and, of course, I was over-the-top impressed with the facility and racing,” he said. “Needless to say, we were provided with wonderful hospitality. I am a huge fan and very much look forward to returning at the end of the month.”
England’s Dal Harraild is taking aim on this marathon event for trainer William Haggas after his impressive romp on March 10th in a 3200m conditioned stakes over the Chelmsford all-weather. Meanwhile, German trainer Waldemar Hickst has confirmed that G1-placed Parviz is taking aim on the stamina test, as well.
Current Dubai Gold Cup Possibles (not necessarily invitees): Rare Rhythm, Vazirabad, Big Orange, Sheikhzayedroad, Torcedor, Run Time, Parviz, Best Solution, Prince of Arran, Los Barbados, Zamaam.