Author: Michele MacDonald

WITH LESS than two months remaining before the 25th edition of the Dubai World Cup, a diverse group of potential American contenders is assembling for the challenges ahead, including several who already are likely to be in the region for the inaugural Saudi Cup. Approximately half a dozen runners could carry the red, white and blue banner in the $12 million main event on the Dubai World Cup card, with Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston and Pennsylvania Derby victor Math Wizard the latest strong possibilities to emerge.

Trainer Mark Casse, who made a huge international splash when he sent champion American Turf Female Tepin to England to defeat males in the 2016 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, confirmed that he had accepted a Dubai World Cup invitation for Sir Winston after the colt produced an energetic rally to capture a mile Aqueduct allowance on January 31. “I was extremely pleased with his effort because I thought the race might have been a little short,” Casse said. “He ran beyond my expectations. I know it was an allowance race, but he beat a lot of nice horses and did it convincingly.”

Casse initially said he may opt to send Sir Winston directly to Dubai without another prep race, but he indicated two days after the allowance that Aqueduct’s Bernardini Stakes over just short of 1m2f on February 29 was still a consideration. A son of Awesome Again bred and raced by Tracy Farmer, Sir Winston took the rest of 2019 off after his Belmont victory due to what Casse described as a minor problem with his left front ankle. Meanwhile, Math Wizard also has risen to the fore as a possible Dubai World Cup contender. The 4yo who defeated a top field including Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and eventual Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero Spun to Run while taking the Pennsylvania Derby, is set to begin his 2020 campaign in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park on February 17.

Co-owned by Khalid bin Mishref, who also invested in 2019 Dubai World Cup runner-up and potential Saudi Cup contender Gronkowski, Math Wizard must run well in the Razorback to gain a ticket to Meydan. “I don’t think his trainer, Saffie Joseph Jr., would send him over there off a poor effort,” co-owner Taylor Bassett said in looking toward the Razorback. The potential field for that $500,000 race over 1 1/16 miles also features Belmont Stakes third and fellow Dubai World Cup nominee Joevia and multiple Stakes winner Snapper Sinclair. The latter has been nominated to the Dubai Turf, Al Quoz Sprint and Godolphin Mile by trainer Steve Asmussen. Star billing in the Asmussen barn currently goes to champion Midnight Bisou, the 5yo mare who is preparing for her initial battle against males in the Saudi Cup. If she performs well, she could go on to Dubai, which also could be the plan for the trainer’s Grade Two winner Engage, who could use the Riyadh Dirt Sprint as stepping stone to the Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Asmussen, who trained Curlin for his record breaking 2008 Dubai World Cup victory, could be one of several Americans who attempt to gain even more glory in Dubai after earlier stellar achievements. Of course, Bob Baffert, the all time leading Dubai World Cup trainer not based in the UAE with three victories, tops the list with Grade One winners McKinzie and Mucho Gusto, who are set to begin a Middle East sojourn in the Saudi Cup prior to possibly advancing on in search of an unprecedented $32 million racing double. Baffert also has said that 3yo Ra’ad, owned by Ajman’s Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi’s RRR Racing has the UAE Derby as his goal, but that Twirling Candy colt finished fifth in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes on February 9 at Santa Anita Park.

Baffert won the San Vicente with another colt, Nadal, one of a trio of undefeated runners he currently has on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Possible to join Baffert’s Dubai World Cup hopefuls at Meydan is Juddmonte Farms’ multiple Grade Two winner and Kentucky Derby and Belmontplaced Tacitus and his trainer, Bill Mott, who sent out Cigar to win the inaugural Dubai World Cup. Mott has Tacitus training sharply in Florida, where the big grey son of Tapit has recorded two bullet drills in three works from January 19 through February 3. Gary and Mary West, whose champion West Coast finished second in the 2018 Dubai World Cup, may return with newly crowned champion Maximum Security, who is pointing first to the Saudi Cup for trainer Jason Servis.

Following his usual style, Servis has sent Maximum Security for only two works since December and both were slow, including four furlongs in :52.40 on February 6. Looking at other Dubai World Cup program races, America could have a valid Dubai Sheema Classic challenger in United, who handily triumphed in the Grade 2, 1 ¼ mile San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 1. “It’s a perfect prep for Dubai and we’ll go from here,” said Alex Solis II, an advisor to owner LNJ Foxwoods after United, a 5yo Giant’s Causeway gelding cruised to victory in 1:59.04 for trainer Richard Mandella, who trained 2004 Dubai World Cup winner Pleasantly Perfect. United proved he is world class when he finished second by a head to Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar in the 1 ½ mile Breeders’ Cup Turf, in front of Anthony Van Dyck, the 2019 Epsom Derby victor, and far ahead of Godolphin’s 2019 Dubai Sheema Classic winner Old Persian.

Other American-based trainers who have Dubai racing experience and are planning to return include: Jorge Navarro, who will seek to follow up X Y Jet’s Dubai Golden Shaheen victory by sending Grade Two winner and Breeders’ Cup Sprint runnerup Shancelot in that race after a bid in the Riyadh sprint; Peter Miller, whose 2019 Al Quoz Sprint runner-up Belvoir Bay, a mare who had bravely survived a California wildfire, went on to defeat males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, is contemplating this year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen with recent Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes winner Captain Scotty. Miller also is thinking about the 2020 Al Quoz Sprint with GradeTwo winner Texas Wedge, and Luis Carvajal Jr., who saddled multiple Grade One winner Imperial Hint for his third place effort in the 2019 Dubai Golden Shaheen and plans to return for another try this year after first going in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint.

Michele MacDonald
Award Winning International Journalist

Americans Gathering for Dubai World Cup Challenges