Author: Duane Fonseca

Having worked for nearly three decades in the UAE, you would have thought the five time Champion Trainer Satish Seemar had seen it all. Then came North America’s remarkable record breaking performance under Richard Mullen in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 on Super Saturday, which landed Seemar his second career Group One success. Not that Seemar had ever lost the drive to compete. He was second in the trainers’ championship last term when finishing second by just two to Doug Watson. But now with his adrenaline pumping at full speed, the Zabeel Stables’ boss is keen on perhaps accomplishing what nearly every trainer in the world dreams of: winning the Group 1 $10 million Dubai World Cup.

In an interview at the start of the season, Seemar had hinted at the Dubai World Cup being the ultimate goal when he said: “Every trainer would love to achieve that.” And with the big day soon approaching and his stable star North America proving his class in the course and distance prep for the showpiece race on Dubai World Cup night, Seemar will be simultaneously both relieved and anxious looking forward. “It was an excellent night and is excellent towards the end of the season; all round I am very happy,” Seemar told Al Adiyat. “He ran a mile, then 1800m and now he has passed the final test which is for the Dubai World Cup. This had always been our intention and now it’s merely looking towards Dubai World Cup night.”

Looking at Dubai World Cup night and focussing specifically on his race, North America will be up against a tough contingent representing the continent from where he derives his name. Reigning Champion Dirt Mare Forever Unbridled is part of the field and will line up under last year’s . DWC winning rider Mike Smith, who produced a stunning ‘last to first’ win aboard Arrogate, whose trainer Bob Baffert saddles the heavily tipped West Coast among others in the big race. Godolphin’s Andre Fabreschooled Talismanic and the Saeed bin Suroor-handled Thunder Snow, beaten by North America by five and a quarter lengths in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 on Super Saturday, are also part of the field. In winning on Super Saturday, North America wiped clean the record set by California Chrome in the 2016 running of the Dubai World Cup, with his 2:01.71 the new time to beat.

Riding on that performance a fortnight ago has given Seemar has an unshakable belief in his charge. “He’s an extraordinarily large horse and when you have a horse of his size and his calibre you do have a chance in races,” said Seemar, who has seen North America improve consistently since he was bought for just Dh140,000 in the 2016 Racing in Dubai April Sale by Imhamed M I Nagem. North America ran in the colours of new owner Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, when placing tenth in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on a track left sodden due to a sudden heavy downpour hours before the race. With a bit of luck from the weather and a further year of conditioning under Seemar at Zabeel Stables, he should fare better.

“Actually now we can say he is of this calibre, but when he arrived in Dubai he was just a baby. When he broke his maiden he did it by a big distance, like what Yulong Warrior did in the Al Bastakiya. The next race for North America was a handicap and he won that by a bigger margin and then he won the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes by seven lengths. “The big story was going to be at the Dubai World Cup meeting and everybody was hyped up about it, but it rained and that didn’t work for him. His draw was wide and it was raining even while the race was on, so it was sloppy and that didn’t suit him. But that’s fine. “He is a great horse and he showed it by breaking California Chrome’s record. He is a big horse and his strides are amazing.

Secretariat was a big horse and had a big stride and they win that way with how far they can stride and their power and all that.” Speaking of the 2017/18 season, Seemar admitted North America needed a little more time to settle in coming off his break. His first race since the Godolphin Mile was the Group 3 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, where he placed third, 12 lengths behind seasoned miler Heavy Metal. On his second run he improved to finish second in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 over 1900m where he was headed by Thunder Snow in the final 100m and lost by a neck. Seemar added: “This season he did come to himself a bit late for my liking but that’s horses for you.

You have to be patient. We were and it worked! “We thought he would go the mile easy because he is a miler but he was a bit stuffy and he had a few cobwebs to clear but he ran well and was more impressive in the second race. On Super Saturday the big question in my mind was whether he would get the distance for the Dubai World Cup and he proved more than enough that he can do it very impressively and very easily.” While North America made impressive strides on his first Group One outing, for Seemar the win was only the second at the highest level in a long career. Until Super Saturday, he only had Reynaldothewizard’s success in the 2013 Dubai Golden Shaheen to look back upon.

“Reynaldothewizard gave me my first Group One and North America has given me my second. Both these horses have been special for me because I was involved with their careers right from the beginning, especially with Reynaldothewizard, who came to me as a yearling when we purchased him. “He is still with us today in all his glory,” Seemar added. “North America was picked from the Godolphin sale and not for any big price or anything but just because we liked him for his athleticism, and although a lot of people don’t like geldings, and he is a gelding, but he is a son of Dubawi.” Apart from North America, Yulong Warrior, Reynaldothewizard, Raven’s Corner and Secret Ambition are his other likely runners on World Cup night.

While Yulong Warrior won the Listed Al Bastakiya and has been entered in the same course and distance Group 2 UAE Derby, Secret Ambition and Raven’s Corner will be sent out in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile, with the 12yo Reynaldothewizard returning in an attempt of a second Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen title. Speaking of the prospects, Bhupat Seemar, assistant to Satish at Zabeel, said: “I think Yulong Warrior is a very nice horse and we have seen a lot of improvement from him over this past year, so hopefully he will do well in his next big race. “Secret Ambition never runs a bad race and has always stayed healthy going up well from being a handicap horse to a Godolphin Mile prospect.

“Raven’s Corner set the track record on the run before his last and looks good as well and we believe the mile will be perfect for him. “Reynaldothewizard is an old legend and he is getting ready for his sprint and if the pace is fast and furious, then he should do well. “North America has been a great story for UAE racing and the Godolphin sale. He has gone from a maiden to being a Group One winner and now is ready for the biggest race in the Dubai World Cup. He is a lovely horse to train, a nice big horse and all he wants to do is please you.” Needless to say his connections will be more than pleased if he is first at the wire in the last race on 31 March.