Author: Duane Fonseca
ZABEEL STABLES’ supremo Satish Seemar admits to being at the ‘planning and replanning phase’ during a season in which most trainers will readily agree to having been left baffled by goings on during times that have seemed stranger than fiction.
The Covid-19 pandemic has already been cause of severe disruptions to plans in the lead up to the season, and Seemar was posed with a rather unanticipated selection conundrum on the opening night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival on 21 January after Switzerland staged a coup and raised his stock when landing the Group 3 Dubawi Stakes ahead of stablemate and teammate Gladiator King, who is also owned by RRR Racing and was highly backed to win the 1200m dirt sprint at Meydan.
The 7yo Speightstown gelding’s win marked a seventh victory in eight editions of the race for Seemar which further cemented his already lofty position as a dirt sprint expert. However, even before the confetti started to settle, a dilemma stared him in the face. Which of Switzerland and Gladiator King should he nominate for the Saudia Sprint?
Run over the same 1200m trip, the Saudia Sprint is part of the undercard on Saudi Cup day, which will this year be held at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh on 20 February. “We’ve seemed confident every year and we’ve won seven out of eight editions of the race with various horses,” Seemar told Al Adiyat.
“In our plan we thought our horses would be first and second and it nearly worked that way. “Now after discussions with the connections we might take Switzerland to Saudi for the sprint while Gladiator King might stay here. All that is still to be confirmed, but that would be the plan.”
Gladiator King represented Seemar’s yard in last year’s Saudia Sprint after winning both his UAE starts on arrival from America. He first clinched the 1200m Dubawi Stakes and then the course and distance Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint, victories that made him one of the top contenders for the Riyadh extravaganza in which he eventually placed third, two and a quarter lengths behind winner New York Central.
Seemar has a handy string that qualifies for this year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival and has dispatched 14 over the first two nights so far, with Switzerland his only winner and Gladiator King earning him third in the same race. A fifth by Bochart in the aforementioned Dubawi Stakes and a fourth by Roman Rosso in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 have been his other notable results.
Seemar opted to send his consistent miler and last season’s Listed Dubai Creek Mile winner Secret Ambition to tackle the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile instead on 22 January instead of the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 as he had won the 2019 edition of the Jebel Ali highlight. Options remain open for the 109 rated 8yo son of Exceed And Excel, with a nudge towards the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge on 11 February perhaps his next assignment.
“We will see how Secret Ambition performs and then see if he should go for the second leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge or not,” Seemar had said. “The carnival horses are coming on well, but we’ve had a little bit of a setback and a few ups and downs. We had a few good horses ready for the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate and due to some paperwork issues we couldn’t run them so these kinds of things have set us a bit off course.
Hopefully that will be sorted out and we can come back with them because they were 100% ready. “We need to replace a consistent horse like North America (winner of the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 in 2018) with a horse like Secret Ambition.
He may not have won the World Cup, but he was always up there in the other races in the carnival and he was the star in the carnival for us every year, just like Secret Ambition has been a consistent star. “So we started well and we’ll just take it race by race and I cannot say much because at the moment we are in the planning and replanning phase,” said Seemar, who was victorious twice on Meydan’s Saturday card with Twelfthofneverland and Moshaher, with the former’s success in a 1600m handicap helping his ratings rise up to 90, which make him eligible to compete at Carnival level