Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Senor Buscador Among U.S. Horses for Dubai World Cup

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The projected fields for the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1) program feature a heavy American presence in the big dirt races and a fascinating global cast for the UAE Derby (G2), a Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying race.

The likely lineups for the annual Meydan Racecourse extravaganza were announced March 11 by the Dubai Racing Club. There are 33 individual group 1 or grade 1 winners scheduled to arrive from a dozen countries on four continents.

The American contingent for the $12 million World Cup itself features reigning Saudi Cup (G1) winner Senor Buscador , with trainer Bob Baffert sending Santa Anita Handicap (G1) winner Newgate , Phil D’Amato saddling Newgrange , Chad Summers joining the chorus with Clapton , and Todd Pletcher saddling Crupi 

The American presence in the Cup doesn’t end with the U.S.-based runners. One of the intriguing stories of this season’s Dubai World Cup Carnival has been the emergence of Kabirkhan, a Kentucky-bred colt by California Chrome   who started his career in Russia for Kazakhstani owners. A win in the Cup would be a surprise, but his entire career has been a surprise for his enthusiastic ownership group and a boost for Kabirkhan’s sire, the 2016 World Cup winner who currently stands in Japan.

Japan’s imposing Cup contingent has seen significant American action. Defending champion Ushba Tesoro  was fifth in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and exits a runner-up showing in the $20 million Saudi Cup. Derma Sotogake  has been a frequent flyer to the United States, using the 2023 UAE Derby as a springboard to the Kentucky Derby, where he finished sixth. He then was second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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But wait. There’s still more American presence in the World Cup.

Defunded , now racing for Saudi interests, is a transplant from Baffert’s California string. Baffert also trained Laurel River  in California. That Juddmonte homebred now is based in Dubai under the care of Bhupat Seemar, a onetime Baffert assistant.

The $1 million UAE Derby provides at least one spot for the Kentucky Derby, offering 100 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points to the winner with 50, 25, 15, and 10 for the minor placings. It largely has eclipsed the separate “European Road” and “Japan Road” series.

Japan-based Forever Young  is likely to be favorite in the UAE Derby. His dramatic, stretch-running victory in the one-mile Saudi Derby (G3), barely denying American runner Book’em Danno , left him undefeated after four starts and was good enough to hold the No. 4 spot on Byron King’s March 4 BloodHorse “Derby Dozen.”

Photo: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

Forever Young after winning the Saudi Derby King Abdulaziz racecourse

The Saudi race did not confer points for the Louisville classic, so Forever Young’s Kentucky Derby chances might hinge on finishing first or second at Meydan. But the colt also holds the second slot in the Japan series by virtue of an early-season win and, depending on the results of the final race and possible defections by other horses, could qualify for the Run for the Roses that way.

The European series has proved a dud for Churchill Downs Inc., at least in terms of turning up Derby candidates. The early races in the series are conducted on turf and attract horses pointing toward the European classics. The late-winter and spring legs are run on all-weather tracks. The only horse still listed by Churchill Downs on this year’s leaderboard as a Kentucky Derby prospect is Navy Seal , a Coolmore colt trained by Aidan O’Brien who also is in the UAE Derby field.

The lone American entry in the Derby is Pandagate , an Arrogate  ridgling trained by Christophe Clement who comes out of a 5 1/2-length win over fellow New York-breds in the Gander Stakes at Aqueduct Feb. 25.

The $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) at 1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs) on the dirt got a powerful bunch, including last year’s winner, U.S.-based Sibelius . The Jeremiah O’Dwyer charge is one of five Americans facing the likes of Remake, winner of the 2023 Korea Sprint (G3) and this year’s Dubai Dirt Sprint (G3) in Riyadh.

Sibelius wins the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream, December 23, 2023
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Ryan Thompson

Sibelius will aim to repeat in the Dubai Golden Shaheen

Hopkins , who finished fourth last year for Baffert, is also on the U.S. team for the Golden Shaheen, along with Bold Journey , who finished third in Saudi for Bill Mott, Nakatomi , and Run Classic .

The other major dirt race, the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) has only three representing America but one of them, Saudi Crown , will be an interesting chance while cutting back in distance after finishing third in the 1 1/8-mile Saudi Cup. The Brad Cox trainee has four wins, two seconds, and a third from eight starts, with a 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic his only misstep.

Saudi Crown is joined by Caramel Chip  and Two Rivers Over , whose resumes are more modest.

The American touch is much lighter in the turf races.

While there are no U.S.-based horses in the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1T), there’s major American interest in Auguste Rodin . The Coolmore superstar, a son of Deep Impact  out of the top-shelf Galileo (IRE) mare Rhododendron , won both the English and Irish Derbies (both G1) in 2023 and wound up with a hard-won victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T).

O’Brien hinted strongly after the Santa Anita race that a switch to the dirt and a swing at the 2024 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar might be on the agenda for Auguste Rodin. A successful transition could set the colt up to be the first major Deep Impact progeny to stand in the United States. The Coolmore “lads” really would be rolling the dice for big stakes in that scenario.

But first Auguste Rodin has to deal with a seriously deep field in the Sheema Classic, including 2022 winner Shahryar  and two stellar Japanese fillies, Stars On Earth and Liberty Island. Also gracing this field, annually one of the toughest anywhere on the globe, are Neom Turf Cup (G2) winner Spirit Dancer , Longines Hong Kong Vase (G1) winner Junko , Grosser Preis Von Berlin (G1) winner Simca Mille , Godolphin star Rebel’s Romance , England’s Emily Upjohn , and Germany’s Sisfahan .

Lord North  goes for an unprecedented fourth win in the $5 million Dubai Turf (G1T). The John and Thady Gosden-trained gelding faces a potential 14 rivals, including Arima Kinen (G1) winner Do Deuce and his own stablemate, multiple group 1-winning mare Nashwa . The U.S. is represented solely by Catnip , third in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1T) in his previous start for trainer Michael Stidham.

Bill Mott brings Casa Creed , who missed a scheduled start in Saudi Arabia because of an untimely fever, to contest the $1.5 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1T) on the grass. The about six-furlong sprint is a hugely tough field with representatives from Japan, Hong Kong, and the Czech Republic.

The night’s marathon, the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G2T) at two miles, is left by Americans to the rest of the world.

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