The richest night of racing on the global calendar, the March 25 Dubai World Cup card attracts some of the biggest names from all over the world. From Breeders’ Cup winners to Eclipse champions, there are many familiar faces on this year’s card at Meydan Racecourse. Mellissa Bauer-Herzog of America’s Best Racing looks the the best in the field.
Overall, American trainers have sent 14 horses to Dubai for the day’s eight Thoroughbred races, headlined by Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup as he looks to become the highest earning horse in North American history. Let’s take a look at the races on the card and learn about some of the horses – both U.S.-based and international – that fans should know before tuning into the event. The Dubai World Cup, the Dubai Golden Shaheen, the Dubai Turf , and the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic all will be televised live in India on DSport from 5:30 pm on 25th April.
$10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airlines
Arrogate has been unbeatable in the United States since finishing third in his debut, so his connections have decided to take on the world. Arrogate has won three straight Grade 1 races, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and comes to Dubai off of a win in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes. If he wins this race, he’ll become the richest North American-based horse of all time, dethroning California Chrome who took that title home last year after winning the Dubai World Cup. A victory would also give him over $17 million in earnings, putting him within striking distance of becoming the all-time richest racehorse in the world.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Gun Runner ended the year as the most consistent upper-level runner of his crop aside from Arrogate, with his only off-the-board finish coming in the Haskell Invitational. He was pointing for the Pegasus earlier this year but had to bypass the race, instead running in – and winning – the Razorback Handicap last month. He’s never faced Arrogate before, and this will be an extremely tough challenge for him, but on form he looks like the second-best horse in the race – so if Arrogate has a bad day, he may take home the win.
Hoppertunity and Flavien Prat (Eclipse Sportswire)
Arrogate’s stablemate Hoppertunity isn’t a stranger to Dubai, finishing third in this race last year. Hoppertunity isn’t as impressive a racehorse as Arrogate is, but the fan favorite is an honest horse who runs his race every time he hits the track. He’s only been out of the top four in a race once in his life, that coming in his debut on Jan. 4, 2014. Since then, he’s finished in the top four in 24 straight races, including 13 Grade 1 races. Hoppertunity is coming into this race off of a victory in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes, the same race he won before the Dubai World Cup last year.
Highland Reel (Eclipse Sportswire)
There aren’t any U.S.-based horses in the Dubai Sheema Classic, but Highland Reel has won two Grade 1 races in the U.S., so he’s a familiar face to American fans. A winner of the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on the Arlington Million undercard two years ago, Highland Reel’s most memorable victory may have actually come in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf last November at Santa Anita Park. Given an inspired ride by Seamie Heffernan, he took the lead out of the gate and never looked back to win by 1 ¾ lengths. He tried to win his second straight Hong Kong Vase in December but was second in the race, which was his last start before heading to Dubai. Highland Reel ran here last year but finished fourth behind Postponed.
Postponed returns to Dubai this year to try and defend his title in this race against a likely field of seven other horses. Last year, he came into the Sheema Classic on a three-race win streak, but that’s not the case this year as he posted a second-place finish last time out in the Dubai City of Gold Stakes at Meydan. But you can cross a line through that finish, as he ran into a lot of trouble during the race and came running at the end, giving the impression that he’s as good as ever again this year.
Deauville (Eclipse Sportswire)
Last year’s Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes winner Deauville hasn’t been seen since finishing third to older horses in the Arlington Million on Aug. 13. But the Aidan O’Brien trainee has been known to take long breaks before and come back successfully, such as he did when finishing second in the Dante Stakes last year off a nearly seven-month hiatus. He will be cutting back from the 1 ¼-mile distance he’s run the last two races in the Dubai Turf, which is run at about 1 1/8 miles, but that shouldn’t be a problem. A bigger worry for his chances may be the longer layoff, as this is a tough field to take on off of that long of a break.
Decorated Knight’s trip to North America could fit right into a Dick Francis novel. The 5-year-old traveled to Chicago last year for the Arlington Million but was scratched the morning of the race after he escaped his stall and fought with other horses in the barn the night before, including fellow Dubai Turf runner Mondialiste. Enduring a situation like that in his first trip abroad would have given his connections a perfect excuse not to travel the horse again, but now they are tackling Dubai. So far it seems to have worked, as Decorated Knight ran in the Jebel Hatta the March 4 Super Saturday at Meydan as a prep race for the Dubai Turf and earned his first Group 1 victory. Saturday’s race has some good horses, but Decorated Knight could be a really interesting runner.
The British-trained Mondialiste is a constant visitor to North America, running five of his last nine races in either the United States or Canada. Mondialiste, who like Deauville and Decorated Knight is a son of leading international sire Galileo, won the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile in 2015 before finishing a closing second to Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile the following month. He showed he could handle a mile and a quarter in last year’s Arlington Million, which he won by a neck in a game effort, but he then went off form a bit when fourth last fall in the Shadwell Turf Mile and 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He hasn’t run since the Breeders’ Cup and will be cutting back to nine furlongs for this race.
$2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News
Starting his career in the U.S., Cool Cowboy has been a regular presence in Dubai since moving to the country in early 2015. He’s returning to the Golden Shaheen a year after finishing third in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile, and two years after finishing sixth in this race in 2015. He only has three wins in 13 Dubai starts, but more often than not he is running at the end, as he’s finished in the top three nine times from those 13 starts.
Mind Your Biscuits (Eclipse Sportswire)
The winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes two starts ago, Mind Your Biscuits looks like the best chance for a U.S. win in this race. He’s gotten better with age, finishing second in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year in his start before the Malibu. In his prep for the Golden Shaheen, Mind Your Biscuits finished second in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes by a neck. He’ll be making his second start for co-owner and newly licensed trainer Chad Summers in this race.
A former Derby trail runner, making two starts in Fair Grounds preps in 2015, St. Joe Bay has found a home sprinting on the dirt. The gelding has won three straight races – including two graded stakes at Santa Anita – and may hold the distinction of being the only horse running on Dubai World Cup night who recently finished in a dead heat. That victory came in the Grade 3 Midnight Lute Stakes on New Year’s day when he dead heated with Solid Wager to put Peter Miller in the enviable position of training both winners in a race.
An American Grade 1 winner, Wild Dude is in a similar position to Cool Cowboy in that he is now owned by foreign interests. Wild Dude made his last U.S. start when winning the Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita last May and returned to the track in January at Meydan. He was third in his first two starts of this year, but has been off the board in his two starts since then.
$2 million UAE Derby Sponsored by the Saeed & Al Mohammed Al Naboodah Group
Making a bit of an interesting surface switch, Lancaster Bomber has proven to be a good turf horse for his Coolmore connections with seconds in both the Grade 1 Dewhurst Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf… but now they are Kentucky Derby dreaming. A son of War Front, Lancaster Bomber has never run on dirt, so this is an interesting experiment for him. On the other hand, trainer Aidan O’Brien has won this race twice. Four of the last five horses to win the UAE Derby have run in the Kentucky Derby, and the one who skipped the Run for the Roses was Toast of New York, who later that year finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Another promising Todd Pletcher trainee aiming for the Kentucky Derby, Master Plan is taking an unconventional path with a trip to Dubai. An $850,000 purchase last year, Master Plan broke his maiden in October, finished second in the Pulpit Stakes in December and won the OBS Championship Stakes in late January. This is a bit of a “go big or go home” move to get him into the Kentucky Derby, as he has no Derby qualifying points and needs to finish in the top two for his connections to feel safe that he’ll secure a spot the starting gate. The UAE Derby offers qualifying points for the May 6 Kentucky Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.
Thunder Snow is a unique horse in that right now, he has the luxury of eying both the Epsom Derby in England and the Kentucky Derby in the United States. He won the Group 1 Criterium International in late October to show that he was one of the best 2-year-olds in Europe last year, and then romped by 5 ¾ lengths in the UAE 2,000 Guineas in his last race to show he is also extremely talented on dirt. He’s bred for turf, so it will be no surprise if he chooses to target the European classics for his spring campaign, but if he wins the UAE Derby, he’ll have enough points for the Kentucky Derby which puts his connections in an enviable position of having two marquee races to possibly run in.
$1 million Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Meydan Sobha
Sharp Azteca (Eclipse Sportswire)
The winner of five of his 10 starts, Sharp Azteca won at Churchill Downs last year on the first Saturday in May, but his win came in the Pat Day Mile. He finished off the board in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard but since then has two wins and two seconds, including a runner-up finish in the Malibu Stakes to Mind Your Biscuits and an impressive win in the one-mile Hardacre Park Gulfstream Park Handicap in his most recent starts. This is a fairly wide-open race, so he has a decent shot of at least hitting the board.
Another former U.S.-trained horse, Second Summer won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes last May and was sold after a seventh-place finish in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. The gelding was second in a Meydan Group 2 stakes at 9 1/2 furlongs in February but finished second-last when bumped up to 1 1/4 miles in March in a Group 1. His Californian victory came at nine furlongs, and his other career wins have come at around a mile, so this race should prove to be in his wheelhouse, distance-wise.