2013 Dubai Update: American Stars Challenge the World on Rich Super Saturday

By Michele MacDonald

     For the first time in the history of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, American stars will take on the world during the Super Saturday program of seven rich stakes.

Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans has taken the bold initiative of entering Little Mike and Dullahan, both three-time Grade 1 winners, in a pair of key group stakes on the Super Saturday, March 9, the primary prep day for the Dubai World Cup program on March 30. Only two-time Horse of the Year Curlin previously raced in Dubai prior to World Cup competition, and even he did not run on the very competitive Super Saturday card.

“I just want my horses to go over there and run like they’re capable of,” Romans said before flying to Dubai to oversee final preparations for Little Mike’s race in the $400,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round III (G1) and for Dullahan’s start in the $200,000 Burj Nahaar (G3). Both horses arrived in Dubai last week and have been in light training over the Meydan all-weather track since Monday.

First post on Super Saturday will be at 8:05 a.m. EST, with Dullahan’s race at 10:25 and Little Mike’s at 11:00. Average number of runners in each race is a dozen, and average purse value of each contest is over $250,000.


Other American connections on the program include Besilu Stables’ Unbridled Ocean in the Burj Nahaar. Former Todd Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel will saddle South African Group 1 winner August Rush in the Mahab Al Shimaal (G3), a prep for the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1).

Romans hopes that Little Mike will perform well enough in the Maktoum Challenge, run over 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) on the all-weather track, to gain an invitation to the  world’s richest horse race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1), which will be contested over the same course and distance.

A six-year-old gelding by Spanish Steps, Little Mike has drawn the rail and is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line as he faces a field of 13 that includes a four-horse Godolphin juggernaut led by 2012 World Cup winner Monterosso, making his seasonal debut at 6-1 on the line, and Maktoum Challenge Round II (G2) winner Hunter’s Light, the early 7-2 favorite.

Little Mike already has been invited to the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) and the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1), both on turf, at about 1 ½ and 1 1/8 miles, respectively, and can be directed to either spot if he does not like the all-weather track. Kieren Fallon will ride both Romans runners on Super Saturday.

Dullahan, who has collected all three of his Grade 1 wins on synthetic surfaces, already is set to run in the World Cup, and thus his race in the Burj Nahaar at 1600 meters (about one mile)—a distance at which he has never won—appears intended mostly as a sharpener. “I’d like him to win, but this isn’t the big one,” Romans noted.

A competitive field of 14 has been entered for the Burj Nahaar, with Dullahan rated a 9-2 third choice behind Godolphin’s recent Firebreak Stakes (G3) winner Moonwalk in Paris, 7-2, and, African Story, 4-1. Making his first start since May, African Story won last year’s Burj Nahaar handily and followed up with a victory in the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) on the Dubai World Cup program.

Super Saturday will conclude with the second of two Group 1 races, the $300,000 Jebel Hatta, a stepping stone to the Dubai Duty Free run over the same course and distance, 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on turf. A high quality group of ten, including three Group 1 winners trained by leading South African conditioner Mike de Kock, is set to run with the trio among the top four in morning line odds.

Reigning South African Horse of the Year Igugu, a six-year-old Australian-bred by Galileo, is the early choice at 3-1 although she finished third in the Balanchine (G2) on February 21, her first race in more than a year. She will be reunited with jockey Anthony Delpech, with whom she had won her previous seven starts, after tugging hard on Christophe Soumillon and setting what proved to be suicidal fractions in the Balanchine, won by Sajjhaa.

Soumillon rides 4-1 The Apache, on whom he won the Al Rashidiya (G2) on January 31, while Pat Cosgrave returns on 10-1 Master of Hounds, the 2011 UAE Derby (G2) winner who was second in his seasonal debut, Al Fahidi Fort (G2), on February 21. Master of Hounds won the 2012 Jebel Hatta in front-running style before finishing eighth in the ’12 Dubai World Cup on all-weather.

Godolphin sends three runners in search of the Jebel Hatta prize, with Al Rashidiya runner-up City Style at 9-2; Sajjhaa, also winner of the Cape Verdi (G2) against her own gender during the Carnival, at 5-1, and Sharestan, an allowance winner and third in the Al Rashidiya, at 6-1.

In other Super Saturday stakes:

  • Last year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor will prep for a title defense in the $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal at 1200 meters (about six furlongs). He is the heaviest morning line favorite on the card at 7-5 in a ten-horse field.
  • Godolphin’s Masterstroke, third in last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), and Jakkalberry, a Group 1 winner in 2010 and third in last year’s Melbourne Cup (G1) after winning the inaugural American St. Leger at Arlington Park, are the class of the $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (G2) over 2410 meters (about 1 ½ miles) on turf. The City of Gold is a launching pad for the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G3) at about two miles on grass.
  •  Eleven sophomores including Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby (G1) nominee Fortify, who finished third to champion Shanghai Bobby in last year’s Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, will contest the $250,000 Al Bastikiya, the middle jewel of the UAE Triple Crown, over 1900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the all-weather track. Fortify finished sixth in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) on February 14 in his synthetic track debut. With Guineas winner Soft Falling Rain staying in the barn to wait for shorter distances, runners-up Snowboarder and Zahee are the 3-1 and 9-2 top selections on the morning line for the Al Bastikiya.
  • In the $175,000 Meydan Sprint, a prep for the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1) over the same course and distance of 1000 meters (about five furlongs) on turf, a balanced field of 16 has been entered. Sole Power, an English-based six-year-old gelding who was second in last year’s Al Quoz Sprint, is rated 4-1 with de Kock’s South African Group 1 winner Shea Shea at 7-1.
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Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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