2019 Dubai World Cup Night: Almond Eye all the Rage in Dubai Turf

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The super filly has been followed to Meydan by a huge team of Japanese media, who have been eagerly watching her morning workouts on the Meydan track. Trainer Sakae Kunieda admits that there could still be better to come from the four-year-old, who seems to have settled into Dubai well.

“Even I don’t know where her limit is yet,” Kunieda said. “She means a lot to me, giving us this opportunity to travel with her. She is a really special filly. She has relaxed into her Dubai surroundings very well.”

Connections have opted for the 1800m Dubai Turf, having considered a tilt at the 2410m Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1)—also worth $6 million—and it is a race in which her compatriots have fared well, winning three of the last five runnings.

Vivlos, the 2017 winner and last year’s runner-up, lines up once again. The 6-year-old mare finished a good second to Beauty Generation in the Longines Hong Kong Mile (G1) at Sha Tin in December. Group 1 winner Deirdre is a third member of Japan’s female team in Saturday’s race. The 4-year-old finished third in last year’s Dubai Turf (G1) and second in the Hong Kong Cup (G1) in December.

Saeed bin Suroor is the most-successful trainer in the Dubai Turf’s history, boasting six previous winners, including Benbatl in 2018. He will be looking to add more with the highly exciting Dream Castle, who has always been well-regarded. The son of Frankel has been better than ever this season, winning each of his three starts at Meydan, culminating in a 1¼-lengths success from Wootton in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday, March 9. The 5-year-old emulated Benbatl by winning both the Singspiel (G3) and Al Rashidiya (G2) before going one better than his illustrious stable companion in the Jebel Hatta. All three races are over this course and distance. Bin Suroor has a useful second string in the field in the shape of progressive 5-year-old Mountain Hunter, who has win his last two starts well in handicap company at Meydan.

“Dream Castle worked very nicely on Saturday and has had a brilliant year already,” Bin Suroor said. “Obviously, this is going to be a stronger race, but he has risen to every challenge we have given him this year.”

Wootton, like Dream Castle and Mountain Hunter, is owned by Godolphin. He re-opposes, having joined Charlie Appleby from French trainer Alex Pantall this season. His best performance last year came at Royal Ascot in June when finishing third to Without Parole in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes (G1), a rival who lines up, as well. Representing iconic conditioner John Gosden and U.S. owner-breeders John and Tanya Gunther, the 4-year-old son of Frankel has looked in good shape in his morning spins around the Meydan training track.

The Dubai Turf is one of the few big races to evade Ireland’s record-breaking champion trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has saddled six previous runners, none of whom made the frame. His representative this year could scarcely be in better form as she heads to Meydan. I Can Fly, winner of last season’s Group 2 Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown, warmed up in a conditions event at Dundalk on March 8 with an eight-length victory in which she was nothing short of dominant.

Irishman David O’Meara, based in North Yorkshire in Great Britain, has enjoyed top-level success when sending runners to the US and Canada and he bids to do the same in Dubai on Saturday with Lord Glitters. The 6-year-old won York’s Group 3 Strensall Stakes in August and rounded off his year when a close sixth to Roaring Lion in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on British Champions Day, October 20.

Third that day was the Simon Crisford-trained Century Dream, who boasts two solid performances at Meydan in 2019. On Feb. 21, he finished three lengths second to Mythical Magic in the Zabeel Mile (G2) and went on to be fourth, behind Dream Castle and Wootton, in the Jebel Hatta.

For the first time since 2014, Hong Kong is represented in the Dubai Turf with trainer Caspar Fownes’ charge Southern Legend aiming to upset the apple cart in Saturday’s 1800m feature. The consistent 6-year-old was most recently closing at the finish when runner-up in he local Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin in February.

“It’s going to be a tough ask behind Almond Eye. I think the only view we might get of her is from behind,” said Fownes. “But our boy is doing nicely, he looks as good as he ever does and he’s walking around with a bounce in his step. We’ve been here a few times before but this is probably the best horse I’ve had here since Lucky Nine.”

Mike de Kock won consecutive runnings of the Dubai Turf in 2003 (Ipi Tombe) and 2004 (Right Approach) and he has two chances of getting win number three this year. Yulong Prince won the Grade 1 Daily News at Greyville in June when named Surcharge. He has changed names and joined De Kock after being bought privately in August by Chinese owner Zhang Yuesheng.

Mary Slack’s colours will be carried by stablemate Majestic Mambo, who had a pipe-opener for Saturday when sixth behind Dream Castel in the Jebel Hatta Sponsored By Emirates Airline on March 9.

U Carrot Farm’s multiple Group 1-winner Rey de Oro will face off against familiar foes Cheval Grand and Suave Richard in Saturday night’s Group 1 $ 6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan Racecourse. Trained by Kazuo Fujisawa, the 5-year-old son of King Kamehameha has won seven of 12 career starts, while banking $7,952,951. He will make his seasonal debut with the services of jockey Christophe Lemaire from post six as he looks to avenge last year’s fourth-place effort in the 2410m test on the Meydan turf.

Rey de Oro is the richest of the three talented Japanese contenders, all bred at Northern Racing, in the eight-horse field. He captured his first Group 1, the prestigious Tokyo Yushun, in 2017 when three-quarter lengths the best of Suave Richard. At his best when tracking the leaders, Rey de Oro added a second Group 1 win in Tokyo last autumn with a 1¼-length win in the Tenno Sho over 2000m. The trio have kept close company in recent years, with Cheval Grand, trained by Yasuo Tomomichi for Kazuhiro Sasaki, notching his first Group 1 with a 1¼-length win over Rey de Oro in the 2017 renewal of the Japan Cup.

Cheval Grand, a 7-year-old Heart’s Cry chestnut, has post a record of 3-4-5 from 18 career starts. Last season, he went winless in five starts, but was narrowly denied victory in the spring edition of the Tenno Sho (G1), coming up a neck short of Rainbow Line. There is little to choose between Rey de Oro and Cheval Grand, who both arrive at the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic from the Group 1 Arima Kinen Grand Prix, where they finished second and third, respectively. Hugh Bowman has the call aboard Cheval Grand, a career earner of $7,930,746, for his Meydan debut from post one.

Suave Richard, with $4,457,211 in earnings, is more lightly raced than his fellow Japanese raiders with a record of 3-1-2 from 10 starts, but is capable of doubling his Group 1-tallies on Saturday night. A 5-year-old son of Heart’s Cry, Suave Richard broke through at the top flight with a three-quarter length score in the Osaka Hai over 2000m at Hanshin on April 1, 2018. Twice defeated by Rey de Oro, the Yasushi Shono charge, owned by NICKS Co., will need a big effort to notch his first win at the 2400m distance.

He arrives at the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic from a strong fourth, defeated less than two lengths, in the Group 2 Nakayama Kinen. Joao Moreira will take over from regular pilot Mirco Demuro as the duo leave from Post seven.

Trainer Aiden O’Brien will saddle Irish-breds Magic Wand and Hunting Horn as he looks for his second Longines Dubai Sheema Classic score, having previously captured the event in 2013 with St Nicholas Abbey. Last time out, Magic Wand, a 4-year-old daughter of Galileo, took on the boys for the first time in the inaugural Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational, finishing second behind well-regarded Bricks and Mortar over a soggy Gulfstream Park turf.

With a career record of 2-1-1 from 13 starts, the multiple Group 1-placed bay showed an affinity for a distance of ground when second in the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp in October. Magic Wand also picked up her first graded win at 2400m when four lengths the best in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Ascot. Ryan Moore will pilot Magic Wand from barrier three.

Hunting Horn, a 4-year-old son of Camelot, has won just twice from 14 starts, having made the grade in the 2000m Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes in June at Ascot. He was narrowly denied a Group 2 win over 2400m in September when nosed out by Brundtland in the Qatar Prix Niel (G2). Through two starts in 2019, Hunting Horn has a pair of thirds to his credit. Wayne Lordan will have the call aboard Hunting Horn from post five .

Godolphin homebred Old Persian has a knack for having his picture taken with six wins from nine attempts for trainer Charlie Appleby. The 4-year-old Dubawi colt made a dramatic debut at Meydan in March when a nose the best over Racing History in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold. With three Group 2 wins from four starts at the distance, Old Persian will now be given his third attempt at a Grade 1-breakthrough. William Buick, aboard for the Dubai City of Gold score, retains the mount from two.

Desert Encounter, trained by David Simcock for Abdulla Al Mansoori, earned his Grade 1 stripes with an out-of-the-clouds score in the Canadian International at Woodbine. Last of 11 at the half, the 7-year-old Halling gelding made up considerable ground over the lengthy homestretch to finish a length the best of Thundering Blue in the 2400m classic. Jim Crowley, who guided Desert Encounter to a wide-traveling third last out in the Dubai City of Gold, retains the mount from eight.

Godolphin’s Racing History, a 7-year-old son of Pivotal, completes a compelling Longines Dubai Sheema Classic field. Trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, Racing History is Group 1-placed at the distance, with a good second in the Grosser Preis von Bayern over a yielding Munich turf in 2016. However, with two wins from 11 starts, the lightly-raced gelding will require a career-best effort to topple the field. The Longines Dubai Sheema Classic will be the penultimate race on Saturday’s lucrative Dubai World Cup card.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 16-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 twice. He cashed on the NHC Tour for 2018 with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, 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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