By Marcus Hersh
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The names of 12 horses had passed the entry box when entries closed Monday morning in Dubai for Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup.
The list of final declarations doesn’t include Intilaaq, who made the set of probable entrants distributed last week by the Dubai Racing Club and was entered instead in the $6 million Dubai Turf, but the five Americans – California Chrome, Frosted, Mshawish, Keen Ice, and Hoppertunity – are set to take their chance Saturday night at 9 local time, which is 1 p.m. Eastern.
The other seven in the World Cup are Candy Boy, Gun Pit, Hokko Tarumae, Mubtaahij, Special Fighter, Telextext, and Vadamos. Post positions for the World Cup and four more of the nine stakes on the World Cup card will be drawn Wednesday. Posts were drawn Monday for the Kahayla Classic, Godolphin Mile, Gold Cup, and UAE Derby.
There were no major surprises among the final declarations, though Market Rally wasn’t among the entrants in the UAE Derby. That race has a field of seven and is headed by the unbeaten filly Polar River, who drew post 2. In post 1 is Frank Conversation, the lone American-based runner in the race, who must show he’s as good on dirt as on all-weather surfaces.
There are no Americans in the 11-horse Gold Cup, which is not surprising since the number of high-quality U.S.-based two-mile grass horses is roughly zero, but the lack of American shippers in the 10-horse Godolphin Mile is surprising. Marking, who shipped to Dubai earlier in the winter with Frosted, is the only American among 10 entered, and he will be formidable from post 1 under James Doyle. American expatriate Cool Cowboy (post 8) ranks among the top challengers.
A cracking edition of the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint, to be drawn Wednesday, has 14 final entrants, among them American shippers Mongolian Saturday and Lady Shipman as well as top local hope Ertijaal and Sole Power, who defends his Al Quoz title and makes his sixth appearance in the race.
U.S. shipper X Y Jet looms large among the 10 entrants in the Golden Shaheen, which also drew the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Confrontation, who turns back from a sharp win over about one mile to this six-furlong trip.
The $6 million Dubai Turf, over about nine furlongs, got 15 entrants, among them the California-based Flamboyant, but the absence of defending champion Solow, withdrawn last week with an injury, hits very hard. The $6 million Sheema Classic, contested at about 1 1/2 miles on turf, has only nine entrants, but two – Postponed and Highland Reel – rated significantly higher than anything in the Dubai Turf.
California Chrome, Frosted, and Keen Ice have been in Dubai for weeks and, in the case of the first two, since January. Mshawish and Hoppertunity arrived a week ago, and on Monday, Hoppertunity, the winner of the San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita last out, worked 800 meters (about a half-mile) under exercise rider Dana Barnes, who is overseeing the horse’s training in Dubai for Bob Baffert. Leandro Mora, assistant trainer to Doug O’Neill who’s here with UAE Derby starter Frank Conversation, timed the work in 48.40 seconds, which Barnes described as “super good.”
California Chrome and Keen Ice had light mornings Monday after working about five furlongs Saturday, with California Chrome jogging around the quarantine center training track and Keen Ice out for a light gallop. Tammy Fox, who is overseeing and riding Keen Ice here for trainer Dale Romans, revealed that Keen Ice worked in blinkers Saturday and will race in them for the first time in the World Cup. After Keen Ice finished seventh in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge on March 4, jockey Ryan Moore suggested trying the colt in blinkers.
“He worked in 59 1/5,” Fox said. “He seems to like [the blinkers.]”
Mshawish, who won the Donn Handicap last out and finished third in the Dubai Turf last year, had a spirited gallop Monday, but unlike Hoppertunity, he had his final World Cup work before shipping overseas for trainer Todd Pletcher.