When it comes to the G1 Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline, you can always expect Emirati handler Saeed bin Suroor to conjure something special and the long-serving Godolphin handler must be readying his magic wand to deliver another dreamlike effort on Saturday.
He is the most successful trainer in the epic contest with nine wins and he now stands on the brink of extending it to a perfect 10 when Real World lines up alongside fellow Godolphin-owned Magny Cours in the Meydan centrepiece.
Both horses enjoyed considerable turf success in Europe last season, with Real World compiling an outstanding sequence of four wins that culminated with victory in the G2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein on Longchamp’s Arc weekend at the end of the season.
Real World kicked off his 2022 campaign in majestic fashion, winning the G2 Zabeel Mile, despite a poor start that compromised his chances in the G1 Saudi Cup at Riyadh in February.
However, Bin Suroor is willing to put a line through that performance and insists that that race does not define a horse that he holds in the highest regard.
“We need to forget what happened to Real World in the Saudi Cup because he missed the break. I could see from the start that his race was over. He came out of the race well and his latest piece of work put him spot on for this,” he said.
Real World’s form augurs well and was evident in his most recent spin on Godolphin’s tapeta training track at Al Quoz.
“He is back in good form, and we were lucky to draw stall six, which should make it easy for Christophe Soumillon to be handy in the race. If he can settle in second or third, it will be perfect for the Real World.
“The plan was always to continue to keep him on turf in his prep because we are confident, he can handle the dirt, a surface on which he has proven himself in the past,” Bin Suroor added.
“The Dubai World Cup is a very difficult race and this year with so many top American horses here. But we believe that Real World is in the best form and capable of a good performance, with a little luck in running. Soumillon is looking forward to riding him on Saturday.”
Soumillon and Bin Suroor teamed up to make Dubai World Cup history when Thunder Snow became the first dual winner of the famous race.
Magny Cours also did not run up to expectations in the Saudi Cup, but trainer Andre Fabre is looking forward to running the seven-year-old in his second Dubai World Cup appearance following a noteworthy third place effort behind Mystic Guide and Chuwa Wizard 12 months ago.
Last season the son of Medaglia d’Oro delivered some good performances in his native France, including chasing home Dubai Sheema Classic contender Dubai Honour in the G2 Prix Dollar and winning the G3 Prix Perth.
“Magny Cours travelled very well, settling nicely in a familiar environment. He came back home to France after his race in Saudi and is in great form. Like last year, he will be ridden by William Buick, and we are expecting a good performance,” Fabre said.
Among the nine rivals that the Godolphin duo will face is the American superstar Life Is Good who won the GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational in dominating fashion.
Conditioned by Todd Pletcher, the WinStar Farm-owned four-year-old was handed a perfect draw on the inside, which boosts his chances of adding to his five wins at the graded level.
Hall of Famer Pletcher is now excited about the opportunity to win the grand race in Dubai.
“When you’re coming up with a strategy for a race, you know what you want to do, but you don’t always know what your opponent wants to do. This is certainly a race that’s at the top of our list that we haven’t won, and we’d love to win. We’re excited about the opportunity,” Pletcher said.
“He’s a very gifted horse. He’s as talented as any of that that we’ve had our hands on.”
Despite his enviable record, Life Is Good has never raced over 2,000 metres (10 furlongs).
Pletcher, though, remains confident about the chances of Into Mischief’s son at Meydan where the biggest race of the night would be run over 10 furlongs on Saturday night.
“He’s answered every question so far. The only thing he has not had the opportunity to do yet is run for 10 furlongs which, you know, we’re very optimistic that he’ll handle that,” Pletcher said.
“He’s settled right in; he’s galloped beautifully over the track since he’s been here….all those little things that you’re concerned about is a trainer, he seems to handle perfectly.”
There are three other American heavyweight contenders in the running, including Hot Rod Charlie, Country Grammer and Midnight Bourbon.
Drumming up support for Hot Rod Charlie was his handler, Doug O’Neill.
“We’re optimistic,” said O’Neill, of the four-year-old son of Oxbow who already has banked $2,721,200 (Dh 9994994.81) with a 4-3-3 record from 14 career starts. He most recently won his prep race for the Dubai World Cup, the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) at Meydan on February 4.
However, O’Neill is realistic about Hot Rod Charlie’s chances in such a cracking race.
“Flavien (Prat, who rides Hot Rod Charlie) knows the horse well, so we’re optimistic for a good run. Our staff has been showing Hot Rod a lot of love every day they’ve been with him in Dubai. He’s ready to go. It’s going to be a great race.”
Multiple Grade I-placed Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow), also runs with a big chance and Carlos Rosas, exercise rider for trainer Steve Asmussen, said of the draw: “I didn’t want him inside drawn on the rail, so we have gone for the middle in eight. Hopefully, his jockey Jose Ortiz can get a good position from there. He has been training beautifully since he finished third in the Saudi Cup.”
The big race also sees Super Saturday’s G1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 victor Hypothetical, a flagbearer for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, and trainer Salem bin Ghadayer, carry the UAE’s hopes.
Trainer Bhupat Seemar has his first Dubai World Cup runner with Remorse, second to Hypothetical, and last year’s runner-up Chuwa Wizard will hope to go one better second time around.
Trainer Ryuji Okubo said, “I’m happy with the gate and his condition is better than last year. He’s got the experience of Meydan last year and that has served him well for this year. I’m happier this year and gate three is perfect.”
Antonio Cintra’s Aero Trem will hope to make the most of his draw in barrier two and earn plaudits for South American horse racing.
Commenting on the horse’s chances, Cintra said: “It’s a good draw for him, he’s a horse that can’t run in the back (during his races), so it’s a good draw.
“We’re very proud to be here again. Last season was the first time we had a horse in the World Cup, but I think this year we will arrive with Aero Trem who is looking 100 per cent so we’re hoping for a good race from him.”
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdulaziz is represented by Grocer Jack, a Group 3 winner in Germany and Maureen Haggis, trainer William Haggas’s wife was optimistic of a good performance from their hope to break from Gate 4.
“He’s inexperienced on the dirt so he wouldn’t have wanted to be drawn on the inside in stalls one to three. To be more to the outside is better for him and he’ll work it out on the dirt,” she said.
So, it’s a cracking field of 11 runners, each bringing their unique and best skills to Dubai to bid for a place in horse racing history.
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