American sprinters have historically thrived in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), especially in the dirt years, and Team USA holds a strong hand in Saturday’s renewal at Meydan.
Mind Your Biscuits owns outstanding current form as the winner of the Malibu (G1) and runner-up to champion Drefong in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Drefong would have been the clear favorite, and in his absence, Mind Your Biscuits may inherit the role. Switched from Robert N. Falcone Jr. to new trainer Chad Summers, the Posse colt continued in good heart with a barnstorming second to Unified in the February 25 Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3). As those results imply, Mind Your Biscuits has needed a little more ground than six furlongs. He’ll hope that the pace falls apart in time for him to get there with regular rider Joel Rosario.
California-based St. Joe Bay may be too stubborn for that to happen. Arguably the speed of the speed, the Peter Miller trainee has been a revelation since turning his hand to the sprint scene. St. Joe Bay aired in a Del Mar allowance, survived an intense pace war to share a dead-heat win in the sloppy Midnight Lute (G3), and showed similar spunk when hurling back a challenge in the Palos Verdes (G2). Significantly, that came on the cutback to a flat six furlongs, and St. Joe Bay may be tough to catch once he turns on the burners. Norberto Arroyo Jr. picks up the mount from Kent Desormeaux.
Imperial Hint would have added to the pace scrum, but the General George (G3) winner unfortunately had a fever upon arrival. Labeled questionable Monday, he was removed from the list and locally trained High on Life was added to the field in his stead. It’s a disappointing plot twist for the lightly raced Imperial Hint, winner of 6 of 10 – and his past three straight for Luis Carvajal Jr.
General George runner-up Stallwalkin’ Dude will now be left to represent the formline. Although a cut below the divisional leaders, the David Jacobson veteran has come close in the past two runnings of the six-furlong Vosburgh (G1). If new pilot Florent Geroux can time his finicky move just right, Stallwalkin’ Dude isn’t far off them.
It’s a measure of U.S. dirt sprint supremacy that five other contenders are American-breds trained abroad – 11-year-old Reynaldothewizard, who won the 2013 Golden Shaheen; locally based Cool Cowboy, Hong Kong’s Dundonnell, Godolphin’s Comicas, and Wild Dude, the respective second through fifth in the local prep, the Mahab al Shimaal (G3).
British-bred Morawij wired the Mahab al Shimaal on a speed-favoring surface, so Cool Cowboy deserves extra credit for closing fast to miss by a diminishing head. Morawij will have a sterner pace battle on his hands, but the Dhruba Selvaratnam trainee was third in last year’s Shaheen.
Defending champion Muarrab, however, has questions to answer after a lifeless sixth in the Mahab al Shimaal. Although he was still performing when just collared by Reynaldothewizard in the January 12 Dubawi S. and by Cool Cowboy in the February 2 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3), the eight-year-old just had no spark last time. There’s been upheaval in his yard as well, with trainer Musabbeh al Mheiri banned for a cobalt positive (involving a different horse). Assistant Maria Ritchie took charge in her own right, but Muarrab has since been moved to Ali Rashid al Rayhi for the Shaheen. Can his new trainer get him back to peak form in so little time? The sole two-time Shaheen winner is still Caller One (2001-02).
Reynaldothewizard could carve out a unique place in the Shaheen annals as the only horse to win non-consecutive runnings. That’s an almost unbelievable thought for the senior citizen, who was fourth in his last two attempts (2014 and 2016). A credit to the horsemanship of trainer Satish Seemar, the Speightstown gelding amazingly captured the Dubawi for the third straight year. He was entered in the Mahab al Shimaal, but Seemar preferred to train him up to the big day. The sparse appearances have helped his longevity, and there won’t be a dry eye at Meydan if the old boy can do it again.
The highest rated horse in the race is Hong Kong’s Not Listenin’tome at 118, but that mark is entirely owed to his turf form. After a disappointing eighth in last year’s Al Quoz Sprint (G1), his more natural World Cup night target on turf, trainer John Moore has elected to give the dirt a spin this time. Not Listenin’tome has looked comfortable and shown good speed in his trial on Sha Tin’s dirt, but obviously not in the kind of furnace he’ll face here.
It’s encouraging that Dundonnell, who’s not at his level in Hong Kong, has performed capably during the Carnival. If Not Listenin’tome can transfer his turf form to dirt, he’d be a prime contender. After all, the Dylan Thomas gelding has held his own on the world-class Hong Kong sprint scene, landing last November’s Jockey Club Sprint (G2) and recently placing to Al Quoz threat Amazing Kids, the grand veteran Peniaphobia, and budding star Mr Stunning.
Aside from Cool Cowboy, Watson also has speed merchant My Catch, who hasn’t been seen since romping over Muarrab and Morawij in the December 15 Garhoud Sprint at this track and trip. He was receiving five pounds from Muarrab that day, and now he confronts a Group 1 field at level weights after missing the Carnival.
Japan’s Dios Corrida was seventh of nine in the Mahab al Shimaal, just the fifth lifetime start and stakes debut for the three-year-old. Now he goes from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.
Wednesday update: the post positions.