December 5, 2020

Sharp Azteca clashes with local star North America in Godolphin Mile

Sharp Azteca winning the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) on February 11 (c) Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography

Saturday’s Dubai World Cup program opens, not with the Dubai Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians (which is now the 2ND race), but with the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2). Any residual sleepiness for Western Hemisphere viewers at 7:45 a.m. ET is likely to be banished by the clash between “Americans” – Florida shipper Sharp Azteca and local standout North America – each unbeaten at the distance.

The Jorge Navarro-trained Sharp Azteca is a perfect four-for-four around a one-turn mile, including the Pat Day Mile (G3) on Kentucky Derby Day and the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) in his latest. Two starts back, he was just denied by Golden Shaheen (G1) contender Mind Your Biscuits (G1) in the seven-furlong Malibu (G1). Sharp Azteca’s front-running style fits Meydan well, and he’s well drawn in post 6 with regular rider Edgard Zayas.

To waste no time getting to the match race, North America is positioned just to his outside in post 7. The Dubawi gelding is undefeated since transferring to Seemar, who immediately put him on the dirt. North America has raced up the ladder through a maiden win, a pair of handicaps, and the Firebreak (G3) in grand style. There was some speculation whether he’d try the World Cup, but Seemar quashed it, and the presence of Arrogate surely eliminated any room for doubt. This is the more conservative spot, and locals, whether Godolphin or otherwise, have an excellent record in the Godolphin Mile. North America will be joined by stablemate Farrier, the Jebel Ali S. winner who received a late invitation. The last time he tried this distance, he was second to Fitzgerald in the Dubai Creek Mile in December.

The hottest dirt miler around here other than North America is Heavy Metal, who spread-eagled Ross, comebacker Stormardal, and the off-form Le Bernardin in the Burj Nahaar (G3) last out. Heavy Metal can be excused his distant fourth to North America in the Firebreak, since he’d spiked a fever, and bookended that reverse with a pair of good-looking handicap scores for Salem bin Ghadayer. Stormardal had won three in a row prior to being sidelined, and the Ismail Mohammed improver is eligible to move forward off the Burj Nahaar. Le Bernardin would factor if in early season-form, when he successfully defended his title in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) over this metric mile. But he does best fresh, and his subsequent losses cast a cloud.

American expat Second Summer now qualifies as a local, after taking up residence with UAE champion trainer Doug Watson, and rates an intriguing shot on the cutback in trip. The winner of last summer’s Californian (G2) for Peter Eurton, the Summer Bird gelding made a sharp Dubai debut when just missing to World Cup-bound Furia Cruzada in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2). Second Summer flopped on the step up to the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), but is more in his element here. Watson also sends out Etijaah, upset winner over Mubtaahij in the about 10-furlong Curlin H.

Korean Horse of the Year Triple Nine likewise shortens up after a trio of Carnival losses at about 1 1/4 miles, most recently in Round 3. He’s four-for-five over this trip back home.

Japan’s Kafuji Take warrants respect for his whirlwind finishes at Tokyo, as evidenced by his victory in the Negishi (G3) two back and his third to World Cup entrant Gold Dream in the February (G1). British shipper Gifted Master has the right forward style, if he takes to the dirt, and improves off a tiring fourth in the Zabeel Mile (G2). The booking of Ryan Moore will pique interest in the Hugo Palmer runner.

Here is the field with post positions:

Screenshot from emiratesracing.com