U.S.-based horses have won the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) a total of 12 times, including the past two with now-retired Mind Your Biscuits. That figure should increase with both the quantity and quality of American shippers in the $2.5 million dirt sprint on Saturday’s Dubai World Cup card.
Despite the Thursday withdrawal of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) champion and early favorite Roy H , the U.S. team remains deep with dual Shaheen near-misser X Y Jet, as well as Grade 1 stars Imperial Hint and Promises Fulfilled.
Roy H’s co-owner, Rockingham Ranch, is also a partner in X Y Jet, who has suffered Shaheen heartbreak twice. In 2016, the Jorge Navarro trainee just succumbed to Muarrab after a protracted duel, and exited with a chipped knee that required surgery. X Y Jet made a brief comeback that fall, only to be forced onto the sidelines again and missed virtually all of 2017. Back in business for a return trip to Dubai in 2018, the gray forged clear and looked to have the trophy in his grasp – until Mind Your Biscuits’ incredible rally from last.
X Y Jet makes his third start off the layoff here. Rebounding from a tiring fourth in the January 19 Sunshine Millions Sprint, where a torrid pace duel proved too much off the bench, the seven-year-old romped in a Gulfstream Park allowance in the slop. Now he hopes that the third time in the Shaheen is the charm, but the free-running speedster will have company early.
Imperial Hint is another deserving better fortune in Dubai. Two years ago, trainer Luis Carvajal had reason to hope for a big effort, but the progressive sprinter never got his chance in the Shaheen after coming down with pneumonia. Imperial Hint recovered and continued his upward progress, earning Grade 1 laurels in last season’s Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) and Vosburgh (G1) and placing to Roy H in the past two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
The six-year-old was most recently a subpar third, as the 1-5 favorite, in the February 16 Pelican S. at Tampa Bay Downs, but had a ready excuse – a foot issue. Imperial Hint has come roaring back on the worktab, firing back-to-back bullets at Tampa, and gets a rider change to Jose Ortiz. Since Roy H had drawn the rail, and Imperial Hint post 2, he inherits the innermost post following the big scratch.
Four-year-old Promises Fulfilled is the newcomer among the American brigade, but the Dale Romans pupil has serious speed. While the Shackleford colt carried it as far as 1 1/16 miles in last year’s Fountain of Youth (G2), the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) were bridges too far, and he’s found his niche sprinting. Promises Fulfilled beat fellow sophomores in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1) and Amsterdam (G3) at Saratoga, then outlasted his elders, including Whitmore, in last fall’s Phoenix (G2). His streak was snapped when fourth behind Roy H in the Breeders’ Cup, the conclusion to a long, hard campaign. Romans opted to come without a prep, in light of how well Promises Fulfilled runs fresh. If he outfoots X Y Jet from the gate next door, he might be the one to catch under Robby Albarado.
Steve Asmussen’s multiple Grade 3 scorer Switzerland rounds out the American-based quintet, but he’s a quasi-local now after competing unsuccessfully in the Carnival. The son of Speightstown came out of his sixth in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) “mildly lame” in the left fore, appeared to have turned the corner with a second under a big weight in a handicap, only to wilt to fifth in the Mahab al Shimaal (G3) on Super Saturday. It’s only going to get hotter in this spot.
Mahab al Shimaal hero Drafted is the best of the home team, and arguably unlucky not to be unbeaten this UAE season for Doug Watson. The Florida-bred, who set a Keeneland track record at two, boasts a terrific closing kick that has propelled him to victories in the Garhoud Sprint, Al Shindagha, and Mahab al Shimaal, all at this about six-furlong trip. But for a checkered passage in the Dubawi (G3) on the Carnival opener, Drafted might well have done better than a fast-closing second. The question is whether he can run down the premier of the American sprinters, a substantial class test.
Tato Key has the best case to reverse the Dubai Carnival form, given his close placings in both outings when he was entitled to fare worse. A multiple Group 2 winner in his native Argentina, the Yu Long acquisition was transferred to Irish trainer David Marnane. Tato Key made his debut off a seven-month layoff in the Al Shindagha, hit the front, and got caught by Drafted. In their Super Saturday rematch, Tato Key drew the far outside post 10, yet came up only a half-length short in third. If able to navigate a better trip, Tato Key could erase that deficit with Drafted.
Nine Below Zero has improved under the tutelage of Fawzi Nass, climbing from a middling-level handicap score to a close second in the Mahab al Shimaal, but he’d need a career-best to make the frame again.
Japan’s Matera Sky proved he belonged at this level with a useful fifth in last year’s Golden Shaheen. Building upon that effort back home last summer, the Hideyuki Mori trainee captured his next two, notably setting an about seven-furlong track record in the Procyon (G3) at Chukyo. But Matera Sky went off the boil thereafter, placing just once in his last four when narrowly denied in the JBC Sprint November 4. In his latest, he led early and faded to 13th in the Negishi (G3) at Tokyo.
Hong Kong’s Fight Hero came within a head of landing last September’s lucrative Korea Sprint at Seoul, where Japan’s classy Moanin prevailed. Still, this is a deep spot to ply his six-furlong dirt specialty.
Thursday’s updated field via emiratesracing.com: