Since its inception in 1996, the Dubai World Cup (G1) has often showcased an American shipper, when not going to the Godolphin home team. Thus to mark Saturday’s 25th running, it’s fitting that the early favorite – Mystic Guide – combines both pointers, as he seeks to become Godolphin’s first U.S.-based winner of the $12 million prize.
Dubai World Cup – Race 9 (12:50 p.m. ET)
At this time a year ago, the Michael Stidham trainee was just breaking his maiden in style at Fair Grounds. Connections took a conservative approach with the blueblood son of Ghostzapper and five-time Grade 1 queen Music Note, and he’s rewarded them by winning two of his past three.
The addition of blinkers lifted Mystic Guide to his first stakes victory in the Jim Dandy (G2), where World Cup rival Jesus’ Team was third. Runner-up in a tactical Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), Mystic Guide still defeated Tacitus who wasn’t helped by the race shape either. His reappearance in the Feb. 27 Razorback H. (G3) at Oaklawn Park showed that Mystic Guide was ready to play a major role in the older male division, as he drew off in the slop with Luis Saez.
Mystic Guide turned in a sharp blowout at Meydan on Sunday, reportedly covering three furlongs in about :36, the final quarter in about :23.5, and galloping out with energy. The last piece of the puzzle was Wednesday’s draw, and Stidham was delighted with post 6.
“It’s perfect – couldn’t be happier,” his trainer said.
Stidham also explained his reasoning for Mystic Guide’s quiet morning on Wednesday after a busy Tuesday of activities:
“Based on the schooling process, we gave him the morning off. He had trained in the morning and then went over there for two hours of schooling, so we just felt like it would be best to give him an easy day. We walked and grazed him. Tomorrow (Thursday) he will gallop and stand in the gate.
“It’s a lot different; the total opposite of what we do in the States. Doing all this in a week’s time is very demanding on a horse and their routine, so you have to adapt your training with this extra activity and that’s what I’m doing. He’s plenty fit. I don’t want to put him over the top and have a flat horse on race day.”
The trainers of fellow American contenders Jesus’ Team (post 9) and Sleepy Eyes Todd (post 10) were also pleased with the luck of the draw.
“When I saw post position 9 I was happy because it’s in the middle,” Jose Francisco D’Angelo said of Jesus’ Team, whose series of placings in the Preakness (G1), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and Jan. 23 Pegasus World Cup (G1) gives him key formlines.
“He doesn’t need to make an aggressive move at the beginning. I like the number 9, and I am very sure (about my horse). It was a relief. In the Breeders’ Cup Mile he had to start from gate 11. He can move fast to find a good spot. So, I like this post position.”
Charles Town Classic (G2) hero Sleepy Eyes Todd, who closed from far back to take fourth in the Pegasus prior to a troubled fifth in the Saudi Cup, could get a better trip here.
“I am very, very happy,” trainer Miguel Angel Silva said after the draw. “We wanted to be on the outside – 10 is great. I think we’re going to be very close to the speed. I am very pleased with where we are. I think we’re the one to beat. We can make the lead if we need to. He has won on the lead before. Jockeys have to make a split-second decision. You never know how it’s going to unfold.
“I have been saying this a lot – we just need racing luck,” Silva added. “We had a few issues with other horses in Saudi Arabia, they cut us off. All of a sudden, we were 15 lengths behind. Ideally, I would like to see him four or five lengths off the speed. And in front at the wire!”
Three others are exiting the Saudi Cup. Third-placer Great Scot has back class as an English Group 3 winner, but might have capitalized on home-court advantage at his Saudi base. In contrast, sixth-placer Military Law is entitled to appreciate being back at Meydan, and Japan’s Chuwa Wizard likewise didn’t do himself justice when ninth in Riyadh.
Military Law’s trainer, Musabbeh Al Mheiri, is expecting a performance much more like his victory in the Jan. 21 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2).
“I am very happy with the draw,” Al Mheiri said of post 5. “This is perfect and I just couldn’t have asked for a better position for him to start. If he jumps out well and Antonio Fresu can get him into a good position just off the pace, then we have every reason to believe he will be in a good position to contest the finish. He will work for the last time on Thursday and we will have him ready for race day.”
Chuwa Wizard’s no-show in the Saudi Cup was an aberration, considering that his hallmark back home is consistency. Last year’s Japanese champion dirt horse after beating the likes of Gold Dream, Chrysoberyl, and Cafe Pharoah in the Dec. 6 Champions Cup (G1), Chuwa Wizard had been unplaced only once in 18 career starts going into Saudi. The son of King Kamehameha didn’t break well in Riyadh, and a smoother start would put him right back into the game from post 3,
Drawn next door in post 4 is Title Ready. Although not his ideal draw, trainer Dallas Stewart hopes that his career high in the Louisiana (G3) last out portends more to come from the Charles Fipke homebred.
“We’d prefer a little more outside, but we are happy with it. Not too bad,” Stewart said.
“The horse looked great. He’s doing well. The horse came in good and we’re excited to see what he can do on Saturday. He looks like he’s getting over the track good. Like any of them, he’s going to have to step his game up. It’s a good race. He’s a very nice horse who’s six now and he’s training well and coming off his best race. His best races might be ahead. Hopefully he’ll step up to this level.”
Fawzi Nass was philosophical after pace factor Salute the Soldier wound up in post 11. Expected to top the Godolphin Mile (G2) on last year’s canceled World Cup card, the Sepoy gelding has proven effective over further this Carnival when taking both the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) and Round 3 (G1).
“Obviously we would have preferred a lower draw,” Nass said, “but it is what it is and, in Adrie de Vries, we have a top jockey who will ride his race as he sees fit.”
Also parked wide are Godolphin’s outsiders, Magny Cours (post 12) and Gifts of Gold (post 14). Magny Cours, in an echo of Mystic Guide, is trying to become Godolphin’s first World Cup winner for a European trainer. From the yard of Andre Fabre, the relatively unexposed son of Medaglia d’Oro and Grade 1-winning turfiste Indy Five Hundred (sister to the dam of Royal Delta) is worth a dirt experiment. Magny Cours has yet to be tested at this level on any surface, but he did upstage his star stablemate Persian King in a listed stakes in their mutual reappearance last June.
Although Gifts of Gold represents the World Cup’s leading trainer, nine-time winner Saeed bin Suroor, he doesn’t have their resume. Flopping behind Military Law in his lone dirt attempt in Round 1, Gifts of Gold shocked the about 1 7/8-mile Red Sea Turf H. on Saudi Cup Day, which normally would have led him to the Dubai Gold Cup (G2) earlier on the card.
Rounding out the field is a quartet who must step up to turn the tables on Salute the Soldier. Round 3 runner-up Hypothetical has upside for Salem bin Ghadayer, unlike stablemate Capezzano. Still looking for his old 2019 form, Capezzano did move forward from seventh in Round 1 to fourth in Round 2. Former Uruguayan Horse of the Year Ajuste Fiscal improved in his even better Meydan preps, from a fifth in Round 1 to a third in Round 2, and will be doing his best work late. The Doug Watson-trained Thegreatcollection, second in Round 2 and fourth in Round 3, is a longtime Carnival veteran who’s finally made it to the big event.