July 16, 2024

Yaupon looks to regain winning habit in Dubai Golden Shaheen

Yaupon stretches his legs for the Dubai Golden Shaheen (Coady Photography)

Since the $1.5 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) first became a seven-figure prize in 2000, American speed has reigned supreme 13 times. But U.S. dominance is even more pronounced if the five runnings during Meydan’s Tapeta era are excluded. Of the 15 editions on dirt, Americans have won 12. Team USA bids to extend that record Saturday, but the Japanese have arrived in force too.

Dubai Golden Shaheen – Race 6 (10:40 a.m. ET)

The purest raw talent of the American squad is Yaupon, who burst onto the scene as a sophomore last summer for Steve Asmussen. After sweeping his first four starts, including the Amsterdam (G2) and Chick Lang (G3), the Uncle Mo colt was bet down to 1.30-1 favoritism in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Perhaps his inexperience betrayed him on the big occasion, for Yaupon didn’t break too sharp, hustled up to chase, became an equine pinball, and wound up eighth. If able to blast from post 2 Saturday, he could prove the speed of the speed with Joel Rosario.

Doug O’Neill’s Wildman Jack (post 6) and Asmussen’s other runner, Jalen Journey (post 7), also figure to be prominent, as does the speedy Zenden who is drawn widest of all in post 14. Wildman Jack has the advantage of prior experience in Dubai, having routed last Carnival’s Nad al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3) in course-record time. The son of Goldencents scored a breakout win on dirt in the Jan. 23 Palos Verdes (G3), a well-known path to success in this race.

Jalen Journey showed graded ability early in his career, finishing second to Diamond Oops in the 2019 Smile Sprint (G3). After selling for $510,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Summer Horses of Racing Age Sale, he was third in the Bing Crosby (G1). But he later vanished for more than a year. Resurfacing with Asmussen in claiming company, he won second off the layoff at Churchill Downs. Another convincing score at Oaklawn Park hints that the lightly-raced six-year-old has more to offer. Zenden, who similarly has a couple of Grade 3 placings on his resume, posted a gritty win in the Pelican S. at Tampa Bay Downs.

Japan also fields a quartet of proper contenders. Matera Sky, runner-up to X Y Jet here in 2019, comes off his second straight heartbreaker in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint on Saudi Cup Day. His classy compatriot Copano Kicking caught him on the line. Justin was a non-threatening sixth in Saudi, but the quirky son of Orfevre had earned a new career high in his prior start, the Dec. 13 Capella (G3), over Red le Zele. The abundance of speed in the Shaheen could suit Red le Zele best of all. Both of his black-type victories have come at about seven furlongs, and he shortens up from a rallying fourth in the February (G1) over a metric mile.

The locals historically have been up against it trying to keep the trophy at home. But Switzerland has an above-average profile as a multiple Grade 3 winner for Asmussen before taking up residence in Dubai. He finally returned to that level of form here when landing the Jan. 21 Dubawi (G3), his first start for Satish Seemar. Although only fourth in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint, Switzerland is among those Saudi also-rans with a case to bounce back at Meydan.

Doug Watson has two prep winners among his trio – Canvassed, up in time to deny Ismail Mohammed’s Good Effort in the Mahab al Shimaal (G3) on Super Saturday, and Al Tariq, freshened since his back-to-back scores in the Feb. 5 Jebel Ali Sprint and Feb. 18 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) at Meydan. Watson’s new recruit Premier Star was an encouraging fourth in the Mahab al Shimaal in his UAE debut. The American expat, third to Yaupon in the Amsterdam, had not raced since his romp in the Oct. 14 Jersey Shore.

Important Mission, second in the Al Shindagha and sixth in the Mahab al Shimaal, was scratched due to a bout of colic.