True Timber to Godolphin Mile
Last week it was confirmed that Calumet Farm’s D. Wayne Lukas-conditioned Bravazo will be lining up in the $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) and this week, banner-mate True Timber, trained by former Lukas assistant Kiaran McLaughlin, was confirmed for the $1.5 million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One (G1). Like Bravazo, True Timber is Grade 1-placed, has tackled some of the best dirt horses in the world and will ship to the UAE off a loss in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
“We are planning to run him in the Godolphin Mile and he’s doing really well,” McLaughlin confirmed. “He’s training great and we will breeze him weekly before we ship in. He’ll be based at Meydan with the rest of the American horses.
“He came out of the Pegasus in good shape,” he continued. “He’s probably better at a mile and I’m happy to try him back at one there. He’s a very nice horse and other than the Pegasus, he has been running really well. He was very wide the other day and that really hurt his chances.”
True Timber is a four-time winner from 18 starts and has been consistent, no matter the level, in his career. He has placed in four graded stakes, including a fine second in Aqueduct’s Cigar Mile (G1) in November over a similar one-turn trip as the Godolphin Mile. Last out, when seventh in the Pegasus, he finished behind four horses expected to line up in the Dubai World Cup—Seeking the Soul (2nd), Bravazo (4th), Audible (5th) and Gunnevera (6th)—as well as recently retired superstars City of Light (1st) and Accelerate (3rd).
McLaughlin, a former champion trainer in UAE before shifting base back to America, is no stranger to success in Dubai. He owns five wins on Dubai World Cup night, including a victory in the main event with Invasor in 2007. Winless in the Godolphin Mile, his seven runners have accounted for a pair of runner-up efforts, Fahim (1997) and Jarah (1999), and a fourth from Marking (2016).
“(True Timber) is the right kind,” McLaughlin said. “We’re excited about coming with him. I came back a couple years ago and I’m excited about it, myself, as well. I spent 10 years there, so Dubai is like a second home.”
Almond Eye gets back to work
Japanese champion and overall superstar Almond Eye has been reported on schedule for her run in the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) on Dubai World Cup night. One of the expected showstoppers of a $35 million global spectacle of an evening, the daughter of Lord Kanaloa owns a world record (2:20.60) for 2400m on turf—roughly the same distance as the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1)—but has been pointed for the shorter 1800m of the Dubai Turf, instead.
Winner of the 2400m Japan Cup (G1) and filly Triple Crown in her native land, she has proven herself versatile, including three wins over 1600m and one over 2000m, in addition to her 2400m victories. Overall, she has six wins from seven lifetime starts, including four consecutive Group 1s. According to conditioner Sakae Kunieda, Almond Eye will return to Miho Training Centre on Feb. 22 to resume serious conditioning for her Dubai date.
“When I saw her last week on the farm, she looked good,” Kunieda said. “She has definitely grown a bit and she will probably grow some more, too, I think.”
Almond Eye has not raced since her Japan Cup triumph on Nov. 25. She will try to do one better than fellow Japanese filly Triple Crown winner to whom she consistently is compared, Gentildonna, who won the Japan Cup as a sophomore and was also once beaten when she first ventured to Dubai. The long- striding charge was then second to St Nicholas Abbey in the 2013 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic. She would return one year later to make amends and win the same race impressively.
Silva still improving for Brandt
To think that Zalim Bifov’s Silva, who waltzed over her competition in the UAE 1,000 Guineas (Listed) over 1600m last out, could still improve is an intriguing idea, but that is just what trainer Pia Brandt expects when the bay filly steps up once again on Thursday at Meydan Racecourse. If she hopes to be successful again, she must take on the 1900m of the $250,000 UAE Oaks (G3), as well as a post draw (10 of 12) that was unkind and an improving rival in Godolphin’s Divine Image.
“The distance is no problem for her,” Brandt said of the French-trained filly. “We have to live with the draw, unfortunately. You have to be a little quick to get a good position before the bend. Her (Guineas) was excellent. She was very professional and did what (jockey Oisin Murphy) told her. Hopefully she jumps and she runs well like that.
“She’s a very backwards filly, mentally, and she doesn’t give everything,” she continued. “She does what you tell her to do and we never really ask her to do as much as a race. She is immature in her head, but with time, she will improve.”
Shocking many with her sheer dominance in the one-mile classic on Jan. 31, Silva took to the dirt with ease, despite a pedigree that speaks to the contrary. The daughter of Kodiac out of a Dutch Art mare stalked pacesetter Lady Parma beautifully before pouncing and ultimately spurting away to a 93⁄4-length win. Divine Image had a poor beginning, took plenty of dirt and ran on smartly to grab second in the final strides.
“The dirt has been no problem, because she trained so well on it at home,” Brandt explained. “Of course, it’s not the same when you come to the races. We still don’t know yet about the kickback with her and I think (Divine Image) will be improving. She will be a danger in there.”
Overall, Silva has a record of two wins from four starts and already owns a win over the 1900m distance when breaking her maiden on Dec. 14 over Deauville’s all-weather course. She is a half-sister to fellow 2019 Carnival runner Fas, who is a Group 3 winner over 1200m.
Century Dream leads Crisford’s Thursday team
Simon Crisford is shaping up for a strong Thursday night at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, headed by one of his top pupils, Century Dream, who is knocking on the door of another Group success following a string of promising runs. Third to Roaring Lion in the 1600m Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) on his latest outing on British Champions Day and in August’s Arlington Million (G1) astern Robert Bruce, the 5-year- old Group 3 winner is the top-rated horse in Thursday’s Zabeel Mile (G2).
A competitive renewal of the $250,000 race looms, including G1 winners Comin’ Through and Marinaresco, as well as a four-pronged attack from Crisford’s former employer Godolphin. Drawing post eight of nine and to be ridden by Oisin Murphy, the son of Cape Cross is likely to use this race as a prep for the Group 1 $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World on Mar. 30.
“We are really pleased with him and looking forward to the race,” Crisford said. “He’s doing absolutely fine, he’s travelled very well to Dubai and trained really well since being there. Things have gone according to plan.”
Crisford has the talented Starry Eyes entered in the $250,000 UAE Oaks (G3). A winner as a 2-year-old in England, the daughter of Animal Kingdom is having her second start on the dirt at Meydan and will likely improve in this spot. Another American-bred, African Ride runs in the $135,000 Jaguar F PACE Handicap for the Englishman and appears one of the favourites. A Listed winner in France for Carlos Laffon-Parias, African Ride has shown promise on Meydan’s dirt track. Lastly, stalwart handicapper Mutawathea will line up in the evening’s nightcap, the $135,000 Range Rover Velar over 1600m on the turf.
Lukas, Bravazo ready for Dubai debut
Knowing where to start when talking about D Wayne Lukas’ achievements and influence on North American racing is a difficult task. The former basketball coach-turned-horse trainer has won 20 Breeders Cup races, 14 Triple Crown events and trained three horses to earn the status of America’s Horse of the Year, not to mention the more than two dozen Quarter Horse champions he conditioned before moving on to Thoroughbreds.
The first to break both $100 and $200 million in earnings, Lukas has also shaped the careers some of the country’s finest trainers with former assistants including Todd Pletcher, Dallas Stewart, Mark Hennig, George Weaver and former leading UAE trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, among others. Although in the twilight of his career, the 83-year-old is still breaking new ground and this year plans to compete at Meydan for the first time with current stable flagbearer Bravazo.
The 4-year-old son of Awesome Again won the Risen Star Stakes (G2) before contesting in all three Triple Crown races, including a runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes (G1) as a 3-year-old. Placed in four Grade 1 races since then, the Calumet Farm homebred returned to the work tab Wednesday morning, breezing a half-mile in 49 flat. He will start in the $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) on Mar. 30.
“We’re going to get maybe four more works between now and then, so we just wanted him to stretch his legs again,” Lukas said.”
Bravazo returned to his Oaklawn base on Jan. 28, two days after finishing fourth in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Lukas said Bravazo will ship to the UAE on Mar. 18.
“I’ve talked to Bob Baffert and a couple of people who have been over there and they said, ‘You need to go, you need to go and you’ll enjoy it,’ But I never had any strong feeling about it. In this particular case, Calumet’s Brad Kelley is real adamant about (how) we need to try this. Go over there and try it.”
Dubai World Cup Day races reordered
A slight change to the race order for the $35 million Dubai World Cup card (Mar. 30) has been instituted. With a local post time of 3:45 p.m., the $1 million Dubai Kahayla Classic sponosored by Mubadala (G1) for Purebred Arabians will kick off the nine-race card. The $1.5 million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One (G2) will now be Race 2. The $1.5 million Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors (G2) remains Race 3.
The only other major change is that the $2 million Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments is moved up one race to Race 4, swapping with the $2.5 million UAE Derby sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2), which is now Race 5. The final four races remain unchanged, with the purses increasing as the card progresses: $2.5 million Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (G1), $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1), $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) and $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1).
The Dubai World Cup post time will be 8:40 p.m.