Doubt Dallas Stewart’s chances at your own risk.
Too many times has the equal parts charismatic-and-capable conditioner brought a horse into a big race who seemed a cut below the best and proceeded to take home a considerable chunk of the purse. The names have been written about ad nauseam—Lemons Forever (47-1, 1st, Kentucky Oaks), Unbridled Elaine (13-1, 1st, Breeders’ Cup Distaff), Golden Soul (34-1, 2nd, Kentucky Derby), Commanding Curve (37-1, 2nd, Kentucky Derby), Macho Again (40-1, 2nd, Preakness Stakes), Tale of Verve (30-1, 2nd, Preakness Stakes), etc.—horses who outran their odds in America’s most prestigious races. Now Stewart is after the ultimate bite of the biggest pie around—the $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1).
Last year, he had his first taste when Charles Fipke-owned champion Forever Unbridled—arguably Stewart’s best horse to date. The great mare suffered a wide trip and an unfavourable pace scenario against the boys in the 2000m race, ultimately checking in fifth in what was her first start in nearly five months and final of her career. This year, he comes in with a horse who appears in top form and primed to run to his optimum in Fipke’s Seeking the Soul—also a homebred—who exits a fine second in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at—you guessed it—long odds (34-1).
“I had a great time last year in Dubai and we are coming into the race in great shape,” Stewart said. “He’s a horse who got hurt last year in the (2018) Pegasus, so it took us a while to get him back to his best. He started to really show his best when he won the (Grade 3) Ack Ack (Stakes) at Churchill Downs and then came back and was second in the (Grade 1) Breeders’ Cup (Dirt Mile). He ran a good third in the (Grade 1) Clarke Handicap and then ran huge in the Pegasus.”
A Grade 1 winner when winning the 2017 Clark Handicap, the grandson of Sadler’s Wells turned in a sparkling work over the weekend at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, breezing 1000m (five furlongs) in 1:00.40 and galloping out 1200m (six furlongs) in 1:13 flat, according to Stewart.
“It was great,” Stewart said. “He worked really well and was fast at the wire, right where you want him to be. He had a really great work two weeks ago, so I gave him a little time out of that and then worked again. He galloped really nice this morning and we’re seeing what we want to see.
“The bottom line is he’s a really nice horse who’s training extremely well,” Stewart concluded. “We’re ready.”
Stewart confirmed that the six-time winner and earner of $2,951,042 ships on Monday, Mar. 18, to Florida, where he will fly to Dubai. If all goes to plan, he is expected to clear quarantine and train on the Meydan dirt track by Saturday or Sunday.
In other Dubai World Cup news, principal Amer Abdulaziz of Phoenix Thoroughbreds confirmed that both Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Gronkowski and Pennsylvania Derby (G1) runner-up Axelrod are being pointed to the Dubai World Cup. Trainer Satish Seemar also confirmed that current market favourite for the big race, North America, will breeze twice before the race. At this time, it also appears that Muntazah will stay in the Godolphin Mile (G2), much to the joy of many in the DWC field, as he absolutely dismantled his foes in the Burj Nahaar (G3) to the tune of a new 1600m track record.
The following list is ultimately pure guess-work until official invitations are announced and a field of probables takes shape, but it is good to keep a ‘watch’ on those who have announced that they are possible for the race.
DWC Watch: Thunder Snow, North America, Capezzano, Axelrod, Audible, Yoshida, Gunnevera, K T Brave, Seeking the Soul, Dabster and Gronkowski.
Seeking the Soul, picture Dubai Racing Club and Mathea Kelly