The astounding talent of six-time Group 1 winner Almond Eye is on its way back to the UAE, as the 5-year-old mare looks to commerce her season with a defence of the Group 1 $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World at Meydan Racecourse on March 28. The Silk Racing Co.-owned daughter of Lord Kanaloa has pleased trainer Sakae Kunieda at home as she prepares for the 1800m affair and looks to build upon a 2019 success in which she defeated eight G1 winners, including Vivlos, Deirdre and Lord Glitters.
A winner of the 2018 Japanese Filly Triple Crown and Japan Cup (G1) during the same season, she has shown marked versatility from 1600m to 2400m, but exits the first poor effort of her career when ninth in the 2500m Arima Kinen (G1) on Dec. 22—a contingency race after a training interruption precluded her from the 2000m Hong Kong Cup (G1) two weeks prior.
Kunieda also plans to bring the other major star of his stable, 2019 Japan Cup (G1) runner-up Curren Bouquetd’or, who will contest the Group 1 $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic—a race many thought Almond Eye may attempt this year, as it would make her the first winner of each of Dubai’s top turf races. A daughter of Deep Impact and Chilean champion Solaria, Curren Bouquetd’or has yet to score at the top level, but has three times been a bridesmaid in G1 company, including in the Yushun Himba/Japanese Oaks (G1). She exits a second over soft going in the Kyoto Kinen (G2) on Feb. 16.
“Both fillies are planning on coming,” Kunieda said. “Almond Eye was tired after her Arima run, but she has rebounded well and will be coming back to Miho (Training Centre) this week. We never really thought of the Sheema Classic (with her), as the Turf suits her so well. We will prep her the same as we did last year.
“Curren Bouquetd’or came out of her race last week well,” he continued. “The winner just loved the ground, though our filly can run on any ground. She is best on counter-clockwise courses like Tokyo and Dubai, so I’m not worried about her ability to run well in Dubai. She came out of her race in good order and she will train together with Almond Eye once she gets to the training centre.”
Alomond Eye, picture Dubai Racing Club|Neville Hopwood
RB TEXAS HOLD EM BRINGS G1 HAND TO UAE
All the cards are on the table for Byerley Racing’s American G1 winner RB Texas Hold Em, who will make his UAE debut in Thursday’s Group 1 $100,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 for Purebred Arabians. Against what looks to be a top-class field, the son of T M Fred Texas seeks to replicate his sire, who used graded Delaware Park company en route to success in Meydan’s top Arabian affair, the $1 million Dubai Kahayla Classic (G1). T M Fred Texas (below) won the 2011 Delaware Park Arabian Classic Handicap (G1) prior to winning the 2012 Dubai Kahayla Classic, while his son won the Delaware Park Arabian Derby (G2) when last seen in July. One month prior, RB Texas Hold Em got his top-level score in the President of the United Arab Emirates (G1) at Churchill Downs.
“When I got him, the owner said ‘take your time,’ with the main goal obviously being the Kahayla Classic (on Dubai World Cup night),” said Doug Watson, who has taken over training of the grey gelding. “I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win, but I’d be okay to finish in the first three or four and then go on to the Kahayla. He’s a cheeky sort, but he’s very talented in his work. If you watched his last two races in America, he looks like a nice horse. I hope we stack up against them and he runs well. He hasn’t run in a while.”
The 5-year-old was sent to Red Stables three months ago, but had been in the country a few months prior to acclimatise. Unbeaten in his last four efforts, the six-time winner from 11 starts has finished out the top three only once. Watson has been successful in past Al Maktoum Challenges, winning with the likes of another USA import, American Arabian Triple Crown winner Paddy’s Day. While he has never won a Dubai Kahayla Classic, Watson did finish second in 2005 with Al Saoudi.
“In the past, I think we’ve won maybe 11 Maktoum Challenges, but we just haven’t had many (Arabians) in a while,” Watson continued. “He worked a lot like the good ones, if not better, but it’s hard to tell until you get over there.
“He’s fully acclimated, his coat looks good and he’s fresh and well,” Watson concluded. “He ran under the lights at Churchill Downs, so I don’t have to worry about that. You just worry a little bit that he hasn’t run in a while, but he’s got the (120) rating, Grade 1 wins and is a proper horse.”
PARSIMONY SET TO SPLURGE IN CURLIN
Reddam Racing’s Parsimony will try to stamp his ticket to the $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) when he lines up in Thursday’s $175,000 Curlin Stakes (Listed), a course and distance opportunity to make up for his fourth-place finish five weeks ago over the same trip in handicap company. Unlike that day, when he was forced to set a hot pace from his rail draw, the Doug O’Neill-trained son of Dominus will likely be a more relaxed character this time, per assistant conditioner Leandro Mora.
“He can break second and he doesn’t have to kill himself with the speed horses this time,” Mora said. “But if the others don’t go, then we will. There is a Plan A and Plan B and he doesn’t have to be on the lead, but should be quick.
“He has always been a positive horse who ran with a lot of tough horses at home—that’s why he has seven seconds and one win,” Mora continued. “He was a little immature last year and was growing, but has matured into a nice horse and loves Meydan. He has been galloping so strong, we decided not to gallop him (Tuesday morning) and are just going to jog him up to the race. He is coming into this race fresh and that’s what we like to see. We think he could be the next Pavel.”
Currently rated 100, the roan colt will be looking to prove his worth against some accomplished foes, but that is par for the course for Parsimony. In the past year, he has tackled some of the best of his generation in the USA, including champion Game Winner, multiple Grade 1-winning Omaha Beach and eventual Belmont Stakes (G1) winner and 2020 Dubai World Cup hopeful Sir Winston.
The Curlin has been a steppingstone to Dubai World Cup wins for its namesake (when contested as the Jaguar Trophy) and California Chrome prior to his 2016 victory. Last year, South Korean import Dolkong used a one-sided victory in the Curlin as a springboard to the Dubai World Cup, with a third in the Al Maktoum Challenge R3 (G1) in between. With a big run on Thursday, Parsimony looks to give his connections a runner in the race for a third consecutive year, having finished fourth in the past two editions with Pavel.
“He has to win to make it into the big party,” Mora said. “If he places, we don’t think he will make it in. It’s a race that will give us options. The (Group 2 $1.5 million) Godolphin Mile (sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One) could be our back-up plan.”