Trainer Doug O’Neill has long been one of the pioneers of the collective American training colony and this year he is taking that to another level by sending 11 horses for the Dubai World Cup Carnival. On Monday morning, the winner of 38 Grade/Group 1 races, two editions of the Kentucky Derby (G1), five Breeders’ Cup races, a Japan Cup Dirt (G1) and Godolphin Mile (G2) walked the shedrow and discussed the set—one that makes history as the first bona fide American string ever during the 10-week, $12.8 million international showcase.
“Knock on wood—all have travelled well, we don’t have any temps at all and they all have good appetites,” said the trainer of 11 millionaires. “They look good and we’re really happy about everything. Normally we bring one or two for World Cup, so it’s so different with 11, but I like it.
“It took me a couple days, but I’m adapting well to the jet lag, just like the horses, and getting into a routine,” O’Neill continued.
“A lot of that is thanks to Frank Gabriel (Executive Director of Racing), John (Nicholas, Quarantine Manager) and Stephanie (Cooley, International Racing Liaison). They’ve really helped us have a smooth transition and we couldn’t be happier.”
BLITZKRIEG (rated 110) (pictured) leads the battle this week as one of three O’Neill and assistant Leandro Mora will start fresh off the plane on Thursday. A winner of five from 15, the well-bred son of War Front has worked his way up in class and was an impressive winner of the San Francisco Mile (G3) at Golden Gate last April. He then was seventh on the dirt in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) over 2000m before a seven-month layoff. He returned last out in the 1100m Joe Hernandez (G2) on turf, closing admirably to be fourth in a blanket finish astern Al Quoz Sprint hopeful Texas Wedge. He lines up in a highly competitive edition of the $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort (G2) over 1400m on turf—a tough assignment, no doubt.
O’NEILL: “I had to freshen him up after the summertime. His last race was a paid workout and a sharpener. We were very impressed. He was closing in down the lane going 5½ furlongs, which is definitely not enough distance for him. We entered him for the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort and the seven furlongs will be good for him. He’s a talented horse and we’re excited about him and seeing what he can do here. If he stays injury-free and keeps doing well, he’s a Dubai World Cup night kind of horse for us. The Americans seem to do best in the turf sprints, but we’ll let him tell us.”
Blitzkrieg, picture Ernie Belmonte
PRODIGAL SON (98) lines up in Thursday’s $175,000 Dubai Dash (Listed) over 1000m on turf and will have to run a straight course for the first time. Owned by Reddam Racing, one of O’Neill’s long-time clients (and owner of Godolphin Mile winner Spring at Last), the son of Square Eddie comes in off two excellent performances in allowance company, including a victory last out (Dec. 29) over 1110m on turf. He closed his final 250m in 17.20 seconds, winning for the third time in 11 starts.
O’NEILL: “We entered him in the Dubai Dash over five furlongs and he’s a quick horse. I think he’ll do just fine with the straight course. Being a son of Square Eddie—they’re just so honest. He’s coming off a nice win at Santa Anita around a bend and I don’t think the distance or setup here will be an issue for him.”
PARSIMONY (100) is a tall, well-built grey son of Dominus who has a lone victory from 20 starts, but has finished second seven times. He is the third of the Thursday triad and will look to double his win count in the $135,000 Jebel Ali Port over 2000m—his first try at the American classic dirt distance. While it took him 18 starts to break his maiden, the Reddam Racing-owned colt chased some of the best 3-year-olds of 2019, including a distant second to champion Game Winner in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3). A veteran of three other graded stakes, he was a good second in the 1800m Cinema Stakes on the turf and a solid fourth on dirt in 1400m allowance company over Santa Anita’s Breeders’ Cup weekend.
O’NEILL: “He’s one we’re dreaming about for the World Cup. I know his form doesn’t show it, but he’s such a talented horse. He’s been really unlucky and we’re hoping to get lucky over a mile and a quarter on Thursday. He ran second to Baffert’s Game Winner at Los Al. For a split-second there, he gave him a scare and us a thrill. He has shown us in the mornings that he has Grade 1 talent, we just haven’t seen it in some of his afternoon races. We’ve seen him do special things in the morning and I’ve got a feeling he’s going to bring his American morning form to the evenings here in Dubai. I think getting over here, you can tell they’re all enjoying it. The confidence and tranquillity come together in the mornings for good horses and you see it, but the pressure of the afternoons in America can zap their energy a little. I’ve watched (the surroundings) here the last couple days—it’s such a European, tranquil and horse-friendly setup. I’m really excited to see how this guy performs with that.”
FIGHT ON (105) is a beautifully bred 5-year-old son of Into Mischief with four wins from 20 starts. Owned by C T R Stables and Steven Keh, he was a $340,000 Keeneland purchase who is less than $4,000 from returning his sale price. A stakes winner last spring in a competitive renewal of the 1700m Fifth Season (Listed) at Oaklawn Park, he has finished in the top four in eight of his past nine starts, including a fourth last out behind Dubai World Cup hopeful Gift Box in the 1700m San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita.
O’NEILL: “He’s a dream horse for the Godolphin Mile and will run, I believe, on Jan. 30 over a mile on the dirt ($175,000 90+ handicap). He’s an Into Mischief whose big claim to fame was winning a stakes at Oaklawn. He’s a cool horse who had to freshen up and had a sprint comeback race. He’s also a tough horse who should be ready to run a good 1600m here.”
FORE LEFT (105) is a promising Reddam-owned 3-year-old with plenty of seasoning at this point in his career. A son of rising sire Twirling Candy, he has won three from eight, including the Tremont (Listed) at Belmont Park and Sunny Slope at Santa Anita—both sprints. He was fifth in the 1400m Del Mar Futurity (G1), seventh in the 1700m American Pharoah (G1) against some of the top of his generation and enters off a poor showing on turf in the 1600m Cecil B. DeMille (G3).
O’NEILL: “He will go in the (UAE) 2000 Guineas (G3) at a mile on the dirt. He’s our real dream for the UAE Derby. The distance is a real question mark, but he trains like he can stretch out and the distance wouldn’t be a problem, but I know his form says the opposite. He won nicely at Belmont and Del Mar. He beat Strong Constitution, who is a real runner. I think he will do well and he has tremendous gate speed that will get him into position early in the race and we’re excited to see how that works out. I guess we’ll see on Feb. 6.”
WILDMAN JACK (98) is an exciting sprinter by Goldencents, one of the top young stallions in the USA. O’Neill trained Goldencents, who was owned by Wildman Jack’s owner, W.C. Racing. From five starts, the homebred bay 4-year-old gelding has finished in the top three in all, including a good-looking victory last out over 1100m on turf on Dec. 1. Speed figure aficionados will appreciate that he has the highest Equibase Speed Figure (112) of any of the O’Neill 11.
O’NEILL: “He’s a special horse, but he doesn’t wow you in person. He’s fast and talented, but he shows it on the track. He’s given us 110% and he’s really been good here. He loves the windows here in the stalls and looking around at Meydan. We’re excited about him. We might try him on the dirt—he’s been training really well on it—in the ($200,000) Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) on Jan. 30.”
OCEAN FURY (97) is an improving son of Stormy Atlantic who, like many of his sire’s offspring, has gone well on turf. Seventh last out in the Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) at Santa Anita, he was third in the Let It Ride Stakes and won an allowance in eye-catching style on Sept. 27, four races back, over 1600m. Ocean Fury is owned by Abbondanza racing, Neil Haymes, Mark Schlesinger and assistant trainer Leandro Mora. He has won three of his 11 starts and nearly $40,000 more than his $75,000 sale price, while also owning an impressive 109 Equibase Speed Figure.
O’NEILL: “He is likely going in the 90-105 1600m turf handicap on Jan. 30. He’s a good allowance horse who has knocked heads with some good horses back home. He’s probably one of our lower-rated horse, but he’s a really honest horse. He hasn’t run on the dirt and we were actually thinking about running him in the 1600m on dirt, but we’re probably putting Fight On in there and keeping this guy on the grass for now. He even has the look of a dirt horse; very muscular. Maybe we will try him on it (afterward).”
ONE FLEW SOUTH (95) has had hopes held high by his connections for quite some time, including entering the Arkansas Derby (G1) after only two starts. Owned by Zedan Racing Stables, he was sixth in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) astern Omaha Beach and Dubai Golden Shaheen hopeful Shancelot and then finished a decent third 13 days later in a turf sprint astern well-regarded stablemate Carnivorous. By Giant’s Causeway out of multiple stakes winner Sky Haven (Sky Mesa) and with only six starts, the Gabriel Duignan, William Duignan and Tranquillity Investments-owned 4-year-old is the epitome of unexposed.
O’NEILL: “He won impressively first-time out at Turfway and we bought him and then he went up against some tough horses. He was a bit rushed, but he had time after that. Even though his current form may not look good, I think he’ll outrun it. He’s more than likely a 1600m kind of horse and we’re looking at the two turf sprints (1200m $175,000 Listed Dubai Sprint and 1400m $135,000 90-108 handicap) on Feb. 6 with him to get started.”
TRUCK SALESMAN (93) appears to be one of O’Neill’s favourites, based solely on the tone with which he describes the swift son of Can the Man. First or second in seven of 12 starts, the 4-year-old Alejandro Mercado-owned gelding has been clashing with tough California sprint allowance fields, including finishing runner-up on Nov. 29 over 1200m in a race where Parsimony finished fourth, 2¼ lengths behind. He is pointing toward the 1200m dirt handicap for horses rated 90-108 on the seventh night of the DWC Carnival.
O’NEILL: “Truck Salesman is a fast horse we brought over thinking about the dirt sprints. His first race, if all goes well, is going to be on Feb. 13, I believe. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does here.”
TOROSAY (93), like a few of O’Neill’s 11, has plenty of room (and time) for improvement and has shown ample speed in short order, including breaking the 1100m turf course record (1:01.49) at Santa Anita, which was eclipsed last weekend. Second to Prodigal Son last out in a turf sprint, he shares an ownership with Truck Salesman and is also a son of Goldencents. Raced only four times, he has one win and two seconds—both in his previous two starts before shipping. The first of those runner-up finishes was astern well-regarded Bob Baffert trainee Speed Pass on Dec. 7 over 1200m.
O’NEILL: “He’s a talented son of Goldencents who could be any kind. The owner has been super-patient with him and letting him develop. We are looking at the ($135,000) Feb. 13 handicap (90-105) at 1000m on the turf for him. He’s four now and this will be his fifth start. I think he could give us a good season this year. He’s lightly raced, still can improve and was just beat by Prodigal Son last time. He’s owned by W.C. Racing’s Glen Sorgenstein, who has been a super-patient, great gentleman to work with.”
I WILL NOT (85) is a Reddam-owned son of Square Eddie who has a sole victory from four starts, but is a full-brother to the immensely quick Found Money. A sophomore, he broke his maiden over 1200m and exits a third in allowance company over the same trip at Del Mar on Nov. 30.
O’NEILL: “He’s a 3-year-old son of Square Eddie who has shown talent. We have brought him and Fore Left with UAE Derby dreams. We’re going to try him in the Meydan Classic Trial at seven-eighths on the grass.”