For the fourth time in five years, Korea will be represented at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. Four horses have travelled to the UAE and Great King will be the first to run as he takes his chance at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday’s opening night.
Blue Chipper heads the Korea-trained contingent, however, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile 3rd place-getter did not travel so well and is currently behind in his preparation. That leaves Great King, Today and Baengmunbaekdap as likely January runners with Blue Chipper now pointed towards a February start to his campaign.
Great King, trained by Thomas Gillespie, will line up on turf for the first time as he tackles the Dubai Racing Club Classic Sponsored by Emirates NBD Wholesale Banking Listed Handicap over 2410M. The race is the last on the card, going to post at 9.25pm local time (2.25am Korea time).
Great King, picture Korea Racing Authority
A winner of nine of thirty-four career starts, Great King is an American-bred entire by Majestic Warrior. The six-year-old was in good form in the autumn of 2019, winning consecutive class 1 handicaps over 2000M and 2200M at Busan in September and October. He then rounded out his season with a slightly disappointing 7th of 10 in the Grand Prix Stakes at Seoul in early December before heading straight into pre-export quarantine.
On paper, it looks a very stiff ask for Great King, who not only will be racing on turf for the first time but will also be stretching out to an unfamiliar distance with 2300M the maximum race length in Korea. Not only that but amongh his eleven rivals are several ominous looking Godolphin contenders such as Lucius Tiberius, Mountain Hunter and Zaman while William Haggas’ Pablo Escobarr also looks a formidable foe.
Great King will though be carrying a lighter weight than he has for a full eighteen months and in Sam Hitchcott, has a jockey with a lot of experience over the Meydan track. Great King is an unpredictable horse at the best of times, capable of following a very strong run with a very flat one – and vice versa. Three years ago, eyebrows were raised when Korea-trained Diferent Dimension was entered on the turf in a strong Carnival Handicap. He finished 3rd.
Great King’s trainer Thomas Gillespie debuted in Korea in 2015 having previously trained in Malaysia and in addition to Great King, currently has 45 horses in work at his Busan stable. In 2019, the 37-year-old Gillespie enjoyed his best year yet, saddling 59 winners at a strike rate of 17.7% to finish in 2nd place in the Busan Trainer Premiership behind only Kim Young Kwan. He has one Korean Group win to his name, the 2016 Gyeongnam Governor’s Cup (KOR G3) with Miss Margaux.