where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2020-03-05 18:49:06  

Juddmonte Farms’ blue-blooded star Tacitus has arrived at Meydan Racecourse for the 25th edition of the Group 1 $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1). The Bill Mott-trained multiple Grade 2-winning and four-time Grade 1-placed son of perennial American champion sire Tapit and champion Close Hatches exits a respectable fifth-place finish in the Saudi Cup on Feb. 29 and has reportedly settled in well after the short trip from Riyadh.

“Everything went well,” said Riley Mott, assistant trainer. “He got in really early (Wednesday) morning at about 1:00 a.m. and looks good. We’ll take it lightly with him the next few days and likely just keep him on the jogging track near the quarantine centre. The U.S. horses aren’t used to the longer walk to the track, so we will adjust how we train him going into the World Cup and maybe go to the main track every other day. We will keep him fresh and probably have a couple works.”

In the King Abdulaziz Racecourse fixture, the long-striding grey 4-year-old colt raced inside from post two, but lacked room when the real running started midway through the turn of the 1800m one-bend affair. The Dubai World Cup will be a stretch back out to 2000m and two bends, which is a change his connections seem happy to see. In his previous two tries at 2000m, he was a good third in both the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1).

“I was really impressed with his performance,” Mott continued. “If you watch his race, he lacked some room going into the turn and was parked behind Benbatl, waiting for him to make his move or come off the rail. No excuses, but when it was time to get going, he had to hesitate and from that point to the wire, he didn’t lose any ground with the leaders. He stayed the course with them and didn’t back up, while finishing behind two American champions (winner and runner-up Maximum Security and Midnight Bisou). His frame, his breeding and his previous races say he’s a two-turn horse, so that extra furlong will be intriguing.”

In 10 career starts, Tacitus has three victories, three seconds and two thirds, which has earned him $2,677,500 in prize money. Second in the prestigious Travers Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), he won the Wood Memorial (G2) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) earlier in 2019 to stamp himself as one of the best of his generation. Mott has won the Dubai World Cup with the great Cigar and was third in 2015 with Lea.

Tacitus joins a field that is expected to also include 2019 runner-up Gronkowski, Japanese star Chrysoberyl, Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston and DWC Carnival star Benbatl. More horses will hope to qualify for the race this Saturday in the Group 1 $600,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3.


Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi’s multiple Grade 2 winner Quip leads a strong Doug Watson-trained team this weekend and looks to improve upon a disappointing local bow when he makes his second UAE start in Super Saturday’s Group 1 $600,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3. The son of Distorted Humor was a distant fifth as one of the favourites in the 1600m Firebreak (G3) on Feb. 13, failing to show the early spark he had displayed for his previous connections in the USA, resulting in a wide trip and one-paced performance.

“Quip has come on a ton,” Watson said. “He’s moving a lot better and I think he may have been just a bit ring-rusty last time, but I really liked the way he finished. He worked (on Sunday) and Pat (Dobbs, jockey) loved him. If you’re going to run for $600,000 and stretch out a horse who has wins over a distance of ground, this is the race. If he’s close to his best, he’s right there with the best in the race. As far as the 2000m goes, his wins over (1800m) are as far as they often go in the States, so he just has not had the chance to go that extra distance, so it’s hard to tell if he’ll like it. I know he has raced well over nine furlongs and many of these may not even be able to go that far.”

Two others from the Red Stables of Watson are looking for improved performances on March 7. HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Ekhtiyaar will try overcome a lacklustre last-out run and do one better than his runner-up effort in last year’s $350,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3), while Khalid bin Mishrif’s American import Liam’s Legend enters the $300,000 Al Bastakiya (Listed) after a disappointing run in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) on Feb. 6.

“I think Ekhtiyaar was on the wrong side of the track last time,” Watson explained. “He also wants a little firmer ground and it was a little sticky that night. He didn’t have a great work schedule before that, either, but has been training really nicely heading into this. He’s a nice horse and I don’t think we saw the real him the other day. We were giving weight to Rusumaat and that’s a big difference. I think he’ll run a pretty nice race.

“I was a little disappointed with Liam’s Legend,” he continued. “He got a little leg-weary that day and was down inside. Honestly, I think he’s matured into a nice horse. We would like to be a little closer, as this is such a different kickback then he’s used to back home. We’ll try to get him out there and put him in the race. We’re hopeful he’ll run well.”

Ekhtiyaar drew post 11 and will be ridden once again by Jim Crowley, while Liam’s Legend partners with Pat Dobbs and breaks from post 12. Both races have full fields of 16.


Leading trainer Charlie Appleby’s Super Saturday team will be led by Barney Roy, first time UAE starter Space Blues and blue-blooded Ya Hayati, among others. Group 1 winner Barney Roy is one of 13 runners to declare for Super Saturday’s Group 1 $400,000 Jebel Hatta over 1800m on the turf and exits a strong win in the course and distance Al Rashidiya (G2) on Jan. 30. The bay charge breaks from post 12 as the expected favourite in the final local $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) prep.

“Barney Roy went into his last race fresh and well and was entitled to come forward a good bit and has done so,” Appleby said. “He takes very little training, as you see he’s a lightly framed horse. His homework has pleased us and goes into Super Saturday’s Jebel Hatta in good order. He’s drawn out a little bit, but he’s the class horse in the race, so hopefully we can overcome that.”

Making his UAE debut in the Group 3 $350,000 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint over 1200m is Space Blues, a 4-year-old colt Dubawi colt who is multiple Group 1-placed in France, including top efforts against the likes of champion Too Darn Hot and multiple Group 1 winner Advertise. Being that he has defeated Group 1 winners One Master, Pretty Pollyanna and Polydream, the well-intended type is an expected favourite on Saturday, despite dropping back once again in trip.

“Space Blues has good, solid form over seven (furlongs) back in Europe,” Appleby explained. “A typical Dubawi, he’s just got stronger through the winter from three to four and it’s always just been in the back of my mind to dip our toe into the sprinting scene with him. We’ve always felt he has natural pace, but as he’s gotten stronger, he’s been getting quicker. His homework has been very good and he’s looked sharp. I’ll be disappointed if he’s not a player this weekend. In the end, he needs to be winning this to book himself a ticket to World Cup night for the ($2 million) Al Quoz (Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments). We’re hopeful that we can be bang-there. It’s interesting in dropping back to the six, but all evidence is encouraging us to take a go at it, for sure.”

Ya Hayati will make his second start of the DWC Carnival in the $300,000 Al Bastakiya (Listed) over 1900m on dirt. By champion sire Dubawi out of multiple dirt Grade 1 winner Wedding Toast, the blueblood makes his dirt debut after impressively landing last month’s Meydan Trophy over this distance on turf. There was talk of him going to Saudi Arabia for the Saudi Derby, but the high-spirited colt was rerouted to this race in the hopes of getting into the $2.5 million UAE Derby sponsored by Emirates NBD (G2).

“We skipped the Saudi trip with Ya Hayati thinking that he didn’t quite have the experience to go travelling on a short rest and dropping back to a mile,” Appleby said. “We just felt it would come up a bit too quick for him. His work at home on the dirt has been good. We’ve given him as much experience as we could at home with kickback. Unfortunately, he’s got a very wide draw in 14, which will make life a little challenging for him there. As you know, I managed to get a Derby winner (Masar in 2018) around there beaten, so we’re hoping history doesn’t repeat itself. On the flipside, he’s a nice horse in good order. The draw is really the biggest concern.”

Ya Hayati kicks off the stellar seven-race card for Appleby in the Al Bastakiya (Race 1), followed by Space Blues and Tribal Quest in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (Race 3), Spotify, Magic Lily and Barney Roy in the Jebel Hatta (Race 5) and Jalmoud and Loxley in the Group 2 $350,000 Dubai City of Gold (Race 7).


Group 1-winning Defoe will make his UAE and 2020 debut when the 6-year-old gelding kicks off his season in Saturday’s Group 2 $350,000 Dubai City of Gold. The Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum-owned Roger Varian-trained son of Dalakhani will follow the same path that the owner-trainer duo took with Postponed in his championship season as older horse in Europe, winning the same race Defoe will run in on Saturday prior to landing the Group 1 $6 million Longines Sheema Classic in 2016.

Currently rated 118, the grey gelding was last seen seven months ago in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot where he did not take to the soft ground and finished ninth of 11. He won his two previous starts in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes and Coronation Cup (G1), beating multiple Group 1 winner Kew Gardens in the latter.

“He’s trained well at home and this has been the plan for a while,” Varian said. “I’m happy with his condition. He arrived in Dubai Thursday morning, last week, and seems to have settled well in the international stables.

“He’s a very different horse than Postponed, but he’s a very straight-forward horse,” he continued. “Nothing seems to faze him. He’s a solid horse, even though he doesn’t have quite the C.V. Postponed did when he came to Dubai. Hopefully, he satisfies us in the City of Gold and we can go on to the Sheema Classic.”

A very different racecourse awaits him from his last two wins. While Ascot and Epsom are trying, undulating terrains with often more give in the ground, the 9-for-19 charge will contest a flatter and firmer track in Dubai.

“He’s versatile ground-wise and has form on fast and soft ground,” Varian concluded. “He should love the track at Meydan, being a left-handed flat track.” 

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