Updated on 09/16/2011 6:52AM

Big money in Dubai is a powerful lure

Email

ARCADIA, Calif. - More purse money in Dubai means fewer horses in California. The trend continues this spring, slicing through a cross-section of the population - the handicap, sprint, and turf divisions. With increasing regularity, horsemen are forsaking the Santa Anita winter meet and instead planning campaigns around the March 23 Dubai World Cup card, which offers total purse money of $15 million. Money talks.

"It's too big to ignore," said trainer Neil Drysdale, whose 6-year-old gelding Irish Prize is being pointed to the $2 million Dubai Duty Free. "Where else are you going to get a $2 million race at [about] a mile on grass?"

The answer, of course, is nowhere. Although Drysdale still plans to start Irish Prize in the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 2 before shipping to Dubai, the Kilroe status of Breeders' Cup Mile winner Val Royal remains undecided. Under normal circumstances, the Kilroe would be the ideal spot to begin a campaign. But the $300,000 purse of the Kilroe pales compared with the $2 million purse of the Duty Free, and a Kilroe start might compromise Val Royal's chances in Dubai.

Val Royal looked terrific in a five-furlong workout Thursday, breezing in 59.60 seconds, but trainer Julio Canani wants the horse to peak in Dubai, not Arcadia. "I'd have to work him again in five or six days to run [in the Kilroe]," Canani said. "I could run him, but the race could knock him out, too."

Val Royal missed three days of training last week - two days with a fever and one because of wet weather. The rust was not evident Thursday. Ridden by Jose Valdivia, Val Royal broke off five lengths behind a well-regarded maiden, inhaled that one into the lane, and cruised without a challenge. "He wasn't doing anything, he only does what he has to do," Canani said. "Once he gets past a horse, he wants to pull himself up."

Val Royal would be favored in the Kilroe, which would be his first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Meanwhile, the handicap program also is being hit by Dubai competition. The Grade 2 San Antonio is usually the main prep for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, but not this year. San Antonio winner Redattore, who would have been one of the secondary Big 'Cap choices behind Mizzen Mast, is training instead for the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

Redattore returned to the track Monday and has galloped strongly all week for trainer Richard Mandella. "He missed about eight days of training [with a foot problem], but he went two miles this morning [Thursday] and [the time off] looks like it didn't phase him," Mandella said. Redattore will have his first post-San Antonio workout Saturday or Sunday.

Mandella also is hopeful Cagney and Kudos run well enough in the Big 'Cap to prove worthy of invitations to Dubai. Cagney, a turf specialist, worked seven furlongs on the main track Thursday in 1:24.80. "I had him work behind a useful older horse, and he just swallowed him up at the three-sixteenths," Mandella said. "We're trying to put a little more pizzazz in him, going back to dirt. He likes it."

In the sprint division, three sprinters trained by Darrell Vienna have been invited for the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen at six furlongs: Above Perfection, entered in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap on Saturday; Nuclear Debate, fourth in Dubai last year; and comebacker Lasersport. The Dubai status of Above Perfection will not be determined until after Saturday, while Lasersport - winner of the San Miguel last year - has been training well for his comeback and could make his comeback in Dubai.

The enterprising move - running a layoff horse in a world-class stakes race - is not without precedent. In 1993, Vienna brought Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Gilded Time back from a one-year layoff, and he finished a close third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Bella Bellucci targets Kentucky Oaks

Bella Bellucci, third-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, is making progress toward her first start of 2002. Trainer Neil Drysdale said she breezed a half-mile Thursday at Hollywood Park (clockers gave her three furlongs in 39 seconds, breezing). It was her third published workout since returning to training.

"Yes, that's her first primary goal," he said, when asked if she would run in the Kentucky Oaks. "She's a big filly, that's why we wanted to back off on her. She's done well. I'm very pleased with her."

Bella Bellucci won her first two starts, then finished third in the Breeders' Cup, beaten five lengths by Tempera while racing on the deeper inside lanes.

Baffert brigade points to San Felipe

Bob Baffert could have as many as three starters in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 17 - Danthebluegrassman, Mountain Rage, and Puerto Banus. While Danthebluegrassman and Mountain Rage continue to progress together - they worked five furlongs in company on Wednesday - Baffert said Puerto Banus has improved off his second-place finish Feb. 8 in the Sham Stakes.

Popular, who won the Grade 3 San Miguel Stakes before finishing fourth in the Grade 2 San Vicente on Feb. 2, will be turned out. Baffert did not like how the colt trained following the San Vicente and said he will be sent to The Thoroughbred Corp.'s farm in nearby Bradbury. Also, Baffert said that Strive, the promising maiden owned by Marty Wygod, has been sent to Bill Mott in Florida.