08/19/2010 5:39PM

Burj Dubai a handful for barn


AUBURN, Wash. – Most of the horses in Sunday’s $250,000 Longacres Mile have established form, and then there’s Burj Dubai. A million-dollar yearling with a fancy pedigree and undeniable talent – and only three career starts – he’s the X factor in Emerald Downs’s Grade 3 main event.
Once owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s Darley racing empire, Burj Dubai was found to be virtually untrainable, and thus expendable. Darley bundled him with 10 other horses and off-loaded them to a pair of Vancouver, British Columbia, software millionaires early this year. Turned over to Hastings trainer Dino Condilenios in March, the hot-headed Burj Dubai has quickly emerged as the fastest horse in Western Canada, and, perhaps, a legitimate contender in the Mile.
But the process took time.
“He was really temperamental,” Condilenios said. “He didn’t want to train – he’d start running backwards, doing all kinds of funky stuff. He doesn’t respond to the stick, he doesn’t want to work alone, and he had some problems getting acclimated at the gate. I tried to work him one morning and he refused, so we finally decide to geld him. The horse has a mind of his own.”
Condilenios assigned groom Maurice Laing and exercise rider Christine Loseth to Burj Dubai. Laing treats the 4-year-old like a king, Condilenios said. Loseth, niece of Northwest riding legend Chris Loseth, handles Burj Dubai with kid gloves. A son of Distorted Humor, Burj Dubai decides what he wants to do that day, and Loseth goes along for the ride.
“She’ll take him for walks around the backstretch, take him up to the paddock, just let him learn to like the place and enjoy his job,” Condilenios said. “Between Maurice and Christine and all of us, we’ve got him halfway there. He hasn’t been a problem on race days, but I’m still worried about him in the Mile and how he’ll adjust to the new surroundings.”
Burj Dubai will break from the outside post position in a field of 12, a daunting task for any runner, let alone one who’s still learning on the fly. Alex Solis is scheduled to ride, taking over for Pedro Alvarado.
“In a way, the 12 hole isn’t a bad thing for him,” Condilenios said. “If he’d been in the middle of the pack and got shuffled back, I could see him wanting to run horses over. He’s really competitive, wants to grab the bit. The question with him is, Will he relax?”