03/24/2011 3:20PM

Dubai: Euroears looks to make name for himself in Golden Shaheen


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Bob Baffert hasn’t been to Dubai since Captain Steve won the World Cup in 2001. It’s a fair assumption he didn’t come back this year just for a water taxi ride across Dubai Creek.

Euroears isn’t well known to racing fans in the United States. The 7-year-old has been in and out of action because of injury, and until Jan. 22, none of his best races had come under the brighter lights of racing on the East or West Coast. The international-circuit folks here in Dubai are even less familiar with him, but people might better know Euroears after the $2 million Golden Shaheen.

“This is just a fast horse,” Baffert said.

Fast enough to have won the Palos Verdes Stakes two months ago at Santa Anita with six furlongs in 1:07.23. Left in Euroears’s wake that day was Smiling Tiger, who came into the race considered one of the top sprinters in the country and was a 2-5 favorite.

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Euroears is one of 10 horses entered in the Golden Shaheen, a six-furlong race around one turn on Meydan’s synthetic surface. The other major players appear to be Kinsale King and Rocket Man, the one-two finishers in the 2010 Golden Shaheen. Dim Sum beat Group 1 turf sprinters at Hong Kong in his most recent start. Dynamic Blitz and Charlie’s Moment both won Tapeta stakes here during the winter.

Euroears has won six of 12 races on dirt and two of four on turf but has never raced on a synthetic surface.

“I really believe if this horse is dead-on, he’ll be all right running down a road,” said Jim Helzer, who owns Euroears with his wife, Marilyn.

Euroears worked six furlongs in 1:09.80 before leaving California and has done nothing to disappoint his trainer since arriving in Dubai.

“He is doing awesome,” Baffert said Thursday.

Rocket Man, a tremendous sprinter bred in Australia and campaigned mainly in Hong Kong, has won 13 of 17 starts and has never finished worse than second. He has won four of his five synthetic-track races, his lone defeat coming at the hands of Kinsale King here a year ago.

Kinsale King is back to defend his title.

“I actually think he’s a little better this year,” trainer Carl O’Callaghan said. “His feet aren’t bothering him now.”

Kinsale King breaks from post 1 and will have to use his speed. Euroears also figures to come out running, with Rocket Man not far behind. Let the fastest horse win.

Dutrow’s pair looks formidable

In 2008, two Rick Dutrow-trained horses won on World Cup night, with Benny the Bull bossing the Golden Shaheen and Diamond Stripes dominant in the Godolphin Mile. Dutrow might have two more live ones.

I Want Revenge stands a strong chance of giving Dutrow his second Godolphin Mile win, while Stradavinsky, a claimer not long ago, has looked full of life during his training this week at Meydan and has an outside shot to upset likely favorite J J the Jet Plane in the Al Quoz Sprint.

It feels like forever ago that I Want Revenge was scratched because of injury the week of the 2009 Kentucky Derby, a race in which he was expected to be favored. Keep in mind that I Want Revenge was the Derby favorite for good reason, having won the Wood Memorial in fairly brilliant fashion. Also recognize that in his first start in almost a half-year, I Want Revenge finished a close fourth in the Grade 1 Donn on Feb. 5 at Gulfstream Park. The purse of the Godolphin Mile may be $1 million, but the race is a Group 2 comprised of horses hard-pressed to contend in a legit Group 1. An on-form I Want Revenge, who Dutrow had hoped would be invited to the World Cup itself, might be a handful.

I Want Revenge’s best performances came on dirt, but he started his career on synthetic surfaces in California and may hold his form on Meydan’s Tapeta track.

“He’s such a big, smooth horse to ride, I can’t imagine any surface is going to be a problem for him,” said Michelle Nevin, the Dutrow assistant and exercise rider who saddled the two winners in 2008.

I Want Revenge has post 10 in the one-turn mile and will have to catch American expatriate Conveyance, who should lead from an inside draw. Conveyance and Skysurfers, who finished third in the 2010 Godolphin Mile, look like logical local hopes.

Stradivinsky, meanwhile, won the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint in his most recent start, a far lesser race than the $1 million Al Quoz. Stradivinsky finished 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, but clearly did not run to his best form.

“He was very lively this morning,” Nevin said Thursday. “He’s really enjoying himself here.”

He may not, however, enjoy squaring off with J J the Jet Plane in the five-furlong, straight-course dash. J J the Jet Plane won the prestigious Hong Kong Sprint in December, and after a failed Tapeta experiment, he was clearly best in the local turf-sprint prep for the Al Quoz. Another American, Mr. Gruff, can factor, if the five-furlong trip is not too short for him.

UAE Derby: De Kock, Godolphin key

The $2 million UAE Derby, which has 14 entrants, is a difficult race to figure, but here’s one good opinion: If the Godolphin stable doesn’t send out the winner, trainer Mike de Kock will. In the 11 editions of the UAE Derby, contested this year at 1 3/16 miles on Tapeta, Godolphin has sent out six winners, de Kock five.

The problem is that getting even that far doesn’t much help, since de Kock entered three horses in the race, Godolphin four.

De Kock believes that the 3-year-old fillies (4-year-olds bred on the Southern Hemisphere calendar are eligible to the race) in Dubai this winter are better than the colts, and that would make Godolphin’s Khawlah a major player. In the Feb. 24 UAE Oaks, Khawlah held off de Kock’s filly Mahbooba to win by 1 1/2 lengths. However, Godolphin’s go-to rider, Frankie Dettori, is off Khawlah on Saturday night and on a horse new to the scene, the South American import Xin Xu Lin. Xin Xu Lin was last seen beating older horses in the weight-for-age Gran Premio Carlos Pelligrini, one of the top races in Argentina. The question is how that performance, over a boggy turf course going 1 1/2 miles, will translate to 1 3/16 miles on a synthetic track.