02/19/2013 2:51PM

Dubai: South African champ Igugu returns in Balanchine Stakes

Kim Pratt
Master of Hounds will try to rebound in Thursday's $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort at Meydan.

Igugu, a 6-year-old Australian-bred who was the South Africa Horse of the Year in 2011-12, will be a heavy favorite to win her first start in Dubai in Thursday’s $200,000 Balanchine Stakes at Meydan Racecourse.

A mare by Galileo, Igugu won the Group 1 J&B Met, the top race for milers in South Africa, in January 2012, her most recent start. In the Balanchine Stakes over about 1 1/8 miles on turf, Igugu is part of a field of seven.

The Balanchine could lead to a start on the Dubai World Cup program on March 30 for Igugu, who races for Andre MacDonald and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.

Igugu is trained by Michael de Kock. Part of the reason for her lengthy layoff has been the quarantine procedure to make Igugu eligible to race in Dubai. Igugu underwent more than four months of quarantine in three countries in the second half of 2012.

After a 20-day quarantine in South Africa that began last summer, she was part of a group of Dubai-bound horses trained by de Kock that were required to spend 90 days in the Indian Ocean country of Mauritius before continuing to England for an additional 30 days of quarantine. They were then sent to Dubai.

[DUBAI RACING: Watch Thursday's Meydan card live, bet with DRF Bets]

The lengthy quarantine was designed to certify that the runners were free of African horse sickness.

In the Balanchine, Igugu faces a field that includes three runners owned by Godolphin Racing – Dark Orchid, Sajjhaa, and Spellwork.

Sajjhaa won the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes for fillies and mares over a mile in Dubai on Jan. 24 and has the strongest chance of the three.

In Thursday’s $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort, the European group stakes winner Master of Hounds tries to rebound from a disappointing end to 2012.

Master of Hounds, fifth in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, was eighth in the 2012 Dubai World Cup. He won the Group 2 International Topkapi Trophy in Turkey last September, but was 10th in the Hong Kong Mile in December.

Trained by de Kock, Master of Hounds makes his first start of 2013 in the Al Fahidi Fort. The Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort is run over a mile on turf. De Kock has three of the 10 runners, including Musir, winner of the 2010 United Arab Emirates Derby, who has not raced since finishing seventh in the Champions’ Mile in Hong Kong last May.

Godophin starts Mandaean, who won the Group 1 Criterium de Saint Cloud in France in 2011 as a 2-year-old and a minor handicap race at Meydan last month.

Brian Ho More than 1 year ago
De Kock was screaming last year that he can't bring Igugu to Dubai last year, so she probably isn't overrated, but there may be a worry that she may be old and about to decline since she is turning six this summer
MarcLingard More than 1 year ago
Sure, there's no guarantee she will win tonight. I don't think being a late 5 year old is a problem, but you never know. Still, she hasn't raced in more than a year and is certainly being prepared for one of the World Cup races. The Apache has had his rating pushed up two points for his Dubai debut. On a line through him, Igugu doesn't have to run to her rating to win.
MarcLingard More than 1 year ago
Horses out of South African racing have won the Dubai Duty Free (twice) and the Sheema Classic. They've placed in the Dubai World Cup 3 times. If I count correctly, they have finished in the top three in races on the World Cup card 22 times since 2002, including 9 wins. The Apache, who only finished 6th in the J&B Met behind Igugu, recently won his Gr2 Dubai debut. South Africa may lack depth of quality, but there is no lack of class at the top. Time will tell if this daughter of Galileo is as good as the Zimbabwean bred Ipi Tombe. Remember her? She won the Durban July in South Africa, went on to win the Duty Free, then the big race in Hong Kong (beating Ouija Board) . Igugu has 10 wins from 12 starts (4 grade 1) and two seconds. Over rated? I doubt it.
Brian Ho More than 1 year ago
The horse that beat Ouija Board in hong Kong is Irridescence, another horse by Mike de Kock.
MarcLingard More than 1 year ago
Oops! Realised my error but you beat me to it, Brian. Irridescence was indeed the one to beat Ouija Board in Hong Kong. She later went on to finish a close second in a Gr1 at Newmarket. Ipi Tombe.
MarcLingard More than 1 year ago
Hmm, post got cut off there. Ipi Tombe went to the US after Dubai, is what the last bit was supposed to read.
Paul Nathan More than 1 year ago
I think igugu will get turned over in this, I thinks shes a great horse but south African grade 1 form is weak its probably the same level as German or Italian. she will certainly need the run too. i really hope i'm proved wrong and she proves her self one of the top mares in racing but there is just something telling me she could be over rated.
nicola c More than 1 year ago
well soft falling rains South African grade winning form isnt looking that week when he runs in Dubai.
Paul Nathan More than 1 year ago
Won a g3 against horses rated 80-100 there was not one good horse in that field. wait until the proper horses come out for the big group 1's then you will see how good she is. oh yeh before i forget igugu just got turned over easily...