03/18/2011 12:53PM

Dubai World Cup card often has American accent


On March 26 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, 13 horses – 14 if you count Sweet Ducky, once trained by Kelly Breen, in the UAE Derby – will try to add to the total of 20 victories American-trained horses have racked up during the 15 years of Dubai World Cup Night.

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Winning in Dubai is never an easy task, but the baker’s dozen flying the Stars and Stripes this year faces an unusually tough task, not least because the races formerly run on dirt at Nad Al Sheba were switched last year to the Tapeta synthetic surface at Meydan.

The first 19 of America’s 20 World Cup Night triumphs came on the dirt at the now-defunct Nad Al Sheba. Last year Kinsale King gave the United States its ninth win in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in the first year of racing on Tapeta at Meydan, where turf horses dominated the World Cup.

Kinsale King will defend his title in the Golden Shaheen, in which he will once again face a stern challenge from last year’s Singaporean runner-up Rocket Man. Gio Ponti, fourth in last year’s World Cup, is back for a second try. Meanwhile, America has solid chances for victories in the Godolphin Mile with I Want Revenge and Make Music For Me, and in the Dubai Sheema Classic with Champ Pegasus and Bourbon Bay.

No American-trained horses has ever won on turf in Dubai. The closest we have come was when Hard Buck was second to Polish Summer in the 2004 Sheema Classic and The Tin Man’s second to David Junior in the 2006 Dubai Duty Free.

In addition to our nine Golden Shaheen tallies, American dominance of most of the big dirt races at Nad Al Sheba has yielded eight World Cup victories and three in the Godolphin Mile. The most famous of all American victories in Dubai, and the most historic of all World Cup triumphs, was that of Cigar in the inaugural running of 1996.

Sheikh Mohammed, the man behind the great desert event, needed to make a splash with the first Dubai World Cup, and that was exactly what Cigar provided. With 13 consecutive wins under his belt, Cigar was the best horse in the world when he arrived in Dubai. His victory in the race, then worth $4 million, put the World Cup on the map, but he had to work harder than trainer Bill Mot might have expected to secure the victory.

Jerry Bailey was content to have Cigar in fifth early on in the 11-runner field while his main rival, the Dick Mandella-trained Soul of the Matter was taken back to last. When Cigar cruised to the lead at the quarter pole, he seemed to have things well in hand, but Gary Stevens had Soul of the Matter in high gear. He hooked Cigar at the three-sixteenths pole and took at least a head lead along the rail inside the eighth pole.

But Cigar was not a world champion for nothing. He battled back to regain the lead, emerging a half-length winner, much to the relief of Bailey, Mott, owner Allen Paulson and Sheikh Mohammed. The Dubai World Cup had become a star in the Thoroughbred firmament.

Great American victories in what has been the world’s richest race ever since followed with Silver Charm, Invasor, and Curlin. Curlin’s victory was especially impressive, but American dominance of the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen is even more pronounced. Nine of the last 11 runnings have gone to American trainees, with Caller One winning in both 2001 and 2002, making the James Chapman trainee the only horse to win a World Cup Night race twice. Richard Dutrow Jr. holds the distinction of having won two races on one World Cup card, with Benny the Bull in the Golden Shaheen and Diamond Stripes in the Godolphin Mile in 2008.

Can this year’s American team reestablish American dominance of the non-turf races in Dubai? Counting Sweet Ducky, who will be saddled for the UAE Derby by South African trainer Herman Brown for new ower Ramzan Kadyrov, we will have eight runners in four Tapeta races. Among them, only Kinsale King, I Want Revenge, and Gio Ponti are proven on synthetic surfaces. If victory on Tapeta is to come next Saturday, it will probably be provided by one of them.

American winners in Dubai

Year Horse Race Trainer
2010 Kinsale King Golden Shaheen Carl O’Callaghan
2009 Well Armed World Cup Eoin Harty
2008 Curlin* World Cup Steve Asmussen
2008 Benny the Bull Golden Shaheen Richard Dutrow Jr.
2008 Diamond Stripes Godolphin Mile Richard Dutrow Jr.
2007 Invasor World Cup Kiaran McLaughlin
2007 Kelly’s Landing Golden Shaheen Eddie Kenneally
2007 Spring At Last Godolphin Mile Doug O’Neill
2006 Proud Tower Too Golden Shaheen Sal Gonzalez
2005 Roses in May World Cup Dale Romans
2005 Saratoga County Golden Shaheen George Weaver
2004 Pleasantly Perfect World Cup Dick Mandella
2004 Our New Recruit Golden Shaheen John Sadler
2002 Caller One Golden Shaheen James Chapman
2002 Grey Memo Godolphin Mile Warren Stute
2001 Captain Steve World Cup Bob Baffert
2001 Caller One Golden Shaheen James Chapman
2000 Big Jag Golden Shaheen Tim Pinfield
1998 Silver Charm World Cup Bob Baffert
1996 Cigar World Cup Bill Mott
* Also won the 1 1/4-mile Jaguar Trophy Handicap at Nad Al Sheba in 2008