03/28/2011 3:37PM

Dubai World Cup's winning trainer keeps Japanese homeland in mind

Andrew Watkins
Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum presents the World Cup trophy to winning trainer trainer Katsuhiko Sumii as Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum (second from left) looks on.

Japanese emotions ran high at Meydan on Saturday as Victoire Pisa and Transcend gave racing fans in the country so hard hit by a devastating earthquake this month something to cheer about with a one-two finish in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

“I think this is a victory that can help put some life back into the people in Japan amid the darkness following the huge earthquake and tsunami,” said winning trainer Katsuhiko Sumii.

Sumii is no stranger to foreign winner’s circles. In 2005 he engineered Cesario’s four-length victory in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park. A year later he sent Delta Blues to Flemington to win the Melbourne Cup. Last year he sent Victoire Pisa to finish fourth in the Prix Niel and eighth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. A second tilt at the Arc, the foreign race most coveted by Japanese horsemen, could be in the works again for Victoire Pisa, a 4-year-old son of Neo Universe. First, however, Sumii and owner Yoshimi Ichikawa are considering Hong Kong’s 1 1/4-mile Queen Elizabeth II Cup on turf at Sha Tin on May 1, when Victoire Pisa will attempt to add to his $12,891,731 bankroll.

Transcend’s owner, Koji Maeda, a regular visitor to major American yearling sales, has always been a fan of American racing. His long-term plans for the World Cup runner-up and 2-time Grade 1 winner on dirt in Japan is the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

MORE VIDEO: Scenes from Dubai World Cup Week at Meydan

Sweet Ducky did no running at all in finishing 13th in the UAE Derby. Afterwards, his new South African-based trainer, Herman Brown, said that the Holy Bull runner-up had lost his race by acting up during the preliminaries. “He’ll go back to the States now,” Brown said without further elaboration.

Master of Hounds probably qualified himself for the Kentucky Derby by earning $400,000 for his second-place finish in the UAE Derby. Trainer Aidan O’Brien reportedly said after the race that he is considering running the colt in the Derby. A son of Kingmambo, Master of Hounds finished 2 3/4-lengths sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall and is nominated to the Triple Crown.

It was a big night for the Godolphin home team, which won three races on the $26 million card. Rewilding, winner of the 1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic, will shortly be returning to England with his Godolphin stablemates and could reappear in the 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup at Epsom on June 3, according to Godolphin’s racing manager, Simon Crisford.

Skysurfers gave Saeed bin Suroor his eighth victory in the Godolphin Mile. The lightly raced 5-year-old will accompany Rewilding on the Godolphin flight to England but Suroor has not yet decided on a schedule for the son of E Dubai.

Victoire Pisa will run into Dubai Duty Free winner Presvis as well as Duty Free third Wigmore Hall in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on May 1. Trainer Luca Cumani has sent Presvis to Hong Kong for the same race after his Duty Free runs in each of the last two years, winning it in 2009 and finishing fifth last year.

Rocket Man, whose winning task in the Dubai Golden Shaheen was much simplified by the late scratch of defending title-holder Kinsale King, could be headed to Royal Ascot for the six-furlong Golden Jubilee Stakes. First up for the Patrick Shaw-trained Australian-bred, however, will be a return home to Singapore where he will be put back on turf for the 5-furlong KrisFlyer International Sprint at Kranji on May 22. Golden Shaheen third Sunny King, trained in Hong Kong by John Moore, is under consideration for the five-furlong King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

J J The Jet Plane, the winner of the five-furlong Al Quoz Spring despite a troubled trip, is also headed to England. Now trained by South African Michael Houdalakis after spells with Mike de Kock and Richard Hannon, J J The Jet Plane is likely to bypass Royal Ascot in favor of a go at the six-furlong July Cup at Newmarket on July 9.

U.S. horses fail to show best

The feel-good story of Japanese horses Victoire Pisa and Transcend finishing one-two in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup overshadowed a poor showing by virtually the entire American contingent, with Euroears’ second-place finish in the Golden Shaheen the only top-four placing among 13 Dubai starters who shipped from the United States.

Besides Euroears’ runner-up performance, two fifth-place finishes, by Gio Ponti in the World Cup and by Victor’s Cry in the Duty Free, were the best American showings. Sweet Ducky was 13th in the UAE Derby, while Stradivinsky finished 13th in the Al Quoz Sprint, and Mr. Gruff last of 16 in the same race. Make Music For Me was seventh in the Godolphin Mile, where I Want Revenge finished 10th and Crowded House (who spent much of the winter in Dubai) last of 14. Bourbon Bay was 11th in the Sheema Classic, one place in front of Champ Pegasus. Fly Down finished a troubled 13th in the World Cup. Kinsale King was scratched earlier Saturday from the Golden Shaheen.

The spate of disappointing performances extended even to European horses who raced in the United States last year. Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Dangerous Midge finished last of 14 in the Sheema Classic. Arlington Million winner Debussy was 15th in the Duty Free.

The American horses are scheduled to return home on March 30, and the connections who could be reached all reported their horses had come out of their respective races at least decently.

“He came back okay, a little bit tired from the race,” trainer Christophe Clement said of Gio Ponti. Gio Ponti was rank on the backstretch of the World Cup after Victoire Pisa passed him on the outside, making an early move to challenge pacesetting Transcend early on the backstretch run of the World Cup. Gio Ponti wound up six wide into the stretch, and while finishing decently, could make no late ground on the winner.

“He had no racing luck,” Clement said. “The race was run a mile and a quarter with no pace.”

Clement said Gio Ponti’s condition would be assessed in coming weeks, but that the horse might make his next start June 11 in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.

Trainer Neil Drysdale said that Bourbon Bay “came out of the race very well,” but it was what happened before and during the Sheema Classic that negatively affected Bourbon Bay. The horse came out of the saddling enclosure several minutes after the rest of the field because a girth small enough for Bourbon Bay’s torso couldn’t be found.

“About the third time we tried to put it on, he started to get really annoyed,” said Drysdale, adding that jostling into and around the first turn might have thrown Bourbon Bay off his game. “He’s not a big horse. I think it just intimidated him.”

Dick Mandella, Champ Pegasus’s trainer, said he thought his horse was in trouble before the Sheema Classic began.

“He scoped clean and all that, but he was kind of dead the night of the race, and ran that way,” Mandella said.

Euroear will return to dirt with the Breeders’ Cup Sprint his ultimate goal, according to trainer Bob Baffert.