12/20/2010 1:11PM

Gitano Hernando training in Dubai for World Cup


Gitano Hernando, sixth in this year’s Dubai World Cup and the winner in 2009 of the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita, has arrived in Dubai from his Newmarket, England, base to begin preparations for an assault on the 2011 edition of the world’s richest race, which will be run on March 26 on Meydan Racecourse’s Tapeta surface.

Trained in Newmarket by Marco Botti, Gitano Hernando was under consideration for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic after having won the 1 5/16-mile, Group 3 Diamond Stakes on the Dundalk Polytrack on Oct. 1. Instead, Botti and owners Team Valor International and Gary Barber decided to put the 4-year-old son of Hernando away for the remainder of the autumn and aim for Dubai.

Last winter Gitano Hernando stayed in England until after his win in the listed Winter Derby Trial Stakes on the Lingfield Polytrack, a month before the World Cup, a move Team Valor’s Barry Irwin said he regretted.

“We had experienced some difficulties with the air pollution in Dubai the year before when construction of the new track became a problem for one of our horses which developed a respiratory problem, which is why we kept Gitano Hernando in England,” Irwin said. “Well, we zigged when we should have zagged, because it was evident by the performances that the horses trained in Dubai had an edge over the invaders.”

Indeed, the first three finishers in the 2010 World Cup – Gloria de Campeao, Lizard’s Desire and Allybar – had been in Dubai all winter. This time around Botti will aim Gitano Hernando at two World Cup preps at Meydan – Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge at 1 3/16 miles on Feb. 3, and Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge at the World Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles on March 3.

Irwin has also announced that the Hong Kong-based Weichong Marwing will ride Gitano Hernando in all of his races in Dubai this winter.