03/14/2016 3:10PM

Mshawish dazzles in final work before shipping to Dubai

Barbara D. Livingston
Mshawish, winner of the Donn Handicap, will make his next start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26.

The gang’s all there, the eight U.S.-based horsed slated for races on the March 26 Dubai World Cup program departed – five from Florida, three from California – for the Middle East on Sunday. The journey is long, especially from California, but the riches at trip’s terminus vast, the horses racing for purses ranging from the $1 million in the Al Quoz Sprint to $10 million in the World Cup itself.

Three American hopefuls for the World Cup – California Chrome, Frosted, and Keen Ice – have been in Dubai for weeks, if not months, and all have raced over the Meydan track. The other two Americans to be entered in the World Cup (final entries are due at 9 a.m. Dubai time March 21) left Sunday – Mshawish from Florida and Hoppertunity from California. Also departing from Florida were Heart to Heart, who races in the $6 million Dubai Turf; X Y Jet, who could be favored in the $2 million Golden Shaheen; and Lady Shipman and Mongolian Saturday, both for the Al Quoz Sprint. The Californians who went with Hoppertunity are Flamboyant for the Dubai Turf and Frank Conversation for the UAE Derby.

None of the shippers left with more of a bang than Mshawish, who turned in a breathtaking workout Friday at Palm Beach Downs, going five furlongs in 58.80 seconds. Videos posted of the workout showed Mshawish breaking off with his rider’s feet on the dashboard, the horse hard-held through the early and middle portions of the breeze before only slightly being given his head to finish. The gallop out? It looked nearly endless, Mshawish going on and on, appearing to relish every stride too much to stop running.

“He’s always been an exceptional work horse, but even by his standards, that was good,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Mshawish for Al Shaqab Racing. “It was a terrific work coming at a key time, indicating he’s gearing up at a good time. That was his major work for his race. I don’t anticipate he’ll have any real speed work while he’s in Dubai. Maybe he’ll catch the bridle on one of his gallops, but we’re not planning on a timed breeze.”

Mshawish is a 6-year-old, and he was very good as far back as 2013, when he finished fourth of 19 in the Group 1 French Derby, but it’s fair to say he’s never been better. Mshawish won the Grade 1 Donn Handicap by two lengths on Feb. 6, and appeared to win it comfortably. He went to Dubai a year ago for the $6 million turf but was troubled the week of the race by a foot problem, his participation uncertain until hour before the race, but Mshawish still finished third.

“Everything has been really good with his feet, and that’s what’s allowed him to come to form the way he has,” Pletcher said. “He was in great form last year, but I think he’s exceeded that this year. He’s just the picture of health right now – tremendous condition, tremendous coat, showing you all the things you want to see before a big race.”

Pletcher will soon get to see for himself if Mshawish has carried that look halfway across the world. He leaves early next week for Dubai, and if Pletcher is ceding control of his sprawling training empire for that length of time, it must be for good reason.