03/23/2016 3:26PM

Pletcher has chance to get off Dubai schneid with Mshawish

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Barbara D. Livingston
Donn Handicap winner Mshawish has a good chance to give Todd Pletcher his first win in Dubai.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – When Todd Pletcher’s first starter in Dubai, Harlan’s Holiday, finished second in the 2003 World Cup, it seemed a fait accompli that the trainer – young, already accomplished, ambitious, and with a growing equine portfolio – would win a race here, and probably the World Cup itself, before long.

Thirteen years and 10 runners later, Pletcher still seeks his first win in Dubai. He has been second three times, twice in the Golden Shaheen after Harlan’s Holiday’s 2003 run, and has his best World Cup chance since Harlan’s Holiday when Mshawish starts Saturday night in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan.

In English betting, Mshawish is six or seven times the price of the favored California Chrome, but from an American perspective, the gulf between the two horses seems slimmer than that. Mshawish, already accomplished on turf, was switched to dirt last fall and loomed a winner of the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct before flattening out late. But Pletcher persisted with the dirt tack, and Mshawish has continued to improve, coming to Dubai after perhaps the best race of his career, a convincing win in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

Mshawish had an awesome workout March 11 at Palm Beach Downs and has continued to thrive since shipping to Dubai. ‘

“All the reports I got were excellent, and to me, he couldn’t look any better,” Pletcher said Wednesday morning, his first after arriving here, having seen Mshawish go through a robust gallop.

Pletcher doesn’t hide from his record here. In fact, all the dirt horses he has brought basically have run to form.

“The only disappointments we had were turf horses, Honey Ryder and English Channel, and they did not fire at all, for whatever reason,” Pletcher said.

Mshawish, an American-bred son of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Al Shaqab racing, began his career in France and was based at Meydan during the winter of 2013-14, finishing fourth in the Duty Free (now called the Dubai Turf), a race won in a runaway by Just A Way. Pletcher sent him here last season for the Dubai Turf, and despite fighting foot problems the week of the race, Mshawish was third in Solow’s tour de force.

What all that means is that Mshawish, unlike many Americans, is a proven commodity here, both in terms of acclimatizing and running without race-day medication, Lasix in particular.

“He’s obviously a horse that travels well,” Pletcher said.

With some luck, Mshawish could take Pletcher into the Meydan winner’s circle for the first time.