03/24/2017 12:57PM

Sharp Azteca could face challenge in Godolphin Mile

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Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Sharp Azteca in 4 for 4 in one-turn miles, including this win in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Sharp Azteca has traveled to Dubai from North America to start as the favorite in the Group 2, $1 million Godolphin Mile, and to win, he must find a way to beat a horse named North America.

Those appear to be the two principals in the first event on the World Cup program, an 1,800-meter dirt race run around one turn. The distance and configuration appear to be ideal for Sharp Azteca, who is 4 for 4 in one-turn miles, including an eye-catching score Feb. 11 in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. There, Sharp Azteca dueled early for the lead and pulled away late, and trainer Jorge Navarro said the speedy Sharp Azteca actually benefits from early pace pressure.

“I really hope someone goes out there with him,” Navarro said. “That’s what he likes. Sometimes he gets lost if he’s out there by himself.”

Navarro came to Dubai for the first time last year and saw the heavily favored X Y Jet get knocked off in the Golden Shaheen. Sharp Azteca is a different sort of horse, according to Navarro.

“The horse last year, he had issues,” he said. “This one we can train the right way.”

The 7-year-old, heavily raced Heavy Metal has won his last two starts by more than 10 lengths combined, and the Japanese horse Kafuji Take is pretty good, but North America definitely looks like Sharp Azteca’s main rival.

A 5-year-old by Dubawi trained by Satish Seemar, North America is 3 for 3 on dirt, all during this winter season in Dubai, and won them by a combined 17 lengths. North America has early speed and might be just the company Navarro is looking for – unless he proves to be more company than Sharp Azteca can handle.