06/24/2010 11:00PM

The talented Burj Dubai faces major challenge


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - James Quinn's "The Handicapper's Condition Book" should be required reading for everyone who is serious about betting Thoroughbreds. Anyone who has read the book, knows that Burj Dubai is in the wrong race at Hastings on Sunday. He just might be good enough to win the race, however.

Trained by Dino Condilenios, Burj Dubai couldn't have been more impressive when he won a maiden special weight race in his debut on May 29. In a perfect world, he would be making his second start in a first-level allowance race or some kind of optional claiming race. In the confined spaces of the Hastings backstretch, however, trainers that have horses eligible for the same condition want no part of him, and they pretty much know what races Condilenios had been looking at for Burj Dubai's second start. Condilenios and Burj Dubai's owners, Swift Thoroughbred Inc., had the choice of shipping him to another jurisdiction. Instead, they are running him in a money-allowance race that drew some of the top stakes sprinters at Hastings.

Condilenios hasn't read Quinn's book, but he does know how to read a condition book and is aware of the tough spot he is in.

"Obviously, this isn't the kind of race we were looking for," Condilenios said. "I tried to enter him in a race the other day, but when word got out that he was going to be in it, there was no way it was going to fill. You would think other trainers would like to get him out of the way instead of keeping their horses in the barn. I am not happy about it, but what are you going to do?"

Burj Dubai was part of a package of castoffs Swift purchased from Darley Stable last spring. Darley originally paid $1 million for Burj Dubai as a yearling at Keeneland in 2007. Darley probably gave up on him because of his temperament. When he arrived at Hastings, he was unruly, and the first couple of times exercise rider Christine Loseth tried to work him, he refused. His attitude changed somewhat after he was gelded, but he is still a work in progress. After he won his first race, Condilenios had hoped he would be easier to train, and sent him out to work on his own June 17. Once again, Burj Dubai refused.

"He still has a couple of quirks," Condilenios said. "Before he ran, we had to work him in company or out of the gate. I just thought he had grown up a bit and that he wouldn't need company. That didn't work, so we gave him some company the next day and he worked fine. He is coming up to the race in really good shape."

Just how good Burj Dubai actually is remains to be seen. The talent is certainly there. He posted a 90 Beyer Speed Figure while seemingly galloping in his debut. He was under no pressure at all, and that is all going to change in a hurry. Condilenios is realistic about the challenges Burj Dubai is up against Sunday.

"I think he is a very nice horse, and my assessment isn't going to change if he doesn't win on Sunday," Condilenios said. "If he does win, he's probably too good to stay here."

Burj Dubai's race looked like it wasn't going to fill, but right before entries closed on Thursday trainer Craig MacPherson entered Arkhill to make it a five-horse field. MacPherson was considering shipping Arkhill to Northlands to run in the $50,000 Spangled Jimmy on July 3. The presence of a very tough Salt Flat Speed and the logistics of shipping changed his mind. An Alberta-bred, Arkhill won the Alberta Derby at Stampede Park in 2008. He also won the Ky. Alta at Northlands the same year. After missing all of 2009, he came back to win a $50,000 optional race at Hastings on May 5 and then finished last in a similar race June 5. He probably would have won the race with a clean trip, however.

"His owner isn't going to be in town, and he usually ships him to Alberta himself," MacPherson said. "He left it up to me, and it is a lot easier to keep him here. From the way everyone is talking, it looks like it's going to be a heck of a race. He could run a good race and finish last again."

Trainer Quint McCabe is running Woombroom Express in the Sunday race. He was surprised to see Burj Dubai in the field, and said he really didn't want to run Woombroom Express against him. Woombroom Express looks like the speed in the race, however, and he has proven he can battle through extreme fractions and win. He loves to work fast and posted an exceptional time of 57.80 seconds for five furlongs on June 19.

"I've never had a horse like him," McCabe said. "After he works as fast as he does and runs his heart out every time, he eats up everything we give him."

Woombroom Express has won four races, including the B.C. Cup Sprint, since McCabe claimed him for $15,000 in August 2008.