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Vale of York, Midshipman both ailing
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Injury and illness will prevent the last two winners of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile from starting on Saturday's Dubai World Cup program at the new Meydan racecourse, Godolphin Racing announced on its website over the weekend.
Vale of York, the winner of the 2009 BC Juvenile, suffered a bout of colic over the weekend, and is out of Saturday's $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby. Midshipman, the winner of the 2008 BC Juvenile, suffered a recurrence of a soft-tissue injury last week and was declared from the $1 million Godolphin Mile last Friday.
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Vale of York's illness has left his short-term racing future in doubt, according to Simon Crisford, the racing manager for owner Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing. In a six-paragraph statement on Godolphin's website, Crisford said plans for Vale of York are unclear.
"Unfortunately, Vale of York has suffered from colic and will not be able to run in the UAE Derby at Meydan," Crisford said in a statement. "We hope that Vale of York makes a full recovery soon, but obviously right now, all future plans are on hold for him."
In an e-mail on Monday, Crisford was optimistic about Vale of York's long-term prognosis.
"He seems to have improved a bit, but is still hospitalized," Crisford wrote. "Hopefully, he is out of the woods, but still has a long way to go."
Vale of York's absence leaves the UAE Derby without a recognizable contender for the Kentucky Derby on May 1. Godolphin has two other Triple Crown nominees among the probable starters for the UAE Derby in Frozen Power and Mendip, but neither is a graded stakes winner. The race is also open to 3-year-olds from the Southern Hemisphere, who are recognized as 4-year-olds in the Northern Hemisphere.
Frozen Power was second in the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas at Meydan on Feb. 18, and was a listed stakes winner in France last year. Mendip is unbeaten in three starts, including the $250,000 Al Bastakiya Stakes on March 4. Vale of York was fifth in that race in his 2010 debut.
Vale of York has won 3 of 7 starts and $1,291,933. A minor stakes winner at Goodwood, England, last September, he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in a 30-1 upset over Lookin At Lucky, who was later named champion 2-year-old male of 2009.
Saturday's UAE Derby was considered an important test of whether Vale of York would be considered for the Kentucky Derby or a turf campaign in Europe.
Midshipman sustained a soft tissue injury last year, but recovered to make two starts last fall, including a third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in November. Midshipman has started twice at Meydan this year, including a win in an allowance race on Feb. 25.
"We were so pleased with his last run," Crisford said in a statement. "We will not make any decisions about his future until he gets reassessed when he returns to America next month."
Presvis a true road warrior
The career path that Presvis has taken to reach a leading role in Saturday's $5 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes reads more like an international airline schedule than the itinerary of a major stakes winner.
In 2009, Presvis started his season in Dubai, where he made three starts, including a second in the Dubai Duty Free. He later raced in Hong Kong and Singapore in the spring, and in England in November before being sent back to Hong Kong in December.
This year, Presvis had made two starts in Dubai. His victory in the Group 2 Jebel Hatta Stakes over about 1 1/8 miles on turf at Meydan on March 4 clinched his participation in the Dubai Duty Free, which is run over the same course and distance.
Trainer Luca Cumani started Presvis in a $150,000 handicap on the main track on Feb. 5, but when the 6-year-old gelding was beaten 7 1/2 lengths by Dubai World Cup hopeful Allybar, the Dubai Duty Free became the goal.
"We gave him a race on both [surfaces] and decided to go on the one that was best," Cumani said.
On a warm Monday morning, Presvis worked six furlongs on turf. Cumani did not time Presvis's workout and was not very concerned about that aspect of the exercise. Dubai officials timed Presvis in 51.75 seconds for a half-mile.
"It was nothing serious," Cumani said. "It was the finishing touches over six furlongs, not too demanding. He seems in good form. I was very pleased with him."
Presvis has won 6 of 16 starts and $3,249,589. More than $2.9 million of that prize money was earned in 2009, a season highlighted by a win in the $1.8 million Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Hong Kong, his second in the Dubai Duty Free, and a third in the $2.5 million Hong Kong Cup in December.
For a gelding who did not start until May 2008 as a 4-year-old, and lost his first three races in England, Presvis has had a remarkable career. Following his first victory, Presvis has been in the first three in his last 13 starts.
"He's always one, two or three," Cumani said. "He's quality."
Three Americans in Duty Free
The Dubai Duty Free is run over 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles), which is contested around one turn at Meydan. The race features three American-based runners - Courageous Cat, Take the Points, and The Usual Q.T. - one more than originally expected.
Take the Points was considered for the Dubai World Cup, but will start in the turf race. As a 3-year-old last summer, he won two turf stakes - the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park and the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Take the Points finished first in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 6, but was disqualified and placed fifth for causing interference in the stretch.
Courageous Cat, trained by Bill Mott for Marty and Pam Wygod, won the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20 in his first start since a second to Goldikova in the BC Mile last November.
The Usual Q.T. won three consecutive graded stakes on turf last fall in California, but was ninth as the favorite in the Sunshine Millions Classic on the main track at Santa Anita in his last start on Jan. 30.
There are nine American-based runners in the seven Thoroughbred races, including Furthest Land, Gio Ponti, and Richard's Kid in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.
Presious Passion, the winner of the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 28, starts in the $5 million Sheema Classic over about 1 1/2 miles on turf. There are two California-based sprinters here - two-time stakes winner Kinsale King runs in the $2 million Golden Shaheen on the main track and 2009 BC Turf Sprint winner California Flag starts in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint on turf. Both sprint races are run over about six furlongs, or 1,200 meters.
* The weather for Saturday's eight-race program will be predictably warm for this region in late March, with temperatures expected to peak in the low 90s. The program begins at 8:45 a.m. Eastern (4:45 p.m. local time) with a $250,000 stakes for Arabians followed by seven Thoroughbred races. Post time for the Dubai World Cup is 1:45 p.m. Eastern.