Trainers shipping horses into Dubai World Cup night are anxious enough for their horses to acquit themselves with honours, but a greater burden of expectation rests with those already on site.
For Saeed Bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby, there is no more poignant a stage than the one built by their stable patron. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai is the vision behind an evening of racing where horses vie for a share of a record prize purse worth $27.25m.
Sheikh Mohammed’s worldwide Godolphin racing operation is at the forefront of the racing industry and the organisation’s two trainers, Appleby and Bin Suroor are all too aware of the fact that the world will be watching.
“It is very important for us to have a winner,” affirmed Bin Suroor, who will be crowned champion trainer at the Dubai World Cup Carnival for the seventh time at the end of the night. “Last year we had two, and luckily we have some nice horses for Saturday. I think we have a chance in seven (of the nine) races.”
Bin Suroor is plainly the man to beat. He has won 32 races on World Cup night and saddles 11 horses this time – among them two runners, African Story and Prince Bishop, in the world’s richest race, the $10 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates. He sees possibilities in both horses.
“Physically, Prince Bishop has improved so much this year,” the trainer said. “He is just a different horse and Kieren Fallon rides him very well. And I really like African Story (the mount of Silvestre De Sousa). He also is a much better horse now. He hit his head on the stalls very badly on his last run, so we must forget about it and give him another chance.”
Asked for his best prospect of a winner, Bin Suroor highlighted the chances of Cavalryman ($1 million Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors) and Shuruq ($1 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile sponsored by Meydan Sobha), before adding: “I am hoping all my horses will run well.”
Bin Suroor is a veteran of the World Cup stage but Appleby gets his first dance on it, having taken over Al Marmoon Stables in May. Appleby is thus savouring his inaugural Dubai World Cup Carnival, at which he has saddled six winners to date.
“We are very fortunate in that it has gone well,” he said. “We had a few nice winners early on. To win with our first runner, Ahtoug, was a bit of a dream.”
Ahtoug subsequently progressed to secure his place in the $1 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by IPIC on Saturday. “He is improving and enjoying himself,” Appleby said. “Everything is going right for him.”
Like Bin Suroor, Appleby has two contenders in the night’s feature race, which has drawn a maximum field of 16. He acknowledged that Cat O’Mountain must overcome a difficult post position in stall 15 but the horse’s well-being is such that he is not despondent.
“We have been very happy with his preparation and he has the ability to accelerate on the all-weather surface,” Appleby said of Mickael Barzalona’s mount. “The draw is not ideal but it’s not the end of the world.”
Vancouverite, for his part, has an ideal berth in stall 3. “He has got natural speed and will be handy from the start, so his post position suits him well,” Appleby reasoned.
Of his other six runners, Appleby became animated about the prospects of his Australian import, Long John, in the $2 million Group 2 UAE Derby sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group over 1900m on the all-weather.
Appleby said of his winner of the Group 3 UAE 2,000 Guineas sponsored by Al Tayer Motors last month: “He was impressive that day and has continued to please us. We know he has speed and the trip is a bit of an unknown, but this race gives him the best opportunity to get it.”
Although Appleby’s heartbeat is sure to rise when Long John leaves the stalls, he recognises his horses’ fate ultimately rests with his jockeys. “It’s a world stage and everybody will be here,” he said, “but when raceday dawns you can do no more. It’s an achievement just to get the horses there. May the best one win.”
Appleby’s sentiments are echoed by Bin Suroor. “The World Cup is an open race this year,” the latter offered. “The horses are all closely matched but we will try and win for Sheikh Mohammed.”