Juddmonte Juggernaut! Laurel River Wins Dubai World Cup By An Imposing Margin

Laurel River, all alone at the finish | Erika Rasmussen


DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — When the late Arrogate overcame a world of trouble to win the 2017 G1 Dubai World Cup, many racing fans said it was the best performance in the history of the race. To some, it rates right up there with some of the best performances ever seen.

It's entirely possible that Juddmonte's Laurel River (Into Mischief) managed to upstage him Saturday with an absolutely stunning, front-running tour-de-force in the $12-million G1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan, a result that even those closest to him may not have anticipated.

Winner of the 2022 GII Pat O'Brien S.–where a horse called Senor Buscador (Mineshaft) was third–Laurel River was somewhat controversially withdrawn from that year's GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, a race for which he was likely to be favored. Sidelined for a spell, Juddmonte elected to transfer their homebred from Bob Baffert to the Dubai-based stable of leading trainer Bhupat Seemar in the summer of 2023.

To say things were off to an inauspicious beginning in the Emirates would be an understatement of monumental proportions. Laurel River faded tamely to finish seventh in the G3 Al Shindagha Sprint on local debut in late January, but as disappointing as that effort was, he bounced back to post an equally emphatic 6 3/4-length victory in the G3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday to punch his ticket to World Cup night.

Conventional wisdom dictates that winning the Burj Nahaar leads to a start in the G2 Godolphin Mile over the same course and distance on the big night, but Seemar and the Juddmonte braintrust called an audible and routed the six-year-old to the G1 Dubai World Cup instead: a race 12 times as valuable, but incrementally more challenging on a few levels, not least the 2000-metre distance of the race. Additionally, the Godolphin Mile was likely to attract the speedy Saudi Crown (Always Dreaming) and defending champion Isolate (Mark Valeski), and opting for the World Cup would eliminate the possibility of a suicidal pace duel.

“I feel like the 10 furlongs is a stretch for him, but that is a speed-favoring track and he might be the lone speed,” Juddmonte's Garrett O'Rourke told the TDN when World Cup plans were confirmed Mar. 7.

After drawing 12 of 12 at Wednesday's barrier draw at the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, many would have further downgraded the chances of Laurel River, reasoning that a horse already questionable to see out the trip would have to go hard–perhaps too hard–in order to secure the front. After all, another speedball–Panthalassa (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn})–had similar misfortune at the draw last year and dropped away to finish well down the field.

But there would be no such repeat Saturday evening, as Laurel River decisively surged into a clear lead with a half-mile to travel and went on to score by 8 1/2 lengths, the largest margin of victory in a World Cup at Meydan.

“I'm still coming to terms with what's happened,” Seemar said. “I think it'll probably sink in in another day or two. It's absolutely amazing. [Jockey] Tadhg [O'Shea] said this morning 'we're drawn 12, I'm not going to be two-minded about it, I'm going to go forward.'”

And go forward he did, sliding over to lead three off the inside with a circuit to travel as he had Military Law (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Dura Erede (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}) for early company. As they turned towards the backstretch, Defunded (Dialed In) circled up so as not to sit wide the trip, and the two of them controlled the pace through the middle stages.

They put the better part of a half-dozen lengths on Dura Erede and the rail-skimming international favorite Kabirkhan (California Chrome) rounding the turn, and by the time Laurel River passed the 600-meter pole, it was really all over but the shouting. Showing no signs of stopping as he hit the top of the lane, Laurel River opened up by perhaps as many as 10 lengths  and jogged it in from there.

Senor Buscador got first run on defending champion Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}), but was run down on the wire for second while adding another $1.2 million to his $10-million grab in the G1 Saudi Cup Feb. 24.

“He brings it every time, he ran a really good race,” said trainer Todd Fincher. “He might have started his run a little early trying to catch Laurel River and maybe that cost us a placing. Hats off to Laurel River, he freaked on everybody there.”

Of the winner, Seemar added, “”He's got so much natural pace. He comes out of the gate and this is why we ran him over six furlongs [in the Al Shindagha].

“Tadhg was able to get some easy fractions and then I saw Defunded coming on his outside but he just kept on going further. I expected to see all the closers flying at him but he kept going.”

For the better part of two decades, O'Shea has pounded the pavement on the Emirates Racing Authority, and he was basking in the afterglow of his Saturday achievements. He also guided Tuz (Oxbow) to an open-lengths success in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, his second in three years after missing by a nostril with defending champion Switzerland in 2023.

“I've been fortunate enough to have had Dubai World Cup night winners but you don't get many opportunities and I'm going to be forever grateful to Juddmonte for keeping me on the horse, they could use anyone and they're a worldwide operation that's really successful,” said O'Shea.

“When he had his first run for the stable, we thought he'd disappointed, but we never lost faith. He was explosive last time and I said the other morning to Bhupat, I pulled him aside and said I'd never ridden a horse with his ability ever. And he'd just done an easy work on his own.

“With the dirt you can't be half-hearted, you have to go forward. If he didn't stay, he didn't stay. We were aware of that. The main thing that won the race, it's easy to say when you win, but I was able to keep filling him up and filling him up.”

Kabirkhan sat a good inside trip, but failed to go on in the lane and finished eighth, beaten over 18 lengths.

“He was beaten a long way out,” commented his jockey Pat Dobbs. “I knew leaving the back straight he wasn't the same horse as before.”

Of the remaining Americans, Newgate (Into Mischief), Crupi (Curlin) and Clapton (Brethren) finished a distant eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively.

Pedigree Notes:

Laurel River is the 20th Grade I winner for Into Mischief and is bred on the same cross over Empire Maker responsible for 'TDN Rising Star' and GI Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun, while other top-level winners from Fappiano-line mares include champion Covfeve, Gina Romantica, Doppelganger and Atone. Additional stakes winners by Into Mischief out of Empire Maker dams include Grade III scorers Occult and Center Aisle and Juddmonte's late Taraz.

On paper, Laurel River is bred to stay the mile and quarter and perhaps further, as his first two dams are by Belmont S. winners. Juddmonte purchased Laurel River's second dam Soothing Touch for $550,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September sale, and while she didn't work out as a racemare, she's excelled in the breeding shed.

The mare is the dam of six winners from 10 to race, including her first foal Emollient (Empire Maker), victorious in the 2013 GI Central Bank Ashland S. and the Juddmonte-sponsored GI Spinster, and her four winners as a broodmare include G2 Prix de Malleret winner Raclette (GB) (Frankel {GB}) and French listed winner Ardent (Frankel {GB}).  Soothing Touch has also accounted for Hofburg (Tapit), a stakes winner and third in the GI Belmont S; and stakes winner Courtier (Tapit).

The second foal from Soothing Touch, Laurel River has a 2-year-old half-sister by Constitution, a yearling half-brother by that son of Tapit and produced a full-sister to Laurel River four days after his victory in the Burj Nahaar.

Saturday, Meydan, Dubai
DUBAI WORLD CUP SPONSORED BY EMIRATES AIRLINE-G1, AED12,000,000, Meydan, 3-30, 3yo/up, 10f, 2:02.31, fs.
1–LAUREL RIVER, 126, h, 6, by Into Mischief
                1st Dam: Calm Water, by Empire Maker
                2nd Dam: Soothing Touch, by Touch Gold
                3rd Dam: Glia, by A.P. Indy
1ST GROUP 1 WIN. O-Juddmonte; B-Juddmonte Farms Inc
(KY); T-Bhupat Seemar; J-Tadhg O'Shea. $6,960,000. Lifetime
Record: GSW-US, 10-6-1-0-1, $7,470,676. Click for the
free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. Werk Nick
Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*. Click for the
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Ushba Tesoro (Jpn), 126, h, 7, Orfevre (Jpn)–Millefeui Attach
(Jpn), by King Kamehameha (Jpn). (¥25,000,000 Wlg '17
JRHAJUL). O-Ryotokuji Kenji Holdings Co Ltd; B-Chiyoda Farm
Shizunai (JPN); T-Noboru Takagi. $2,400,000.
3–Senor Buscador, 126, h, 6, Mineshaft–Rose's Desert, by
Desert God. O-Sharaf Mohammed Al Hariri & Joe R Peacock Jr;
B-Joe Peacock Sr & Joe Peacock Jr (KY); T-Todd W Fincher.
Margins: 8HF, NK, 4 3/4.
Also Ran: Wilson Tesoro (Jpn), Dura Erede (Jpn), Derma Sotogake (Jpn), Defunded, Kabirkhan, Newgate, Crupi, Clapton, Military Law (GB). Click for the ERA chart & video.


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