Life Is Good The Main Man at Meydan

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Life Is Good | Dubai Racing Club

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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — In a Thursday morning presser at Meydan Racecourse, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher suggested that a good deal of the allure of running in a race like the G1 Dubai World Cup is that it brings together a smorgasbord of horses from a variety of jurisdictions with patriotic pride at play.

“I think part of it is the international competition aspect of it,” he offered. “I said this when Coal Front (Stay Thirsty) won the [G2 Godolphin] Mile [in 2019], it almost takes on an Olympic-type feel and when the announcer says, 'Coal Front is winning for the US,' it's a great feeling.”

Indeed, Saturday's 26th running of the 2000-metre event has attracted 10-furlong gallopers representing no fewer than five countries, including a quartet of runners from the United States that is topped by the outstanding 'TDN Rising Star' Life Is Good (Into Mischief).

The $525,000 Keeneland September purchase has tasted defeat just once in his eight career trips to the races, a desperately unlucky second to champion Jackie's Warrior (Maclean's Music) in the seven-furlong GI H. Allen Jerkens S. in August being his lone blemish. A victory Saturday makes him a top-level winner at eight (Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile), nine (Pegasus World Cup Invitational) and 10 furlongs, an accomplishment not many horses can boast of.

Pletcher said, “He's a remarkable horse in that there are a few horses that have that ability where, if you were looking at the Breeders' Cup card–if he were to run in the Sprint, he'd probably be favored, he could run in the Dirt Mile and be favored and if things go well from here, he could run in the Classic and be favored. He's just one of those horses that can go super fast and keep going. I don't think I've had one better than him.”

Pletcher admits that Saturday's trip is the great unknown, and while he said that connections are 'optimistic' the colt will continue to stretch out, there are many in the field with already proven form over the 10 furlongs. One of those is his compatriot Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow), the GI Pennsylvania Derby winner who placed in the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Belmont S. and shipped to Dubai early to swamp his rivals in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 going 100 metres shorter Feb. 5. He'll not be far away in the run and will attempt to outstay Life Is Good, whom he has yet to face.

Hot Rod Charlie knows Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow) all too well, having beaten him in the Keystone State after causing the Steve Asmussen trainee to go to his knees in the GI Haskell Invitational S. six weeks prior. The latter arrived here from Saudi Arabia off a good third in the G1 Saudi Cup Feb. 26, where he finished 1 1/2 lengths behind the second-placed Country Grammer (Tonalist), whose three starts for Bob Baffert includes a narrow success in the GI Hollywood Gold Cup. A win from him would give trainer Baffert a fourth World Cup, still well short of the nine won by trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The Rest of the World…

Four other countries are represented in this year's World Cup, including last year's second- and third-place finishers. Chuwa Wizard (Jpn) (King Kamehameha {Jpn}) flies the Japanese flag and got the ideal prep for this when rolling home by four lengths in the Feb. 2 Listed Kawasaki Kinen, while the dirt-bred, French-based Magny Cours (Medaglia d'Oro) is one of two in the race for Godolphin. He will need to return to last year's form to be any sort of a factor, having finished well down the field in Riyadh four weeks ago.

Among those based locally, Bin Suroor had an option for the G1 Dubai Turf with Real World (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), but rolls the dice in the big race, despite a nil-for-five record on dirt. Hypothetical (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}), by contrast, has won four of his nine starts on the main track, including an all-the-way defeat of Remorse (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) in the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 on Super Saturday Mar. 5. The waters are considerably deeper on this particular Saturday.

Brazilian-bred, but Uruguay-based Aero Trem (Brz) (Shanghai Bobby), last year's winner of the G1 GP Latinoamericano over his home track at Maronas in Montevideo, covered himself in glory in his first start in these parts, running on well to fill fifth spot in the Saudi Cup. The slightly longer World Cup trip figures to suit him right down to the ground.

Grocer Jack (Ger) (Oasis Dream {GB}) was withdrawn from the World Cup Thursday evening.

Japan Sets The Standard in Sheema Classic

by Heather Anderson

Japan has brought their largest team ever assembled for the $30.5-million 2022 Dubai World Cup night, and are aiming to add a Dubaian treasure chest to their international haul after their initial Breeders' Cup victories last autumn continued during the Longines Hong Kong International Races and culminated with sweeping four of the six group races on the lucrative $20-million G1 Saudi Cup undercard on Feb. 26.

The $6-million G1 Dubai Sheema Classic over 2410 metres on turf sees five of the 23-strong Japanese contingent signed on and sees the country attempt to take their fourth Sheema, after future Group 1 winners Chrono Genesis (Jpn) (Bago {Fr}) and Loves Only You (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) were second, and third, respectively, in 2021. There is no shortage of quality, either, as three of the quintet are Group 1 winners.

Based on ratings, the dual G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase victor Glory Vase (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) is a full two pounds ahead of the remainder of the 15-horse field, and he will have every opportunity to improve his record, as he has been off since taking the Vase over G1 Coronation Cup scorer Pyledriver (GB) (Harbour Watch {Ire}) on Dec. 12. However, the 7-year-old entire, who leaves from stall six with Christophe Soumillon in the irons, does not bear the first colours of Silk Racing Co., Ltd, with that honour going to Authority (Jpn).

A son of the quirky dual G1 Prix de l'Arc de Tromphe second Orfevre (Jpn) (Stay Gold {Jpn}), the 5-year-old is a triple Group 2 winner in his native land. He ran second in Japanese Triple Crown winner Contrail (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn})'s 2021 G1 Japan Cup in November, with Sunday Racing's re-opposing 2021 G1 Japanese Derby scorer Shahryar (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) third that day. Sent to Riyadh for Saudi Cup Day, the bay didn't disappoint, running out a 1 1/4-length winner over German Group 2 scorer Kaspar (Ger) (Pivotal {GB}) in the G3 Neom Turf Cup going 2100 metres on Feb. 26 and Christophe Lemaire is at the controls from gate 10.

“This is tough compared to Saudi Arabia but I am honoured to compete against so many trainers that I admire,” said Authority's trainer Tetsuya Kimura.

William Muir trainee Pyledriver was a distant 11th in that contest after racing wide without cover for much of the running. Pyledriver's regular pilot Martin Dwyer is on the injured list, so the La Pyle Partnership has opted for three-time Sheema Classic-winning reinsman Frankie Dettori.

Yet another Japanese Classic winner lining up in the Sheema is Thoroughbred Club Ruffian Co. Ltd.'s 2021 G1 Japanese Oaks heroine Uberleben (Jpn) (Gold Ship {Jpn}). The quintet of challengers is completed by the dual Japanese Classic-placed Stella Veloce (Jpn), a son of the 2005 Arc winner Bago (Fr), for owner Tsuyoshi Ono.

Godolphin's GI Breeders' Cup Turf scorer Yibir (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) is an admittedly tough customer, according to trainer Charlie Appleby. However, if the chestnut brings his A-game, he poses the greatest threat to a Japanese processional. American champion turf male for 2021, he captured the Jockey Club Derby Invitational S. at Belmont Park in September prior to his Breeders' Cup heroics at Del Mar, where he was overeager and under a tight hold through the early stages of the race while well back in the pack, before swooping past the field in dramatic fashion to win by a measured half-length under William Buick. Buick remains aboard the chestnut who breaks from stall 12.

“The biggest danger to Yibir is himself,” said the British champion trainer. “He could pull like a train and do everything the wrong away round, or he could do what he did in America, when he pulled but they went a good gallop and he still won. It's credit to the horse and to William that they won the race.”

G3 Winter Derby victor Alenquer (Fr) (Adlerflug {Ger}) makes his first foray to Meydan, and he is one of two in the race for trainer William Haggas. Second to 2021 Sheema Classic winner Mishriff (Ire) (Make Believe {GB}) in the G1 Juddmonte International S., the 4-year-old is joined by Group 2 winner Dubai Honour (Ire) (Pride Of Dubai {Aus}), who was runner-up in the G1 Champion S. in October. The last-named gelding is another to finish behind Loves Only You in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup.

“It's a strong race but he's a nice horse,” the trainer said of Alenquer. “He surprised me in the Classic Trial at Sandown when defeating a very strong field, but he's gone on to win easily at Royal Ascot and finish second in the International S. at York.

“He's gone from strength to strength, winning two Group 2 races in France and finishing second in the Champion S.,” Haggas continued. “It's his first time over a mile and a half and I'm not sure about the ground for him. He needs cut in the ground, but he did run a very solid race in December at Sha Tin. He was fourth and finished good in a strong race so we'll see.”

Owen Burrows sends out Hukum (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) in the blue and white silks of Shadwell. He is fresh off of a gritty win over Simon Crisford's Without A Fight (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) in the G2 Dubai City of Gold on Super Saturday.

Defending Champ Lord North Faces Stiff Challenge

By Bob Nastanovich

Originally known as the Dubai Duty Free from 1996 to 2014, the $5-million G1 Dubai Turf has a distinguished roll of former winners, including foreign invaders like French-based globetrotters Jim and Tonic (Fr) (Double Bed {Fr} and Solow  (GB) (Singspiel {Ire}) in 2001 and 2015 respectively, Zimbabwean superstar mare Ipi Tombe (Zim) (Manshood {GB}) in 2003 and the legendary Japanese mare Almond Eye (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) in 2019.

Unquestionably, strength in depth and international flare is a profound aspect of this year's field of 15. Last year's winner Lord North (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), trained by John and Thady Gosden, has only raced once since his 2021 triumph here mainly due to a throat infection. Prepping for this engagement, he ran an encouraging second behind the William Haggas-trained Alenquer (Ger) (Adlerflug {Ger}), a fancied runner in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, in Lingfield Park's G3 Winter Derby S. on Feb. 26.

Haggas has tapped the 4-year-old colt Mohaafeth (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and the 5-year-old gelding My Oberon (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) for the Dubai Turf. Mohaafeth will welcome the turn back in distance after tiring when fourth in his last race, the G1 Juddmonte International. Earlier this week, Haggas spoke candidly about Mohaafeth's biggest change leading up to his 2022 debut. He said, “When he was purchased, he was a rig– meaning they only have one descended testicle–and we didn't think in his last races he was running as well as he possibly should have. We investigated and decided to take it out. He's got one less excuse now.”

Perhaps the horse to beat is the lightly raced Japanese star miler Schnell Meister (Ger) (Kingman {GB}), a Takahisu Tezuka trainee ridden by the 'now jockey' on the international stage Christophe Lemaire, who was victorious in four races on the G1 Saudi Cup undercard. Under Lemaire, Schnell Meister, a talented and reliable colt, led home a memorable 1-2-3 for his powerful owners Sunday Racing Co. Ltd. in last May's G1 NHK Mile Cup in Tokyo.

Dr. Schivel Looks To Strike Gold in Shaheen

The U.S. contingent of sprinters offers strong representation in Saturday's G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, led by the early favorite Dr. Schivel (Violence). Victorious in the GI Del Mar Futurity at two, the colt returned at three to add a win in the GI Bing Crosby S. at that seaside venue before adding a score in the GII Santa Anita Sprint Championship at Santa Anita in October. Well supported in the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint the following month, he was caught late by Aloha West and had to settle for second. Given one more try before wrapping up for the season, he encountered his share of difficulties during the course of the Dec. 26 GI Runhappy Malibu S., finishing a well-beaten seventh. In his latest work at Santa Anita before departing his California base, Dr. Schivel completed five furlongs in a bullet :58 3/5 (1/44) Mar. 12.

“He's a real laid-back horse, he takes everything in his stride,” said California-based trainer Mark Glatt. “He's all class. You never know how a horse might ship, especially this far. He seems to have made it very well. He bounced right over the track in his gallop this morning, he had a really nice workout.”

Drawn in post 9, the bay will be rejoined by Flavien Prat, aboard for his two Grade I wins.

“Depending upon what they are doing on the front end, our rider…will be able to choose what he wants to do,” said Glatt. “He will be able to see the majority of the field in the early stages. Our horse has gone wire-to-wire in the past and also come from four or five lengths out of it. We trust Flavien. He's ridden the horse magnificently every time and we expect he will make the right decisions.”

Also representing Team USA is another Grade I winner, Drain the Clock (Maclean's Music). The winner of last year's GIII Swale S. and GIII Bay Shore S., he recorded his most important win to date in the June 5 GI Woody Stephens S., besting subsequent Eclipse champion sprinter Jackie's Warrior (Maclean's Music) in the process. In his sole start this season, he finished a neck back in second in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Feb. 19.

Riding a two-race win streak, Meraas (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) has shown a distinct preference for the venue and the surface. An easy 4 3/4-length winner going six furlongs at Meydan Dec. 23, the gelding had to work harder in his latest but was still good enough to finish on top in the Feb. 11 G3 Al Shindagha Sprint.

Red le Zele (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}), runner up in this race in 2021, will try to go one better this season. Winner of the valuable JBC Sprint at Kanazawa in November, the 6-year-old kicked off this season with a sixth as the favourite behind Cafe Pharoah (American Pharoah) in the G1 February S. at Tokyo Feb. 20.

Eastern World (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) has proven uninspiring in most of last season, but turned things around to win while dropping back to six furlongs for the first time to cause a major upset in the Mar. 5 G3 Mahab Al Shimaal.

Godolphin Well Represented in Al Quoz

Godolphin sends postward a quartet of runners for this year's renewal of the $1.5-million G1 Al Quoz Sprint, headed by the Charlie Appleby-trained pair of Man of Promise (Into Mischief), undefeated in a pair of starts this season, and Creative Force (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}).

Three for five at Meydan, the former comes into the race riding a two-race win streak, including an eyecatching, 4 3/4-length victory in the G3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint at this venue Mar. 5. He will be ridden by William Buick, aboard for all four of his lifetime wins. His Irish-bred stablemate makes his 2022 debut following a victory in Ascot's G1 British Champions Sprint S. in October. In 2021, the chestnut also won the G3 Jersey S. in addition to finishing runner- up in the G2 Lennox S. at Goodwood. Also suiting up for the Boys in Blue are MGSP Naval Crown (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), also trained by Appleby and winner two back of the G2 Al Fahidi Fort S. over a bit further; and the Saeed bin Suroor-conditioned Mutafawwig (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}), second going seven furlongs in two of three starts this term.

Among the U.S.-based runners taking part this year, Casa Creed (Jimmy Creed) is one of three winners at the highest level in this test. Recording a career high in the six-panel GI Jaipur S. at Belmont last June, he finished third in the one-mile

GI Fourstardave H. at Saratoga before finishing off the board in the GIII Turf Sprint and the GI Breeders' Cup Mile at Del Mar in November. He returned off a layoff to finish a close-up second behind Songline (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) in the G3 1351 Turf Sprint Cup in Saudi Arabia Feb. 26.

“He has handled everything well. He likes it out here, and takes everything in stride,” said Neil Poznansky, assistant trainer to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who has been with Casa Creed throughout his Middle East soujourn.

America is also represented by Get Smokin (Get Stormy), the mount of Flavien Prat who tries a trip this sharp for the first time since finishing third at first asking at Saratoga in August 2019. He was most recently runner-up in defence of his crown in the GII Tampa Bay S. Feb. 5.

A Case of You (Ire) (Hot Streak {Ire}) punched his ticket to last fall's Breeders' GI Cup Turf Sprint with a nose victory over Air de Valse (Fr) (Mesnil des Aigles {Fr}) in ParisLongchamp's G1 Prix de l'Abbaye Oct. 3. Fifth at Del Mar the following month, the 4-year-old rebounded to win when finding easier company at Dundalk in his seasonal return Feb. 11 before finishing second behind Man of Promise last time out in Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.

Pinehurst Goes For International Double in Derby

by Alan Carasso

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Pinehurst (Twirling Candy) looks to double up in the desert when he jumps as the likely favorite against some interesting rivals in Saturday's $1.5-million G2 UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse.

Winner of the GI Runhappy Del Mar Futurity at second asking last September, the $385,000 Keeneland September purchase was fifth to champion stablemate and 'TDN Rising Star' Corniche (Quality Road) in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November and was runner-up to Forbidden Kingdom (American Pharoah) in the GII San Vicente S. Jan. 29. Ridden for speed last time in the G3 Saudi Derby Feb. 26, he dug in doggedly to withstand a late lunge from Japan's Sekifu (Jpn) (Henny Hughes) and looks to see out this extended trip with an extra three-sixteenths of a mile to negotiate.

The latter is one of four in the race for Japan, successful in this with Lani (Tapit) in 2016. The chestnut narrowly bested Reiwa Homare (Jpn) (Deep Brillante {Jpn}) in a Hanshin allowance in October and defeated Godolphin's Combustion (Jpn)–a son of 2006 UAE Derby hero Discreet Cat–in the Listed Hyogo Junior Grand Prix at Sonoda Nov. 25. Combustion, later the winner of the Listed Hyacinth S. to pick up 30 Kentucky Derby points, was much the best in a Wednesday blowout with World Cup aspirant Chuwa Wizard (Jpn).

Moscow debut winner Azure Coast (Street Sense) looks to remain perfect in four starts here, having gotten just the better of Withering (GB) (Mondialiste {Ire}) in a non-Carnival allowance in December at this track before closing from a mile back in the G3 UAE 2000 Guineas Feb. 11. Runner-up Kiefer (Brz) (Drosselmeyer) returned to be sixth in the Saudi Derby and has since been acquired by Hong Kong connections. Third home in the Guineas was Quality Boone (Arg) (Daniel Boone {Brz}), who franked the form with a victory over Withering in the Listed Al Bastakiya S. on Super Saturday Mar. 5.

Irwin (Brz) (Seek Again) is the Derby X-factor. He is two-for-three on dirt, both at Group 1 level, including a nine-length romp in the Derby Nacional when last seen in November (video). If Timeform ratings are to be believed, he is in the thick of this at a big price.

Limitless 'Ambition' in Godolphin Mile?

by Heather Anderson

Champion trainer-elect Bhupat Seemar saddles a trio in the $1-million G2 Godolphin Mile Sponsored By Nakheel, the first Thoroughbred race on the card. Last year's winner, Secret Ambition (GB) (Exceed And Excel Aus}), is on a recovery mission after his six-length demolition job in 2021. The 9-year-old has only made two starts since his Dubai World Cup night triumph, which resulted in a second-place finish to the re-opposing Golden Goal (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire})-runner-up in the Godolphin Mile last term–in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 over track and trip on Jan. 14. The 1800-metre $20-million G1 Saudi Cup stretched his stamina reserves too far, and, after leading under pressure, he faded to seventh on Feb. 26. On Saturday he leaves from gate three.

Seemar stablemates Al Nefud (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), second to $12-million G1 Dubai World Cup entrant Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow) in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 on Feb. 4, and Tuz (Oxbow) also line up. The latter completed the trifecta behind Desert Wisdom (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Doug Watson's Mubakker (Speightstown) in the Mar. 5 G3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday.

The omnipresent royal blue of Godolphin is carried by two runners from the Saeed bin Suroor camp, and it is the listed winner Storm Damage (GB) (Night of Thunder {Ire}), who appears to have the most upside. Five-for-seven in his young career, the 4-year-old gelding has serious questions to answer, as this is his first try both on dirt and at the group level. Leaving from gate seven, he's won his last two starts, but both were over the local grass going 1400 metres on Feb. 11 and Mar. 5, respectively.

Group 2 winner Bathrat Leon (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) represents the phenomenally successful trainer Yoshito Yahagi, while Feb. 20 G1 February S. fourth Soliste Thunder (Jpn) (Toby's Corner) flies the flag of trainer Dalsuke Takayanagi. Rounding out the Japanese challenge is Full Flat (Speightstown), who has already displayed his liking for the desert, as he was the winner of the inaugural Saudi Derby for conditioner Hideyuki Mori in 2020.

Snapper Sinclair (City Zip), fourth in the 2021 edition and fellow Steve Asmussen trainee Bankit (Central Banker) have flown in from the States, while the Abdullah Mishriff barn is represented by Great Scot (GB) (Requinto {Ire}), who holds an important formline, as he was only a length behind subsequent Saudi Cup hero Emblem Road (Quality Road) going this trip in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 15.

All Eyes On Unbeaten Manobo in Dubai Gold Cup

By Bob Nastanovich

Since the creation of the Dubai World Cup night concept, which was inaugurated at nearby Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in 1996, the general idea has been to invite the world's best to take on Dubai's best. In large part, Dubai's best have been owned and raced by Godolphin. The $1-million G2 Dubai Gold Cup, a two-mile test on Meydan's turf course, has been won by Godolphin four times including the race's 2019 victor Cross Counter (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}).

The exciting Godolphin-owned, Charlie Appleby-trained Manobo (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) brings an undefeated five-for-five record into this year's Gold Cup and the 4-year-old is still improving judging by his effortless victory in G3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy on Feb. 18, his first run over Meydan's turf course.

Appleby, who had a banner year in 2021 culminating with three Breeders' Cup wins, rates Manobo as his best chance of a winner and it is difficult to see beyond the imposing, unexposed gelding in the 13-horse line-up. “We were all delighted with his first run in Dubai, it could not have gone any better,” said Appleby, who also trained Cross Counter.

If looking for a chink in Manobo's armour, he has never been tried at a trip of more than 15 furlongs, the distance he travelled over Longchamp's very soft turf course to win the G2 Prix Chaudenay on Oct. 2. In addition, Appleby also said this week, “I don't think he's a dour stayer, in fact I toyed with running him the G2 Dubai City Of Gold and maybe in time we'll come back in distance with him.”

Manobo's biggest challenge will likely come from the Japanese raider Stay Foolish (Jpn) (Stay Gold {Jpn}), a convincing wire-to-wire winner of the Feb. 26 G3 Longines Red Sea H. on the Saudi Cup card. Stay Foolish, who had never raced beyond 12 furlongs previously, relished the added distance on that occasion and drubbed an Irish Group 1 winner Sonnyboyliston (Ire) (Power {GB}) in the process. However, the 7-year-old globetrotter will have to step up further to fend off Manobo in this spot.

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