Dubai: It’s 5am and bring on the early birds. A flock of Japanese and American horses arrive on track in the darkness before dawn.
Two World Cup contenders and half brothers appear together, and I found it almost spooky that the oh so quirky Lani, who seems to hate other horses, was quite relaxed in the company of his sibling Awardee.
Vivlos/Yasuo Tomomichi — Dubai Turf — appears to be training well while I am impressed with the way Epicharis/Kiyoshi Hagiwara — UAE Derby — moves on the dirt track. Real Steel/Yoshita Yahagi looks tremendous and will be ready to defend his crown in the Dubai Turf.
Mind Your Biscuits/Chad Summers — Golden Shaheen — is an impressive horse to look at, very powerfully built and does not look the simplest horse to ride in the mornings but his pilot does a neat job of it. St. Joe Bay/Peter Miller — Golden Shaheen — is loved by his rider who makes a big fuss of him every day and I’d say he’s thriving on it. Mick Channons Opal Tiara — Dubai Turf looks a touch of class out there, her beautiful action coping comfortably with the track.
Second set 7am
Gunrunner/Steve Asmusssen — World Cup — is a stand out for me, even the pony that has travelled with him and accompanies him to the track is a cracker. Assistant Trainer Scott Blasi does not take his eyes of his charge from the back of the pony that carries him around the track at a fair speed. The Brazilian bred Vettori Kin/Kenny McPeek is another doing all his exercise in a tidy manner.
One of the most outstanding animals to see is Sharp Azteca — Jorge Navarro — Godolphin Mile, he looks like a Samurai wrestler with muscles on muscles. Dundonnell/Casper Fownes — Golden Shaheen — continues to behave calm and relaxed.
The same couldn’t be said for Richard’s Boy/Peter Miller — Al Quoz Sprint who arrived at the track in a wash of sweat which considering the coolness of the morning was a concern although he appeared to dry off while working so maybe its nothing to worry about. Stallwalkin Dude/David Jacobson — Golden Shaheen — is a plain and unattractive looking animal whose action looks a touch ungainly enhanced by his leading with his outside lead on the turn. Im sure this will all change come raceday and there has never been an ugly horse in the winners circle.
There was only one star of the show on Monday and the accolade goes to Bob Baffert, trainer of World Cup pair Arrogate and Hoppertunity.
He entertained the media corps for one and a half hours never once frowning at yet another camera or microphone or even silly question thrown his way. To listen to him speak is a pleasure, especially hearing his fondness for the horses.
On Arrogate he said “ he’s a lanky long striding horse and bringing him here is an added pressure to me but he’s here now so its too late to turn back “.
The Meydan track to Santa Anita, patiently explaining how at Meydan they have to race harder to get a good position.
Of Hoppertunity he said “Hoppy is like the barn pet, he always does his best and brings back a big fat cheque but I have to tell you he is training better than he ever has done”. Strong words from the great man and I could see why the media love him as he regaled them with stories and anecdotes barely ever repeating himself, a feat in itself.