Dubai: French stayer Vazirabad will attempt to pull-off what no horse has done in the history of the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors — win the 3,200 metre contest three years in a row.
Trained by Alain de Royer Dupre, the six-year-old son of German stallion Manduro faces 15 rivals as he bids to create UAE racing history.
And it certainly won’t be easy. Standing in his way are some of the world’s best stayer’s headed by Ascot Gold Cup (Group 1) hero, Big Orange and the talented Rare Rhythm, who is unbeaten in his last three starts including one at Meydan where he won the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy.
He only does the absolute minimum. His rider Eric Alloix knows him well. As soon as you put another rider on him, he will do more, so it’s the same guy.”
- Royer Duper | Trainer
Perhaps Vazirabad was unlucky on the occasion as his jockey, Christophe Soumillon, allowed William Buick to get the first run aboard Rare Rhythm.
Interestingly, 12 months ago, he suffered a similar defeat only to bounce back and win the Gold Cup in convincing fashion.
An imposing grey gelding Vazirabad has been pleasing de Royer Dupre with some smart work on the dirt track at Meydan Racecourse in the mornings.
“He gives me a good impression,” said the Frenchman, “He is calm and everything seems in order. He is a bit of an undemonstrative horse, but when he goes like this, on his own accord, it’s OK.
“He only ever does the absolute minimum. His rider Eric Alloix knows him well. As soon as you put another rider on him, he will do more, so it’s the same guy who always rides him.”
This has always been a very tough race but Natural Scenery is a tough horse who we expect to run well. He has to bring his best game to make an impression.”
- Saeed Bin Surour | Trainer
Big Orange has been a faithful servant for his trainer Michael Bell over the years delivering forthright performances every time he sets his foot on a race track,
However, Big Orange suffered from set-fast after working earlier this week, a condition that requires cutting back in exercise and feed, before putting in a final piece of work on Wednesday.
“That was a heartening sight,” said Bell. “The hour after the work was when we worry that the set-fast might return but he came back to the barn very, very well. That’s a relief. It’s stressful enough having runners in big races without this added stress.
“I’m very lucky that Gillian (Dolman), who travelled the horse, is very experienced. But in terms of condition, the horse is the best he has ever looked. We might do very little with him tomorrow. Last year he only had a lead out the day before the race,” he added.
“He seems fine this morning and we just hope the set-fast doesn’t reoccur, it happens after exercise. He didn’t do too much today but as long as he is OK later then he’ll have a nice breeze tomorrow. He’s great in his skin and has eaten everything. He loves the sun on his back and fast ground.”
Beside Rare Rhythm, Appleby saddles Frontiersman who his trainer hopes will see out the 3,200m trip on only his second try at the distance after chasing home stablemate Hawkbill on his only Meydan start.
“I hope he is still improving and has a good chance,” Appleby said. “We are kind of only back to where were at the end of his European campaign last year and his run over this distance at Wolverhampton was messy, but it was a good effort here last time out and he has been training well.”
Another interesting contender is Prince of who represents Newmarket trainer Charlie Fellowes. Prince Of Arran will have his fourth race at Meydan in the Dubai Gold Cup. After finishing runner-up to Los Barbados on his January debut he turned the tables the next time and Fellowes decided to tests the 5-year-old gelding in the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy where he fell apart over the last 400m.
“We fitted a visor and rode him more forward, but it didn’t work,” Fellowes said. “It’s a tough race and we’re under no illusions, but we have a realistic shout of making the top six and earning prize-money.”
Prince Of Arran will be partnered by Oisin Murphy for the first time as James Doyle, who has ridden him this year, will be aboard Frontiersman.
The visor is off and more patient tactics will be employed.
Others in the race are Dubai veteran Sheikhzayedroad and South African Derby hero Al Sahem.
Al Sahem was fifth in the Dubai City Of Gold last time out over 1m4f, and this trip may bring about the best in the four-year-old.
2. Rare Rhythm
3. Big Orange.