DWC Carnival Notes: Monday, February 21, 2018
Forever Unbridled out to Make History; Hong Kong’s Classic Emperor Ready for Dubai Debut; Drafted Delivering on Promise
FOREVER UNBRIDLED OUT TO MAKE HISTORY
No filly or mare has ever won the Group 1 US$10 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline, but trainer Dallas Stewart knows a few things about good fillies and mares capable of beating the best males at the top level. A former assistant to iconic American conditioner, ‘The Coach’ D. Wayne Lukas, Stewart was integral to the development of 1987 Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning filly Winning Colors, whom he also galloped in the mornings, as well as Lady’s Secret, who defeated males a year prior in Saratoga’s Whitney Handicap (G1) en route to being crowned Horse of the Year.
As a head trainer, Stewart, 58, has trained his fair share of top fillies, including Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Unbridled Elaine and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever, and it is with the latter’s daughter, Forever Unbridled, that he holds a serious claim to victory in the Dubai World Cup this year. Like Unbridled Elaine and last year’s Dubai World Cup victor Arrogate, Forever Unbridled is an offspring of Unbridled’s Song. She is also a sister to G1 winner Unbridled Forever, so expectations have been as broad as the sizeable shoulders with which her sire often stamps his best babies.
“She’s as good as any I’ve ever been around,” Stewart said. “I’ve been around some great ones like Winning Colors and Lady’s Secret, too. I won’t say that she’s better because good is good. It’s like (NFL players) Tom Brady or Drew Brees. They’re both great quarterbacks who have done great things. She’s definitely a quarterback.”
The three-time G1 winner has earned $3,186,880 in her career and is fresh off her biggest victory, the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in early November. She is currently preparing for her invasion of Dubai at her winter headquarters of Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, Louisiana.
At the turn of the year, worry began to swirl among fans regarding her Dubai World Cup prospects, as she had only one breeze (in mid-December) and did not compete in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), a race that was originally on the Charles Fipke homebred’s radar. Much to her supporters’ delight, she returned to the recorded work tab on February 3rd with an 800m drill in 49.40 seconds – a sharp time over a Fair Grounds surface known for its ability to get horses fit. She then shot back six days later with a 1000m breeze in 1:01 flat, which was nearly a bullet (the fastest of the morning at that distance) of 39 works. A week later, on February 16th, she whistled through a 1200m work in 1:12.40 at the same New Orleans oval that prepared Gun Runner for his game runner-up victory in the 2017 Dubai World Cup.
“She’s never left training,” Stewart said. “She’s right on schedule. She’s been right here the whole time and hasn’t missed a day of training, other than a couple days that the track froze and when there wasn’t training on Christmas. Other than that, she’s been out there every day.”
The 6-year-old star mare, who will likely ship in about 10 days out from the 2000m race, will be attempting said distance for the first time in her career. In fact, she has never raced beyond the 1800m of her previous six starts, but she has five victories from eight career tries at that trip.
“I think she’ll love the extra distance,” Stewart said. “You never know until you race, of course, but she acts like it and she has plenty of stamina. You never know about the boys, but the best I’ve seen is Winning Colors and, like I said, she’s as good as she was. She’s looking great. Like an amazon.”
Forever Unbridled would be Stewart’s first runner in Dubai, but jockey John Velazquez won the Dubai World Cup in 2005 with Roses in May at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse. Fipke has kept a few horses in Dubai over the last couple years with Doug Watson, including Bee Jersey, who was 15th in last year’s UAE Derby (G2).
In 17 starts, Forever Unbridled has eight victories and has been in the top three 15 times. In 2017, she was crowned America’s champion dirt mare after racing just thrice, but winning all three – the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) in June carrying top weight, Personal Ensign (G1) over dual champion Songbird in August and aforementioned Breeders’ Cup, where she defeated six G1 winners and three champions.
While no filly or mare has won the Dubai World Cup, Japan’s champion mare To the Victory did finish second in 2001 behind Captain Steve.
Forever Unbridled is aiming toward becoming the first filly or mare to ever win the Dubai World Cup, picture DRC Breeders' Cup
HONG KONG’S CLASSIC EMPEROR READY FOR DUBAI DEBUT
Hong Kong’s first runner of the Dubai World Cup Carnival will be an intriguing one on Thursday at Meydan Racecourse. Classic Emperor, a highly touted dirt horse in said racing district, has shipped in and appears to be thriving for trainer Chris So and owner Li Fung Lok. Rated 103, the miler son of Medaglia d’Oro sports a career record of 6-3-4 from 28 starts and exits three strong runs, including a win in a Class 2 handicap at Sha Tin on January 13th.
So, one of the top trainers in Hong Kong, was on hand Wednesday morning to watch his horse train ahead of his first local test the following evening. With an eye on the Godolphin Mile (G2) on March 31st, he will get a good gauge on his horse’s chances when taking on 2017 Godolphin Mile runner-up Ross in Race 6, the $125,000 District One Mediterranean over 1600m.
“In Hong Kong, we don’t have much for horses rated over 100 on the dirt, so that’s one of the reasons we brought him here,” So said. “He’s doing quite well. We wanted to send him here and the racing style is more suitable for him because he’s handy and can go forward or wait. We are quite sure he can handle the track here.”
Classic Emperor went through a routine gallop on Thursday over the main track at Meydan and appeared on his toes and ready to compete – a good sign for any shipper. If he is to be successful on Thursday, he will do so around a left-handed turn, which is something he has yet to do in a race.
“It’s hard to handle the turn,” So explained. “We sent him to a left-turned track for 10 days in Hong Kong to train over it. With training here, he would have had almost a month training over the left turn.
“We’ll see how he runs,” he concluded. “Our target is World Cup (night). If he does well and runs okay, we may skip Super Saturday and go right into the race. If not, we will probably race him once more on Super Saturday.”
Hong Kong jockey Derek Leung will ride the 6-year-old gelding from post two on Thursday.
DRAFTED DELIVERING ON PROMISE
Hopes have long been high for Drafted, but it is only now that racing fans are seeing that promise flourish. An obscurely bred gray son of Canadian turf sprinter Field Commission, the previously Godolphin-owned and Eoin Harty-trained 4-year-old gelding is now in the care of trainer Doug Watson for Misty Hollow Farm.
As a juvenile for his previous connections, he broke a track record at first asking, running 900m at Keeneland in 50.45 seconds in April of 2016. Ambitiously spotted at Royal Ascot next out, he ultimately finished 17th of 22 in the Windsor Castle Stakes before returning to America and finishing sixth in Del Mar’s Best Pal Stakes (G2).
Off 16 months and now with Watson, he was 12th in his UAE unveiling on December 7th. That effort preceded two consecutive impressive wins over 1200m and 1400m, with the latter coming at the Carnival on February 1st in dominant style over next-out winner Yalta.
“He’s in great shape,” Watson said. “He had a nice little time between races and has filled out. He’s a taller horse and you don’t see it until you’re up next to him. He does everything right for us and hopefully he’ll improve again Thursday. We’ll let him run at his own speed early in the race and then hopefully he’ll come running again.
“We got him at the Godolphin sale in September,” Watson continued. “He’s been very easy to train and has been very sound for us, touch wood. If he can win a couple Carnival races, hopefully there’s the possibility of the Godolphin Mile with a horse like him. It would be great for the owners.”
QUICK HITS: Long rumoured to be among those possibly pointing toward the Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (G1), American multiple graded stakes winner Imperial Hint got back on the work tab in a big way on February 10th, working a bullet (best-of-36) 800m in 47.40 seconds. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) runner-up is based at Tampa Bay Downs in western Florida… The Aga Khan’s long-winded duo of Vazirabad and Canndera continue to impress in their morning gallops since arriving earlier this month at Meydan. The former is preparing for an unprecedented hat-trick in the Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors (G2) and will prep in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) on March 1st… Music Magnate was a one-sided winner of his barrier trial at Rosehill in Australia this past week. The G1-winning turf sprinter will come into the Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments (G1) as one of the key players, if all goes well with his preparation. He is scheduled to ship to Dubai on March 20th… Holding Gold was a smart winner of his prep in New Orleans for top American trainer Mark Casse. The G2-winning 5-year-old took the Colonel Power Stakes over 1100m on turf. Casse has reported that he hopes to receive an invite to the Al Quoz Sprint, which would be the son of Lonhro’s first try on a straight course.