It’s an exciting time for all connections involved in the three Karaka graduates due to make their debut in Dubai. Group 1 winner Music Magnate (NZ) (Written Tycoon) has accepted his invitation to the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on the 31 March, while Singapore stakes winners Gilt Complex (NZ) (Gold Centre) and Bahana (NZ) (Elusive City) have already arrived in Dubai and tested the track ahead of their major assignments in March.
Group 1 Doomben Ten Thousand winner Music Magnate won his barrier trial at Rosehill Gardens on Monday 19 February in his preparation towards the Group 1 Sprint and Gilt Complex and Bahana had their first start over 2000m in Dubai on 8 February. The Singapore stayers will continue their campaigns and depending on their performances Gilt Complex could proceed to the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold on 10 March and Bahana could line up in a race on World Cup night.
This year, the Dubai World Cup Carnival runs from early January to March 10 with the racing action building towards the world’s richest race day. Highlighted with the 23rd running of the Dubai World Cup at Meydan, 31 March concludes the UAE season and boasts total prize purses of US$30 million.
Despite the long flight and unfamiliar racing conditions, Kiwi horses have performed to the highest levels in Dubai. Hong Kong Horse of the Year and Champion Stayer Vengeance of Rain (NZ) (Zabeel) claimed the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic Stakes while Joy and Fun (NZ) (Cullen) won the Group 3 Al Quoz Sprint Stakes also placing twice in the race after it received an upgrade to Group 1 status. Karaka graduate Gun Pit (Dubawi) is an eight-time winner in Hong Kong who laid it all on the track in Dubai to place second on the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Stakes.
Over the years, legendary Kiwi horses such as Sunline (NZ) (Desert Sun) and Seachange (NZ) (Cape Cross), and more recently Karaka graduates So You Think (NZ) (High Chaparral) and Ocean Park (NZ) (Thorn Park), prove themselves as highly credentialed Group 1 winners and headed to Dubai in attempts to replicate their form.
Sunline travelled over with nine Group 1 wins under her belt to place third in the Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Stakes; Seachange went with seven Group 1 wins for two respectable performances in the Group 2 Jebel Hatta Stakes and Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Stakes; So You Think had a record of eight Group 1 wins in New Zealand, Australia and England before he placed fourth in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup; while Ocean Park collected five Group 1 wins before his last career start in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Stakes.
New Zealand horses have performed to the highest level on the international stage and have an enviable track record of success throughout the southern hemisphere. Representatives of both Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum have recognised their value signing for horses at Karaka up to the value of $1.3 million.
Our Kiwi connections to the three Karaka horses taking on Dubai this season have given us a behind-the-scenes insight into their tactics.
Horse: Music Magnate
Trainer: Expat Kiwi Bjorn Baker
Q. How does it feel to have your first Group 1 winner now your first international runner?
It’s exciting. I have raced horses in Australasia for a while so it’s definitely a new step. I have seen some of the horses I have trained go on to good things in Hong Kong so it’s nice to have crack at Dubai. The racing world is getting ever smaller so no doubt I will run into some long-lost friends.
Funnily enough, I was in Dubai when Vengeance of Rain won. That was the last time I was there and hopefully I can go to Dubai twice to see two New Zealand-breds win.
Q. He won his trial at Rosehill Gardens on Monday 19 February. What is your strategy between now and the US$1 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on 31 March?
I think the race will suit him well, more than likely on a good track. He’s a high-class horse when he’s right. We will probably give him another trial in a couple of weeks. At the moment he couldn’t be any better – he’s really healthy and well.
He has a bit of residual fitness as he raced at the end of December and won at Randwick, so the main thing is to keep him ticking along and keep him happy. We will go over probably 11 days before the race.
Q. What needs to happen for you to race your horses more often in Dubai?
If you have the horse, the motto is we’ll travel. In Australia we are very lucky we have such good stake money. What it really comes down to is finding the right race and balancing out what is best for the horse.
Horse: Gilt Complex
Owners: Local couple Graham Mackie and Trish Dunell
Q. Gilt Complex has recently been crowned Champion Older Horse and Stayer in Singapore. What would be a good outcome in Dubai?
Just to be competitive. He is definitely a stayer – the Zabeel factor helps with that. He’s a lovely horse and settles in well anywhere. We’re just hoping to get to Dubai ourselves and have him at least being competitive. And actually, I think he will be.
He’s had a start already and we weren’t expecting too much – we can just put a line through that first race.
Q. You purchased him for just $10,000 and he has won more than $1.5m in prizemoney. What was is that you liked about him as a yearling?
Anna Scott bought him for us but I was going around looking at a lot of horses with her. He was a very baby looking horse but also very athletic looking. He won his first trial here in New Zealand as a two-year-old and really he just looked like a yearling.
Trainer: Expat Kiwi Steven Gray
Q. With the ultimate goal to have a start on World Cup night, Bahana had his first start over 2000m with fellow Kiwi-bred Gilt Complex. What have you taken away from his performance?
It wasn’t a very suitable lead up run as he drew wide and got trapped wide. It was hard to get a line on him because we just didn’t have things go his way, but he needed the race. He has done really well since and he’s running over 2000m again on the 1 March.
He will be much fitter and better for the race, and we just hope we get a better barrier draw.
Q. He was crowned Champion Stayer in Singapore in 2016 with back-to-back wins in the El Dorado Classic and Singapore Gold Cup that season. How do you compare the racing in Singapore to Dubai?
The stayers in Dubai are strong, but I don’t think the horses are any better. It’s a matter of getting them acclimatised and used to the place. The sprinters I noticed weren’t as strong in Dubai – I think the New Zealand and Australian sprinters would more than compete. When we look at the carnival races I’m not sure we’re good enough for those, but nothing ventured nothing gained.