I went back to South Africa last week to supervise things at home where we still have a large string of horses and a lot to plan ahead for. I also had an interest in a horse who ran at the Cheltenham Festival in the UK which was not entirely expected - he only just scraped in but Thundering Star ran very well for a long way in the ultra competitive Coral Cup Handicap. Being a novice (ie has not won a hurdle race) it was a great effort from a horse who served us well on the flat in South Africa where he was a Group 1 winner. He also took us to Royal Ascot last year where we ran him in the Ascot Gold Cup behind the mighty Yeats.
Going home and Cheltenham diversions obviously helps us change focus and perhaps even relax a bit prior to the big Dubai World Cup meeting next week. We nearly won the big race at Jebel Ali in my absence with Frosty Secret who was denied by the narrowest of margins in the Jebel Ali Sprint and Brave Tin Soldier, who will represent the team in the Godolphin Mile on the big card next week, ran a superb prep race in the same contest.
It has been well documented this week that Eagle Mountain, our Group 1 winner in Hong Kong at the end of last year, will again miss the Sheema Classic; a pelvic injury ruled him out last year and he has damaged a ligament this time. That is racing and we know at the start of January the chances of getting 40 horses through the campaign totally unscathed are remote. However, he is probably the only major setback and, seeing as we caught the problem nice and early, with all luck he will be back racing in Europe in not too long but will be given plenty of time to recuperate if he needs it. He will be back, do not worry.
Asiatic Boy, Inshallah, will still lead the team next Saturday and surely represents our best chance in a Dubai World Cup to date. Victory Moon was third in when, in all honesty, that was as good as we could have hoped for behind the American duo Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia D'Oro. Last year, Asiatic Boy was second behind the irrepressible Curlin who, in hindsight, we did well to get that close to. There is no Curlin this year though and Sheikh Hamdan's Albertus Maximus looks the one we have to beat as things stand. There will be a few more interesting contenders emerging the next day or so and we all await that final runners list with great interest.
Archipenko and Bankable are going to give us a strong hand in the Dubai Duty Free, a race in which we have done well in the past and, arguably, 'Archie' should have won last year. We did win the Sheema Classic last year (despite Eagle Mountain's absence) and Front House, King of Rome and Macarthur gave us three decent chances this time. No World Cup night races are easy to win - we all know that - but our horses have been campaigned to peak next Saturday night and have been here all year. They are nicely acclimatised and used to the conditions - how big an advantage that is (or isn't) we will only find out next week.
It is Wednesday now - that basically means 10 more mornings or hoping the horses pull out sound - or for some trainers - nine more sleepless nights before the World Cup meeting. Hopefully I will not be one of them, though the adrenaline is of course starting to flow before the big night! firstname.lastname@example.org