DUBAI // As far as consistency goes, the little-known Turkish runner Pan River must be on a par with any big-name Dubai Sheema Classic contender. Success on Saturday night would make him the first Turkish horse to claim a World Cup-day victory. Despite competition from the likes of Spanish Moon, Youmzain, Quijano, Buena Vista and Eastern Anthem, all Group One winners, a glance through Turkish Jockey Club statistics reveals a horse that boasts his own top-tier form.
Pan River has never finished worse than fifth. From 26 runs, the handsome bay won 10 and was runner-up an equal amount of times. He claimed a Group Three, two Group Two and two Group One races in Turkey over distances from a mile to 1m4f, the Sheema Classic distance. In Dubai this season his fine form continued with a win on his debut in a handicap and a second to Godolphin's Campanologist in the Group Two Dubai City of Gold race on Super Thursday.
His success and subsequent invite to the US$5million (Dh18.3m) World Cup-day contest came as no surprise to his trainer Ahyan Kasar, who always knew he had a serious horse after winning the 2008 Gazi Derby. "He is a Derby winner over a mile-and-a-half at home. He is consistent and we hoped he would travel well," he said. The horse was not upset by his first trip abroad. He had just over two weeks to settle before his first race when he was ridden by another consistent name in Turkish racing: the jockey Selim Kaya.
Kaya, based at Musabah al Muhairi's Dubai yard in the hopes of making a name for himself outside Turkey, has Pan River to thank for his first UAE win. "He is very well and doing everything we hoped. He likes the surface, goes well on the turf and trains well on Tapeta. We couldn't be happier," he added. Pan River is not the first Turkish horse to enjoy success in the UAE. Win River Win ran home a seven-and-a-quarter-length second in the 2006 Godolphin Mile while Ribella won the 2005 Cape Verdi and Sabirli, a 2006 turf handicap.