x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bin Suroor's work is never done

A daunting programme for the Emirati handler, who is currently in Australia for the Melbourne Cup before he flies to America for the Breeders's Cup meeting.

It is a busy week for Saeed bin Suroor, the Godolphin trainer.

The Emirati handler is currently in Australia putting the final touches to the Dubai-based operation's twin-pronged assault on tomorrow morning's 150th Emirates Melbourne Cup before he flies to America for the lucrative Breeders' Cup meeting at Churchill Downs on Friday and Saturday.

It is a daunting programme, but it is what the 41-year-old signed up for when he was recruited for the 1995 season to the international stable of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

"I'm very busy," bin Suroor told The National. "I'm heading straight for the Breeders' Cup after the Melbourne Cup."

Bin Suroor saddles Campanologist and Holberg at Melbourne's 122,736-capacity Flemington Racecourse for the contest trademarked in Australia as "the race that stops a nation".

The race has been a frustrating event for Godolphin, with second-place finishes for Central Park (1999) and Give The Slip (2001), while Beekeeper finished third in 2002 and Crime Scene was cruelly denied by three-quarters of a length last year by Shocking.

"The Melbourne Cup is a great race," said bin Suroor. "We love to support racing in Australia. It means a lot to us - it's the best two-mile race in the world."

The Group 1 handicap is Australia's richest prize in sport, boasting prize-money of A$6.175m (Dh22,308,729).

The race acts as a cornerstone to the mammoth 10-race Melbourne Cup day, which acts as a showpiece to the Melbourne Cup Carnival, a racing festival which is spread over four days and commenced on Saturday with the Victoria Derby.

Of the 24-runner field tomorrow, the Godolphin pair spearhead a European raiding party totalling seven, all of whom have been stationed at the Werribee International Horse Centre.

Both Holberg and Campanologist entered pre-export quarantine at the end of September, and were required to go through with a 14-day post-arrival quarantine when they touched down on October 12 after a gruelling 28-hour journey from Britain.

"They travelled well," bin Suroor said. "The quarantine is not an issue. The process is the same all over the world; in America, Hong Kong, Singapore - it's not an excuse."

Two of the European horses, Americain and Manighar, took in a prep run in Australia, as did Crime Scene last year when trained by bin Suroor, but this time the trainer always intended for his horses to race fresh.

"We didn't want a prep run because you have to get to Australia three weeks earlier. That was not the plan," he said. "We've had the Melbourne Cup in mind for these horses for some time - since the beginning of the season, or perhaps earlier. There are hundreds of ways to prepare a horse for this race so you've got to stick to the plan."

Heavy rain drenched the 90,361 dedicated racegoers on Victoria Derby day, and soft conditions are not expected to trouble bin Suroor's duo.

"Campanologist is a dual Group 1 winner this year. He won on soft ground in Germany, so the rain here should not be a problem. Holberg is drawn in stall 10, which is a good draw and should help him. Campanologist is drawn worse in stall 19, but he's versatile and can be ridden in different ways."

Frankie Dettori will ride Holberg, having guided the bay son of Halling in all four of his starts this season, while Kerrin McEvoy will partner Campanologist.

McEvoy rode for Godolphin in England for four years from 2004, and is Sheikh Mohammed's No 1 rider in Australia. The 30-year-old won the Melbourne Cup in 2000 on the Mike Moroney-trained Brew, and partnered Beekeeper and Crime Scene to their near-misses.

The Australian has had only a handful of rides since fracturing his vertebra in a fall at Gosford on June 23, but finished third on the Sheikh Mohammed-owned Retrieve in the Victoria Derby.

Sheikh Mohammed was present on Saturday and will be watching tomorrow morning, something of which bin Suroor is acutely aware. And yet despite Godolphin having eight runners at the Breeders' Cup, bin Suroor seems unfazed by all the pressure.

"We have runners all over the world," he said. "I'm always going to America - there and back - we have so many horses. When you have so many runners it is all about the small details."

 

sports@thenational.ae