x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai World Cup may join Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series

The Dubai World Cup could be included in a revamped Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series next year after organisers of the self-styled world championships conceded they have struggled to deal with the issue of African Horse Sickness.

The spectacle that is the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai may be joining the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series. Sarah Dea / The National
The spectacle that is the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai may be joining the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series. Sarah Dea / The National

The Dubai World Cup could be included in a revamped Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series next year after organisers of the self-styled world championships conceded they have struggled to deal with the issue of African Horse Sickness.

The Breeders’ Cup two-day meeting was brought to a close on Sunday when the formerly retired jockey Gary Stevens sealed an extraordinary comeback year by guiding Mucho Macho Man to victory in the Classic at Santa Anita.

Stevens also won the Distaff on Saturday morning with Beholder, and both horses gained entry into their respective races by winning one of 67 qualifying races known as “Win And You’re In” contests.

In 2012, the Breeders’ Cup announced 73 such races, which spanned 10 countries, but the series, now in its seventh year, was scaled back this season to focus more on extra travel allowances, which stand at US$40,000 (Dh147,000) for challengers from outside North America.

One of the extra 13 races added last year was the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, a Group 1 race staged at Kenilworth in South Africa in January. Variety Club was this year’s winner and was pencilled in to arrive at Mike De Kock’s Newmarket stables yesterday after a tortuous quarantine that started in August. Variety Club, the South African Horse of the Year trained by Joey Ramsden, is to head to Dubai for the World Cup Carnival starting in January.

It is clear that next year’s winner of the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate would struggle to get to Santa Anita next November in a fit state to take part in the two-day Breeders’ Cup event, a fact not lost on the Breeders’ Cup president and chief executive.

Craig Fravel said the Breeders’ Cup has “been trying to work with the US Department of Agriculture to get a little leeway in terms of African Horse Sickness and the quarantine requirement,” he said. “We don’t see any relief on the horizon.”

Executives from Meydan Racecourse and the Emirates Equestrian Federation were at Santa Anita over the weekend to discuss the matter, and Fravel said international racecourses had applied to be part of the Challenge Series for next year.

“We’re very pleased with the way horsemen have responded to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, and in particular, the number of race tracks around the world that have basically come to us, asking to be part of the series,” he said.

“We’re going to continue to evaluate where we can be most effective, where we can work more closely with not only foreign but domestic race tracks and hopefully expand the programme.”

The Dubai World Cup has historically been a race considered for US horses after they have won the Classic.

However, non-US horses would become the main beneficiaries from such a move.

The inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996 was won by Cigar, the previous year’s Classic winner, and Invasor augmented his 2006 Classic victory the following season with a win at Nad Al Sheba for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid. Steve Asmussen’s Curlin was the last horse to complete the double, in 2008.

John Velazquez, the 2005 Dubai World Cup winner, remained in hospital last night after reports said surgery to remove his spleen was required following his fall in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Saturday.

The rider, 41, who rode Roses In May to victory at Nad Al Sheba, fell from Secret Compass, who fractured her leg and was later put down on the track.

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