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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 April 2019

Dubai World Cup 2019: Satish Seemar hopes a few tweaks will see North America come flying out of the gates at Meydan

Zabeel Stables trainer says horse was spooked by loud speakers before last year's Dubai World Cup after having ear plugs removed

Zabeels Stables trainer Satish Seemar is hoping a few tweaks to North America's build up will see him come flying out of the gates at the 2019 Dubai World Cup. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Zabeels Stables trainer Satish Seemar is hoping a few tweaks to North America's build up will see him come flying out of the gates at the 2019 Dubai World Cup. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Satish Seemar has seen horse racing in the UAE grow from a few local meetings to staging the biggest night in horse racing during his 27 years in the country.

This year's prize fund for the Dubai World Cup is a whopping US$35 million (Dh129m), with the winner of the main event on Saturday, March 30 bagging a winner's cheque of $12 million.

The Zabeel Stables trainer had high hopes of collecting that cheque last year at Meydan when North America lined up as second favourite only behind American runner West Coast in the main event on the nine-race card.

Those hopes were quickly blown away, however, as North America missed the break at the starting barrier and went on to finish last of the 10 runners.

To rub salt into the wounds, Godolphin’s Thunder Snow, a horse that North America defeated by six lengths in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 in the trial for the Dubai World Cup three weeks earlier, won the race.

Seemar says a change of routine was to blame for North America's poor start, and vowed there would be no repeat of his poor start when he lines up for another crack at the Dubai World Cup at the end of the month.

“There was lots of mystery surrounding why he didn’t jump out of the gate as he normally does,” said Seemar, the longest serving trainer in the UAE since racing started under Rules in 1992.

“Everybody had their own theories of the horse. But we figured out what went wrong that night. We used earplugs on him and took it off before the start of the race.

“He was in Gate 2 while the others were being loaded. At Meydan, they have powerful loudspeakers and the horse got nervous.

“This year we haven’t used the earplugs. He’s got used to the sound and he ran two races [at Meydan] which he won impressively. We are also using a handler in the gate. That takes care of his problems, hopefully.”

Hopes are high in North America's camp that the ghosts of 2018 will be laid to rest come March 30. The seven-year-old has won both is races this season, taking the the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 over the 1,600m trip by nine lengths and the second leg of the race over 1,900m by more than two lengths.

“For him, a good start is important because he likes to dominate the running, which he does all the time,” said Seemar, the all-time leading trainer in the UAE with 810 winners and counting.

“We have had a good season and North America has had a good season going into the Dubai World Cup night.

“We have freshened him up this time by not running him in the third leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge. As everybody knows he runs well when fresh. So we are banking on that.”

Seemar believes this year’s race is wide open with no real favourites.

“If you really think about it there aren’t any hot favourites here this time. I know horses like Gunnevera, Yoshida and Seeking The Soul arriving from America, they are nice horses but not superstars," he said.

"We had already beaten Thunder Snow by six lengths in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 last year, but that day [2018 Dubai World Cup] any horse could have beaten us because of the bad luck. If everything had worked our way, the result would have been different.”

North America romped to victory in the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 at Meydan in January. Erika Rasmussen for The National
North America romped to victory in the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 at Meydan in January. Erika Rasmussen for The National

North America loves nothing more than to bowl along at the front and if he gets a favourable draw along the rails Seemar says it will be very hard for any horse to catch him in the form he has shown in his two starts this year.

“I would be happy if he can get a draw as close as possible to the rails,” added Seemar.

“He’s got good gate speed and anything from 1 to 7 would be a good draw. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky again.”

North America arrived at Zabeel Stables having failed to win any of his races under the Godolphin flag. Under new owner Imhamed Al Nagem, who purchased North America at the Dubai Sales in November 15, he picked up four wins on the trot before being sold to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov ahead of the 2018 Dubai World Cup.

Secret Ambition is Seemar’s other entry on the night and he runs in the Godolphin Mile for the second time.

“He’s an in-and-out horse,” Seemar said. “He runs a good race and follows up with an ordinary race.

“We are hoping he’ll run a good race. Again, the Mile is another race that’s quite open. I haven’t done my homework on the American horses in this race but we’ll see.”

Updated: March 23, 2019 11:59 AM

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