JJ The Jet Plane kicks off a campaign which may see him contest Newmarket's July Cup via the Dubai Golden Shaheen and Singapore's top sprint, the Krisflyer.
JJ The Jet Plane will be a big attraction at Meydan
DUBAI // JJ The Jet Plane tonight kicks off a campaign which may see him contest Newmarket's July Cup via the Dubai Golden Shaheen and Singapore's top sprint, the Krisflyer.
The South African sprinter is a highlight of the two-day meeting at Meydan Racecourse that also features three Group 2 races as well as the Meydan Masters jockey's competition.
JJ The Jet Plane will be making his debut on Tapeta and a successful run will see him aimed at the Group 1 US$2 million (Dh7.34m) Golden Shaheen.
The gelding, who endured a below par spell in England, came back to his Grade 1-winning South African form by claiming the Hong Kong Sprint in December - a race regarded as one of the classiest sprints of 2010.
Originally trained in South Africa by part-owner Lucky Houdalakis, who purchased the impeccably bred yet "ugly" son of Jet Master at a steal for just $70,000, JJ The Jet Plane's preparation was passed to South African supremo, Mike de Kock for the horse's international campaign.
"Mike has the set-up and the knowledge of training a horse for Dubai," said Houdalakis, who is now back as trainer.
De Kock and JJ The Jet Plane claimed the then Group 3 Al Quoz Sprint; the race has now been upgraded to a World Cup day contest. After that success he went to Newmarket with de Kock but he failed to live up to his hype, and was unable to improve after winning his Listed debut at Windsor.
The training of the horse then passed to Richard Hannon, the English handler, but he still could not recover his winning form.
Houdalakis said his runner was treated unfairly by England's racing media.
"I don't think he did that badly," he said. "He was placed in two Group 1s with Mike. And if everything goes well here we would look at Singapore and then another crack at the July Cup."
By the time JJ arrived back in South Africa, Houdalakis said, he was not a happy horse.
"When I got him back he needed a rest. He was a tired horse and his feet were in bad shape."
Houdalakis rested him before bringing him slowly into training and eventually into the winner's circle after a seven-month layoff. The horse won two high-class South African sprints before making his triumphant trip to Hong Kong.
Pierre Strydom, who has not lost on the horse in eight starts, is in the saddle again tonight. "Pierre has eight unbeaten rides on our Jet Plane, but I tell him that he only rode him in two of them, the rest of the time he was flying business class - we will know whether he needs to be a pilot or not after this race," Houdalakis said.
JJ The Jet Plane is the highest-rated contender in a race that also features Dhruba Selvaratnam's Alo Pura and Alazeyab, trained by Ali Rashid al Raihe.