x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sheema Classic is truly an international affair

In terms of the prize money and prestige the Dubai World Cup holds the centre stage but in terms of an actual contest the Dubai Sheema Classic appears to be the most exciting with a truly international line-up.

Magician, here with jockey Ryan Moore on their way to winning the Breeders' Cup Turf horse race at Santa Anita Park in California on November 2, 2013, is one of the many international runners in the Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night. Mark J Terrill / AP Photo
Magician, here with jockey Ryan Moore on their way to winning the Breeders' Cup Turf horse race at Santa Anita Park in California on November 2, 2013, is one of the many international runners in the Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night. Mark J Terrill / AP Photo

DUBAI // In terms of the prize money and prestige the Dubai World Cup holds the centre stage but in terms of an actual contest the Dubai Sheema Classic appears to be the most exciting with a truly international line-up.

The 15 entries represent horses trained in England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Qatar, United States, and the UAE, battling over the 2,410m distance on turf for a share of the US$5 million (Dh18.36m) prize.

In the mix are some of the best middle-distance runners from around the world: the Aidan O’Brien-trained Magician, Japan’s champion mare Gentildonna, the 2012 winner Cirrus des Aigles, and Dunaden, winner of the Melbourne Cup and Hong Kong Vase in 2011.

Magician, who was victorious in the Breeder’s Cup Turf in the United States and the Irish 2000 Guineas, will be ridden by the trainer’s son Joseph O’Brien.

“He is in good form, he’s an uncomplicated horse and will like the fast ground. He won the Breeders’ Cup from off the pace and that’s probably the way to ride him,” the jockey said.

The trainer is double handed in the race with Festive Cheer as he attempts to emulate his stable’s success from last year with St Nicholas Abbey.

“I think Festive Cheer has generally been overlooked and I think he has a massive chance,” Joseph O’Brien said.

Japanese Fillies Triple Crown champion Gentildonna, who was second last year, is a two-time winner of the Japan Cup and was the Japanese Horse of the Year in 2012, represents the Far East.

Sei Ishizaka, her trainer, thinks she is in better form thanlast year.

“She worked more powerfully,” he said. “She showed dramatic change with her condition from last year when she was in Dubai and worked more powerfully ahead of the race. She also showed the good sign that she got ready for the race.

“I will go into the race with confidence. She is a very important prospective mare. Hopefully she runs well and brings a good result in her final career year.”

Corine Barande-Barbe, the trainer of Cirrus des Aigles, wished the race was on Friday rather than Saturday after her stable star cantered around the all-weather track.

“The plan was for him to go a bit slower this morning [yesterday] but he had other ideas,” said Barande-Barbe. “He is getting better every day out here and is so well this morning that I wish the race was tonight [Friday]. My heart is full of joy.”

Mikel Delzangles, the trainer of Dunaden, arrived in Dubai in time to watch the globe-trotting eight-year-old bay son of Nicobar canter on the all-weather track.

“He showed everyone that he was happy,” he said. “He knows how things work. He continues to be in good form, at least in the morning he gives us the impression that he is still as good as ever. Now we will see what he will do in the race, which is very competitive.”

Denim And Ruby is Japan’s second runner and her trainer Katsuhiko Sumii said the filly is in great shape. “There is no issue about her condition at the moment,” he said. “She is eating up well. I wanted to get the feel of her condition after the gallop on Friday. She had a quick response only with a gee-up. Everything has gone well and we’re all set for race day.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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