There was a huge change in the atmosphere at Meydan Racecourse on Friday morning when, a few minutes before 5 am an entourage of Japanese connections, cameras primed, converged on the concrete apron that serves as a trackwork viewing venue.
I have had this little spot almost to myself this week, save for a few assistant trainers and the outriders.
Even the young lady in The Loop coffee shop, a very welcome addition, sensed the change in the mood as she hurried to keep the flow of our favourite frothy-topped beverages coming.
The drop in temperature and a nice breeze made for a pleasant few hours. On the dot of five, the procession of Japanese Dubai World Cup runners proceeded to the main track. They make a very exotic-looking crew, bedecked in some jazzy colour combinations of bridles, ear covers, and various accessories.
I will speak more on the Japanese runners in the coming days.
For the first time this year, they wore the addition of the World Cup saddle cloths, a different colour depicting each race with their name on it; Pink for the UAE Derby, Gold for the Golden Shaheen, and Red for the World Cup itself, and so on.
I think it is these that make one’s heart quicken a bit as realization kicks in that we are coming close to something special.
Meanwhile, Dubai World Cup’s favourite Life Is Good, fresh out of 48 hours quarantine, came out on his own with work rider Amelia Green. An impressive winner of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream Park in America on his most recent start, Life Is Good took in a quiet lap of the track and headed home just as quietly, looking every bit the professional he is.
Turkish runner Burgas, who lines up in the $6million Dubai Sheema Classic over 2,400 metres, may well be up against it over here but he looks a smart performer in the morning.
Argentine’s Mirinaque, Argentine’s Dubai Gold Cup hopeful, who was fourth in the Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap in Saudi last month, is a good stamp and moves very well. But he gives his rider a horrendous time and, this morning, there was no improvement. In fact, he managed to get his tongue tie off and went around the track with his mouth wide open, tongue clearly over the top of his bit and looking very ungainly.
I expect his trainer Maria Christina Munoz, who was watching trackside, was none too pleased.
America’s Get Smokin, the 2021 winner of the G3 Tampa Bay Stakes, was another horse having his first trip out from the quarantine barn. The Mark Casse-trained son of Get Stormy bounced onto the track with great enthusiasm, sweating a little, his bright and bouncy stride taking him two laps around the track. Hopefully, he let off a bit of steam and will relax from now on ahead of his start in Saturday’s Al Quoz Sprint.
American handler Bill Mott, most notable for training inaugural Dubai World Cup hero Cigar, is set to start Gilded Age in the UAE Derby. And what an impressive-looking son of Medaglia d’Oro he is. A winner of a Churchill Downs maiden last November and a moderate third in a Grade 3 since, he could progress to become a decent competitor.
Leading Dubai World Cup contender Hot Rod Charlie looks like a cauldron starting to bubble up and tomorrow promises to be exciting; where we will be watching him in his final serious workout before D-day.
The author is a former Derby-winning handler and the mother of world-renowned jockeys, James and Sophie Doyle