Dubai World Cup: Al Nefud has his own Secret Ambition

The battle-hardened Secret Ambition embarks on a mission to defend his Godolphin Mile title


James Jose

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Published: Fri 25 Mar 2022, 9:04 PM

Some of the regular faces will line up at the starting gates in what will be a full house of 16 runners for the Group 2 Godolphin Mile, none more so than Secret Ambition, who will embark on his title defence.

But the battle-hardened nine-year-old veteran will have a target on his back from multiple challengers, including from his own stable.

Record nine-time UAE Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea notched an impressive victory with Secret Ambition 12 months ago, a commanding six lengths winner over the American Doug Watson-trained Golden Goal.

But O’Shea won’t be at the controls this time with the affable Irishman electing to ride Al Nefud. And Secret Ambition’s main challenge will come from his Zabeel stablemate when they go for broke over what should be an eight-furlong cracker on dirt.

Al Nefud, who was purchased at the Racing in Dubai Sale last September, has been nothing short of impressive, emerging triumphant on two of his three starts so far. But in what should be an ominous warning for the rest of the field, Al Nefud comes into this contest after finishing second to Hot Rod Charlie, a Dubai World Cup contender, in Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan in February.

And while it looks like a two-way battle with last year’s runner-up Golden Goal and Tuz, another from the Zabeel Stables thrown into the mix, Bhupat Seemar, who is basking in the glory of a sensational first season as trainer, admitted it was tough to pick between two admirably good horses in Secret Ambition and Al Nefud.

“I can’t split them,” said Seemar.

Bhupat also gave an analogy from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and likened it to a tussle between the stalwarts Michael Jordan and Lebron James.

“Secret Ambition is this old warrior and now he’s ready. He was bucking and kicking and it’s good to see a nine-year-old do that. I think with a good ride and a good draw he’s going to run well as he’s so tough and genuine,” Seemar said of Secret Ambition, who will break from Gate 3.

On the contrary, Al Nefud, he said, is a young guy who is knocking on the door.

“Al Nefud is this new kid in town and has a world of talent, so it’ll be like (Michael) Jordan and (Lebron) James,” reckoned Seemar.

He also revealed that running Al Nefud in the $12 (Dh44.08) million showpiece did cross the mind but decided against it because he felt that the four-year-old from the illustrious Dubawi was perhaps not ready to sink his teeth in a big race like the Dubai World Cup, just yet.

“We did talk about it and, in hindsight, I think it was a good decision to run in the Mile rather than the big race as that race is so strong and I think mentally, more than anything, he might not have been ready for it,” Seemar explained.

“He just broke his maiden about two months ago and he’s already running on World Cup day. A month ago, I was thinking ‘why are we running in the Godolphin Mile’ but now I think it’s the right choice,” he said.

Tuz completes Seemar’s triumvirate in the race and the handler felt that the five-year-old son of Oxbow, has improved over time and could spring up a big race.

“What I’m seeing of him at the moment is that he’s improved off his last two runs and I think he’ll probably run a really big race,” Seemar said of Tuz, who finished 10th in the same race last year.

An interesting sub-plot to the race is the tussle between O’Shea and Antonio Fresu, who are going toe to toe for the spoils in the UAE Jockeys’ Championship. While O’Shea rides Al Nefud, Secret Ambition will be the mount of Italian Fresu. William Buick partners Tuz.

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