'If a horse is able to run his race, he can turn out to be quite competitive'
Most of the American raiders to have emerged victorious at the Dubai World Cup, have usually arrived after winning some of the top dirt in the United States.
A couple of ones from recent memory, the Art Sherman-trained California Chrome had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, while the late Arrogate, saddled by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, had clinched the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
And Arrogate’s scintillating run in 2017, where he missed the break and was dead last before decimating the field, is now part of horse racing folklore.
But freshly-minted champion Mystic Guide will be doing it the other way round, though. After landing the Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Racecourse on a pitch-black but a full moon Saturday night, the Godolphin colt will now go out to conquer the land of the free.
Trainer Michael Stidham’s four-year-old charge had set foot in the UAE with a Grade 2 and Grade 3 win. He now flies back home across the pond, as the undisputed Dubai World Cup champion. And many more successful campaigns beckons for Mystic Guide, before he walks into the twilight of his career.
Stidham, who has been a trainer for four decades now and who saddled his first winner in 1980, reckoned that the world beckons for Mystic Guide after his three and three-quarter lengths victory over Japanese raider Chuwa Wizard. “I think the sky’s the limit for him,” said Stidham, who was overcome by a flood of emotions, after witnessing his ward make history at Meydan.
Stidham hinted that Mystic Guide could run in New York, Saratoga and maybe the Breeders’ Cup and quite possibly a defence of the Dubai World Cup.
“We don’t have any race picked out for him now but there will be many opportunities in New York, Saratoga and, hopefully the Breeders’ Cup at the end of the year. If he is doing well, we would love to come back here next year. I’ll know the lay of the land a little better next time!” Stidham elaborated.
Stidham said he also stood vindicated about not running Mystic Guide in some of the top dirt contests in America, especially the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, which is part of the traditional ‘Triple Crown.’
“We always felt that Mystic Guide was one step behind where he needed to be to campaign in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. We gave him time and let him develop. Jimmy Bell (Godolphin America president) and Dan Pride were always 100 percent behind me, which makes my job easier, and we did it,” Stidham said.
Personally, for Stidham, Mystic Guide’s sensational win was unarguably the pinnacle of his 40-year training career. And he was chuffed that he could finally make the step up.
“I am very proud of Mystic Guide and so happy to be here for Godolphin and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; on the 25th anniversary of the Dubai World Cup. To have a performance like that was the icing on the cake,” he said.
“I really felt like it was finally my turn to step up to the big time and really wanted it to happen. It’s a totally different atmosphere here and horses have to be able to handle it. It’s not easy for an American horse to come over here and do it,” added Stidham.