Dubai: As worldwide racing and breeding’s most influential man, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, has seen it all.
And he feels that Mukhadram, his Dubai World Cup (G1) entry, faces his toughest test yet on Saturday where he will need to step it up and establish himself as a genuine Group One contender.
“He was a slow maturing horse as a two-year-old but is just the type to improve with age,” Shaikh Hamdan said speaking at his private Majlis that overlooks the majestic Meydan Racecourse. “In his last five starts, he was second to Group One horses on three occasions and was starting to make his presence felt.
“I believe that thoroughbreds reach their peak at five as they are then more mature and strong. Mukhadram is a horse that gives everything when he runs as he showed in the top races at Ascot, Sandown Park and York. But he still needs to prove himself at Group One level.
“Honestly, if you ask me, I’ll be happier if the race [World Cup] was run on grass as Mukhadram hasn’t run on the Tapeta.
“We have worked him on the all-weather track in England, particularly at Kempton, and he seemed alright. But the Tapeta is very different to all the synthetic tracks,” Shaikh Hamdan added.
“Some horses don’t mind and can adapt, others don’t. Not all horses give their best on the surface where the ground conditions change every few metres. New horses to the surface shorten their strides and don’t stretch naturally.
“It is also inconsistent; it’s slow in the morning and faster in the evening. I believe they add 20 per cent of cushion each year but that makes it very shallow. It was a good track in the first year, but has changed in recent years.”
How does Shaikh Hamdan then rate Mukhadram’s chances given all these concerns?
“Last year, when we felt that he was our World Cup horse, we began to train him keeping in mind that he will one day have to switch from grass to Tapeta. That day has come; we’ll just have to wait until Saturday to see how he fares on the track. But he’s done a lot of work on the treadmill and on synthetic surfaces in England and is fit and ready.
Commenting on the field at this year’s Dubai World Cup, Shaikh Hamdan said: “The race is not as strong as it used to be and that’s because the Americans are not here. Some of the younger horses are preparing for the Classics while the others are afraid of the ground. They prefer the old track.
“If you ask me, I think the strongest race on the card is the Dubai Sheema Classic. It has attracted the best horses from Britain, Europe and the Far East. This is what the World Cup should look like.
“The Dubai Duty Free is always a strong race and this year is no different.”
When asked if he still had any unfulfilled ambitions as an owner, Shaikh Hamdan replied: “If I don’t have a horse that I am one hundred per cent satisfied, I won’t send him to any race. We have to go there knowing that we can win.”