Dubai: If there is one race that has set pulses racing for the past 24 years, and has the potential to do so again at next Saturday’s much-anticipated Dubai World Cup meeting, it’s the Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News since its inception in 1996.
This Group 1 contest is an equine equivalent of the glamorous 100 metre sprint at the Olympics. It’s a contest that has had fans at the edge of their seats, gnawing at their finger nails and in raptures for the entire duration of the contest. Which takes just a shade over a minute - from start to electrifying finish.
It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of race. Not one for the weak-hearted but a staple for thrill-seekers.
Even the jockeys have said that if there is one race that puts them on edge, it’s the Golden Shaheen which was first run on 1996 at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse and is currently one of the highlights of the nine-event card on the big day, March 27, at Dubai’s iconic Meydan Racecourse.
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But why is it such a big deal. We’ve heard of horsepower and all that stuff.
It gives the winner, horse, jockey, trainer, owner bragging rights for a whole calendar year. He will go down in history as the world’s fastest horse on dirt.
American-trained horses have a solid record in the event, which is run over 1,200 metres and one turn, at Meydan, winning the race no less than 12 times - including most recently at the 2019 renewal which was won by the speedball X Y Jet.
It stood alone as the only sprint on the World Cup card until it was joined in 2007 by the Al Quoz Sprint, which is run over a shorter 1,000 metres on turf.
The dirt and turf surfaces are like chalk and cheese to most horses, so you don’t often see a dirt horse competing in the turf version on vice versa.
Saturday’s 25th running of the Dubai Golden Shaheen has once against drawn a cracking field of high-quality sprinters from far afield and near. Japan’s Matera Sky, who went down a length and a half to XY Jet in 2019 and fifth the previous year to Mind Your Biscuits, is the ante-post favourite. The seven-year-old son of Speighstown, who has been campaigned at the highest level and was an eye-catching runner-up to fellow Japanese speedster, Copano Kicking, in the Saudi Arabian Dirt Sprint at Riyadh last month.
Challenging him for favouritism is the lightly-raced, up-and-comer Yaupon who represents six-time Breeders’ Cup winning Hall of Famer, Steve Asmussen, who will be looking for his first win in the contest and first major Dubai success since he saddled Curlin to capture the Dubai World Cup in 2008/
The home assault is led by the Doug Watson-trained Canvassed, who was an impressive winner of the Mahab Al Shimaal Sprint on Super Saturday (March 6). The multiple UAE champion trainer will be looking for a maiden success in the race while his former boss, Satish Seemar, bids for a second Dubai Golden Shaeen Trophy with American import, Gladiator King. Seemar won the race back in 2013 with stable favourite Reynaldothewizard.
Watson is double-handed in the race with Al Tariq, who completed the Jebel Ali Sprint – Al Shindagha Sprint double this year.
With so much depth and talent in the field, this year’s 25th running of one of the world’s most famous sprint race, looks set to serve up yet another treat.
Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News
Inaugurated: 1996 at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, moved to Meydan in 2000
Distance: 1,200 metres
Surface: Dirt (Sand)
Prize money: #1.5million (Last year $2.5million)
1:08.10 - Big Jag (2000) (at Nad al Sheba)
1:10.17 - Mind Your Biscuits (2018) (at Meydan)
Most wins by a horse
2 - Caller One (2001, 2002)
2 - Mind Your Biscuits (2017,2018)
Most wins by a jockey
2 - Gary Stevens (1999, 2002)
2 - Alex Solis (2000, 2004)
2 - Joel Rosario (2017, 2018)
Most wins by a trainer
2 - Dhruba Selvaratnam (1998, 1999)
2 - James Chapman (2001, 2002)
2 - Chad Summers (2017,2018)