Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Surour
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Surour Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Saeed Bin Surour knows a thing or two about winning the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. He has, after all, won the race a whopping nine times.

On Saturday, he could close the landmark Silver Jubilee card of the Dubai World Cup night by hitting double figures. More importantly it will mean a third straight success in the race for Bin Surour and jockey Christophe Soumillon, who won the previous two editions with the now-retired Thunder Snow.

However, that will only be possible if Gifts Of Gold somehow manages to cross the line first after 2,000m of competition on the dirt track at Dubai’s marquee Meydan Racecourse. A baker’s dozen opposes the six-year-old gelded son of Invincible Spirit on the night, including two Godolphin teammates: Mystic Guide, trained by Michael Stidham in America, and Andre Fabre’s French-schooled Magny Cours.

Stidham’s Mystic Guide is favourite to win, but Bin Surour has the experience and his horse form. Gifts Of Gold enters the race on the back of a spectacular length-and-a-quarter success in the Red Sea Turf Handicap over a much further 3,000m trip on the Saudi Cup undercard in February. Turf to dirt and a massive cut in trip might have got many scratching their heads in disbelief. Bin Surour, though, has his reasons.

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Saeed bin Surour and Christophe Soumillon teamed up to win the past two Dubai World Cups with Thunder Snow

“I’ve confused him a little really by taking him from a mile and a quarter to (nearly) two miles and now bringing him back to a mile and a quarter,” Bin Surour said. “The horse must be given a chance. He’s a nice horse. A big and strong horse and the last piece of work for him was last Thursday and he worked really good and then we will give him a chance to see how he goes.”

Bin Surour decided to put Gifts Of Gold on the Dubai World Cup trail after he landed a 2,000m handicap on the Chelmsford All-Weather by a massive six lengths under Stefano Cherchi. Godolphin’s longest-serving trainer could see the potential.

“After Chelmsford it made me confident about bringing him to Dubai,” Bin Surour said. The reason why he ran here in Dubai was to help him adjust to the dirt surface here before taking him to Saudi. When I took him there, people were asking me why I wanted to run him over that (Red Sea Turf Handicap) distance when he is a mile and a quarter horse.

“I think he was 50/1 there, but I felt he was the horse and he looked good. I talked with the jockey (Pat Cosgrave) before the race and told him he needed to be kept close to the speed; second or third would be great for him and I wanted to give him a clear run in the end and Pat said ‘OK’.

“Pat knew him well and rides him in the mornings and they won nicely. Now we’ve prepared him for the Dubai World Cup, which is back over a mile and a quarter. It is a tough race, but to me it is an open race, but the horse is doing good.”

Saeed bin Surour is going for World Cup No. 10
Saeed bin Surour is going for World Cup No. 10 Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Among Godolphin’s three representatives, Mystic Guide has drawn best and starts from Gate 6, with Magny Cours drawn two stalls inside of Gifts Of Gold, who will start widest from No. 14.

Bin Surour is unperturbed. There are reasons he understands best but he always speaks from experience. Take for example, Thunder Snow. On the two occasions he won the Dubai World Cup, he leapt from Stall No. 10 and No. 12. And when he won the Group 2 UAE Derby in 2017, he emerged from No. 13. Perhaps Bin Surour has tweaked his tactics to suit leaps out of the widest slots.

“I know the draw is 14, but I never choose a good draw. It’s always No. 1 or No. 14, but luckily the horse is good enough to win the race,” Bin Surour said.

“Christophe knows the track well and he’s won the Dubai World Cup twice. He knows he needs to jump well and get in a nice position and if he can do that, the horse will definitely have a chance.”

Bin Surour will dispatch seven others during the course of the night. Dubai Mirage will look to win the Emirati an 11th Group 2 Godolphin Mile, while Royal Marine and Volcanic Sky, representing his yard in the 3,200m Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup, search for a second success. Final Song has the same responsibility when she bids for the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m), while Land of Legends searches for a seventh win for his trainer in the Group 1 Dubai Turf (1,800m). Dubai Future will look to win Bin Surour a third Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2,410m) and Soft Whisper, one of two fillies in a tough Group 2 UAE Derby over 1,900m, will look for a ninth win.

Speaking of his UAE 1000 Guineas winner Soft Whisper, Bin Surour said: “I like her. She won two races in England, she won the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial, the Guineas and she’s a tough filly who came back well from racing in Saudi (fifth in the Saudi Derby).

“She looks really nice and she handled her last piece of work well and is in good condition after running against colts. She is tough and the way she works I think she has a chance. She’s handled the run pretty well here and the surface suits her.”

Bin Surour would love to make it three Dubai World Cups in a row and win a 10th overall honour, but he also knows Gifts Of Gold is no Thunder Snow.

“Winning will be big, but we’ll wait for Saturday. It would be great. I won it nine times only,” he said.

“It’s not easy to win. Two years ago when Thunder Snow was running a lot of people had question marks about him running again. It’s a tough race and he was already a DWC winner. But the way he worked in the morning and the way he looked days before we ran him gave me confidence.

“To win you have to send the best and Thunder Snow is going to be in people’s consciousness for a very long time because he is the only horse to win the Dubai World Cup twice.

“I liked Thunder Snow a lot because he was kind in the stable, easy to train and is a very beautiful animal, plus he was a class act on the racetrack. He was amazing.

“Gift Of Gold is a different horse. He is improving all the time and now he has a place in the big race and we’ll give him his chance and will look for a bit of luck.”

Saturday night will reveal if Gifts Of Gold, like his trainer, deserves his place among the greats.