Dubai: Michael Stidham is hoping to make a perfect first impression on Saturday.
Stidham, one of the trainers employed by Godolphin America is on his first-ever venture beyond American shores and to Dubai, the home of the global breeding and racing operation founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. And he hopes to leave an indelible mark with victory in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup.
Stidham has won numerous top level victories in the US, but got the call to head to the Gulf after Mystic Guide was picked from among the other top names in America to represent Sheikh Mohammed’s royal blue silks in the race’s landmark 25th edition.
“I’ve been training for over 40 years and watching this for 24 years, and always being impressed and amazed by the whole presentation over here and the prestige of the race and always dreaming that one day I might have a horse that would come and the day has come. It is just very gratifying to be here”
The four-year-old Ghostzapper colt has won three of his seven starts and has otherwise always been placed. He nailed the 1800m Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes in September and arrived in Dubai following a massive six length success in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on February 27, a race that followed his narrow defeat in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Belmont Park in October.
With a solid resume backing him, Mystic Guide is the favourite in what is being seen as an open Dubai World Cup and Stidham can only hope he can make history on Saturday.
“I’ve been training for over 40 years and watching this for 24 years, and always being impressed and amazed by the whole presentation over here and the prestige of the race and always dreaming that one day I might have a horse that would come and the day has come. It is just very gratifying to be here,” Stidham said after watching his ward’s breeze on Wednesday.
“Obviously, the Breeders Cup is on the world stage as this is but, like I say, training for Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed, being here for the 25th anniversary, has a little special flavour to it and it is an amazing thing to be here. I am just really, really happy that I could be the one that brings the horse over. It is a great feeling.”
Stidham reiterated his horse seems to be in top form heading into the race. “It is a long trip and as a trainer, you always worry about all the things that can go wrong, but, so far, it’s been really good. The horse has come over here and he really seems like he’s flourishing and thriving on everything that’s going on. The weather is great, the accommodations are amazing so he’s doing fantastic.”
Mystic Guide will leap out of Gate 6 with Luis Saez up. The pair won the Razorback together and will look to make it two in two. ‘‘We are near the middle (in the gates), so I’m happy to be there. Going a mile and a quarter, I really would love to see him break well, be forward and just be in a comfortable stalking position, depending on how fast they are going in front of him. But that’s where he is most comfortable, in some kind of a stalking spot.”
Mystic Guide looked ripe for success as he went through the motions and Stidham seems to be well poised to leave a strong impression on his employer. “It could not be better and just can’t wait to get on the race track,” he concluded.