Dubai: The Dubai World Cup Carnival received a timely boost with Doug O’Neill, one of the most decorated American trainers, descending with 11 horses for the festival, which will culminate in the Dubai World Cup on March 28.
“All have travelled well, we don’t have any temps at all and they all have good appetites,” said the trainer of 11 millionaires after workouts on Monday morning. O’Neill’s credentials as a winner of 38 Grade/Group 1 races, two editions of the Kentucky Derby (G1), five Breeders’ Cup races, a Japan Cup Dirt (G1) and Godolphin Mile (G2) speaks for itself. “They look good and we’re really happy about everything. Normally we bring one or two for World Cup, so it’s so different with 11, but I like it.
“It took me a couple days, but I’m adapting well to the jet lag, just like the horses, and getting into a routine,” O’Neill continued. “A lot of that is thanks to Frank Gabriel (Executive Director of Racing), John (Nicholas, Quarantine Manager) and Stephanie (Cooley, International Racing Liaison). They’ve really helped us have a smooth transition and we couldn’t be happier,” he said.
Blitzkrieg leads the battle this week as one of three O’Neill and assistant Leandro Mora’s wards will start fresh off the plane at the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort on Thursday. A winner of five from 15 runs, the well-bred son of War Front has worked his way up in class and was an impressive winner of the San Francisco Mile (G3) at Golden Gate last April. He then was seventh on the dirt in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) over 2,000 metres before a seven-month layoff. He returned last out in the 1,100-m Joe Hernandez (G2) on turf, closing admirably to be fourth in a blanket finish against Al Quoz Sprint hopeful Texas Wedge.
“I had to freshen him up after the summertime. His last race was a paid workout and a sharpener. We were very impressed. He was closing in down the lane going 5½ furlongs, which is definitely not enough distance for him. We entered him for the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort and the seven furlongs will be good for him,” the trainer said.
Prodigal Son, meanwhile, lines up in Thursday’s $175,000 Dubai Dash (Listed) over 1,000 metres on turf and will have to run a straight course for the first time. Owned by Reddam Racing, one of O’Neill’s long-time clients (and owner of Godolphin Mile winner Spring at Last), the son of Square Eddie comes in off two excellent performances in allowance company, including a victory last out (December 29) over 1,110 metres on turf. He closed his final 250 metres in 17.20 seconds, winning for the third time in 11 starts.
“We entered him in the Dubai Dash over five furlongs and he’s a quick horse. I think he’ll do just fine with the straight course. Being a son of Square Eddie — they’re just so honest. He’s coming off a nice win at Santa Anita around a bend and I don’t think the distance or set-up here will be an issue for him.”