Five other Group 1 winners lie in wait for John Gosden’s Lord North, who was the impressive winner of the 1800-metre contest last year. File
Since the first running back in 1996, no horse has won the Group 1 Dubai Turf (sponsored by DP World) more than once, so history is against British raider Lord North when he defends his crown on Saturday.
Five other Group 1 winners lie in wait for John Gosden’s six-year-old, who was the impressive winner of the 1800-metre contest last year by three lengths from Vin De Garde, who takes him on again in 2022.
Since that win 12 months ago, however, Lord North has been seen only once, when chasing home G1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic contender Alenquer in the G3 Winter Derby over a mile and a quarter at Lingfield. He is joined in the race by fellow six-year-old and stablemate Harrovian, fourth to Authority in the G3 Neom Turf Cup in Riyadh last time out.
Lord North’s win last year came at the expense of compatriot and three-time Meydan Racecourse winner Lord Glitters, trained by David O’Meara, who could only manage sixth. Since then, the almost-white nine-year-old has been in brilliant form, landing the G3 Bahrain International Trophy in November, as well as the G2 Singspiel Stakes over the Dubai Turf course and distance.
“He had a good breeze on Sunday and Tuesday on the main track,” said Matt Ennis, who rides Lord Glitters every morning.
“He felt really good and all seems well with him; he seems fresh too. We’ll just tick him over now between now and Saturday with a few quiet canters on the training track.”
A strong British team also includes two for Derby-winning trainer William Haggas, who will saddle Mohaafeth and My Oberon. Arriving in Dubai on Wednesday, the trainer revealed that Mohaafeth, who has an impressive four from eight strike rate, has had surgery since his last start in August.
“When Mohaafeth was purchased he was a rig – meaning they only have one descended testicle – and we didn’t think in his last races he was running as well as he possibly should have. We investigated and decided to take it out,” he explained.
“My personal feeling is that in his last few races his last furlong over a mile and a quarter was weak and it certainly looked like it could be that which was troubling him. He’s got one less excuse now! He’s got a nice draw (five) in a very strong race, but he’s got a chance. He’s got a bit to find with the top-rated horses, but he’s certainly got the scope to improve on his rating.”
There are two other British-based runners in the capacity field of 16; G1 Sun Chariot winner Saffron Beach, for trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam, and five-time winner Sir Busker, for William Knight.
It could be a case of the United Kingdom taking on Japan, with the latter sending out a strong team of three, including favourite Schnell Meister. Winner of four of his seven starts, including the G1 NHK Mile Cup in May, he was second to the retired Gran Alegria in the G1 Mile Championship last time out in November and is one for one over this 1800-metre distance.
Also coming here with impressive form is the Yoshito Yahagi-trained Panthalassa, who warmed up for this with a win in the G2 Nakayama Kinen a month ago, giving him a fitness edge over some of his rivals.
The US is yet to win this race, but Todd Pletcher aims to change that with dual G1 Pegasus Turf winner Colonel Liam, who has an eye-catching three-from-three record over this distance.
“We feel that this year, while he’s in his prime, let’s go ahead and take a shot,” said the trainer of the five-year-old.
The UAE’s home defence is headed by Alfareeq, winner of the G1 Jebel Hatta over course and distance last time out for trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri. Third home that day, the Ahmad bin Harmash-trained Ursa Major, re-opposes.
Haqeeqy, formerly trained by Gosden in the UK, also lines up and will be a first World Cup day runner for former Shadwell pre-trainer John Hyde.