A potential flagship moment in Dubai racing was announced on Tuesday when the Daily Racing Form reported recent longshot winner of the Goodwood Stakes (G1), Gitano Hernando, will skip the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic to prepare for the $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup (G1). This is, essentially, the first published occasion in which the sky-high purses of racing’s richest single-day meeting overwhelmed the Breeders’ Cup, marketed as the “World Thoroughbred Championships.”
Gitano Hernando, a lightly-raced 3-year-old, surprised the Santa Anita punters when scoring in the nine-furlong Goodwood two weeks ago. Combining the rigors of shipping to California from his European base, training, and the turnaround to face his elders again, Team Valor representatives determined they would skip North America’s richest race and focus on preparations for the big prize offered in connection with the debut of Meydan, Dubai’s new iconic racecourse.
Winning the Goodwood has been a major mark on the careers of some superstar horses, and is considered a premier prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Its rostrum of champions includes recent Hall of Fame inductee Tiznow, along with Dubai World Cup winners Silver Charm, Pleasantly Perfect, and Well Armed. Soul Of The Matter, second behind Cigar in a stretch-long ding-dong battle in the first Dubai World Cup (1996), is also a Goodwood winner.
The 2010 Dubai World Cup will be run over Michael Dickinson’s all-weather Tapeta surface, a footing that has been utilized in Dubai for several years, specifically at Godolphin’s Al Quoz Paddocks, a training center for Sheikh Mohammed’s massive racing operation. While many in America have slighted synthetic surfaces and several racetracks stateside have encountered issues with their surfaces, Tapeta has gone largely uncriticized. Tapeta has been used with little negative reaction at Presque Isle Downs (Erie, Pennsylvania) and Golden Gate Fields (Berkeley, California), while Dickinson trained horses at his own facility, on Tapeta, for decades. Taking the “no news is good news” approach, Tapeta has emerged from the synthetic surface debate relatively unscathed.
According to a press-release quoted in the article, trainer Marco Botti notes that Gitano Hernando could be sent to prep in Dubai or remain at his Newmarket based and train up to the race. Team Valor racing manager Aron Wellman exclaimed: “ten million dollars at a mile and a quarter on a synthetic surface is a very attractive target.” Team Valor has had several significant Dubai racing successes in the past, highlighted by Ipi Tombe’s 2003 Dubai Duty Free (G1).
Of concern to Breeders’ Cup executives is the fact that it now seems apparent that the Dubai World Cup is in competition with the Breeders’ Cup, despite being run more than 4.5 months later. The lucrative purses, shipping incentives, and overall package offered by racing in Dubai merits serious consideration for the connections of premier race horses.