Home / Perspectives / Lure of Dubai stings Breeders’ Cup: Gitano Hernando skips Classic to prepare for 2010 Dubai World Cup

Lure of Dubai stings Breeders’ Cup: Gitano Hernando skips Classic to prepare for 2010 Dubai World Cup

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.


  1. I totally disagree with your contention that Gitano Hernando was yanked from the Breeders’ Cup Classic in favor of the Dubai World Cup. He had a hard race in the Goodwood and that is the reason we decided to skip the BC Classic. Your spin on this situation is inapproriate and incorrect.

  2. Barry

    I believe that the following sentence within the post answers the main reasons your operation decided against entering the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

    “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.”

    That being said, I do not know how you could term my “spin” as inappopriate or incorrect based on the statements from your representatives which have been published on a variety of sites.

    Based on the Team Valor comments, Gitano Hernando is going to skip the BC and aim for Dubai as a result of his impressive win against top American handicap horses. It is the first time in my recollection that anyone has said – we are going to skip the BC, the horse had a tough last race, and we’ll wait to come back for Dubai. While the intent may not explicitly state – we’re skipping and going for the bigger prize, the presence of Dubai on the calendar, by itself, stands out as a legitimate target in the future.

    If there wasn’t a huge prize looming, might some suggest to try the Breeders’ Cup anyway and see what happens?

  3. When I read your commentary, it looked to me like you had an agenda, which apparently is that the lure of the world Cup is so great, that Gitano Hernando skipped the BC in favor or running in the WC. This is NOT the case. I would loved to have run in the BC, but the Goodwood came too close for him and he cannot come back in the BC. The fact that there is “a huge prize looming” is not part of the consideration as to why the colt is not running in the BC. It has to do with how the Goodwood impacted him. I am coming from the point of view of a horseman and you are coming from the point of view of somebody that looks like he has an agenda. Pat, I know that you would like anything Dubai related to seem even bigger than it is, but distorting this situation with Gitano Hernando is not a legitimate way to do it. Isn’t the World Cup big enough without you having to trash the Breeders’ Cup?

  4. No offense intended to Mr. Irwin, but please explain how Gitano Hernando not starting in the BC in any way “stings”? I can see how losing Rachel Alexandra and Sea The Stars stings, but Gitano Hernando? He’s certainly a nice horse, but very few have ever heard of him so it’s not as if the race is losing a big star.

    Also, a horse shipping in from Europe and winning or doing very well in their first start on CA synthetics is such a common phenomenon that I bet $50 on Gitano to win the Goodwood based on that factor alone. Then they often falter in their second or third US start (see Anabaa’s Creation for one example.) So the likelihood of repeating his Goodwood success in the Classic was questionable anyway.

  5. Barry – I cannot disguise the fact that this website publicizes items related to racing in Dubai. Their success is celebrated here. No doubts.

    I enjoy seeing horses ship in to Dubai to compete in the Carnival and on the World Cup program, and hope more and more will continue to do so and have even lobbied some friends who own horses successful over Tapeta in the US.

    A loss to the Breeders’ Cup could be the Dubai World Cup’s gain, all other things being equal. I am fully understanding that Gitano’s failure to appear at the BC is a result of his tough schedule and I think your decision to shelve him for the season is legitimate considering such a monster effort off the plane.

    In the competitive racing landscape, shouldn’t the Breeders’ Cup be concerned that connections aren’t willing to take a chance to wheel back in four weeks in a $5,000,000 race when a $10,000,000 race looms down the schedule? I think the answer is yes.

    Does it not become easier to pass the BC when the world’s richest race is a 90-day layoff and perhaps a prep race or two in the future?

    While your decision to bypass the Cup, as you’ve written here, has nothing to do with CHOOSING Dubai over the Breeders’ Cup, the loss of the Goodwood winner to the Classic does hurt the race.

    Given the history of Goodwood winners in the World Cup, I’d be encouraged.

  6. Pat, you have come halfway to the proper position. I know what you would like the case to be, but the simple fact remains that even if the World Cup was not in existence, the decision not to race Gitano Hernando still would have been the same. I ought to know, because I made the decision, ending any sort of supposition.

    Pat, let me take the liberty of crafting you an appropriate answer from you to me: Barry, thank you for clearing this up for me and for taking the time to do so. Hope to meet you when you are in town for the World Cup.

    Shannon, it was not my suggestion but the author’s that a “sting” occurred.

  7. Indeed, Barry. I greatly appreciate your choosing to elaborate on my original perspective and do hope to meet you at the 2010 festivities.

    All the best!

  8. It sure was nice of Barry to tell Pat how he should have replied. Perhaps the fact that this is a blog, which is entirely predicated on the author’s opnion, has been missed by Mr. Irwin.

  9. John, I am well aware that Pat is commenting in the blog format. But that does limit me from making suggestions. I commend Pat for his straight forward responses. If Pat didn’t want any responses, he wouldn’t have allowed the space for them. Pat, I envy you being able to be on hand for the meeting at Meydan. I was in Dubai in March and was aswed by the breadth of the set up and the vision involved. When the entire area of the complex are complete, it could very well change the entire face of horse racing as we know it. You a lucky guy!

  10. Is there any concern in Dubai that some nice American horses will pass on the World Cup races because of the Tapeta surface? The all-weather isn’t too popular in the States.

  11. I think there has been a concern that some horses would pass – Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel Alexandra, has certainly given that impression – but I think the $10,000,000 purse mitigates that. As I wrote, Tapeta has been well-received across most all American channels and being that it has been in place in Dubai (training centers) for several years, I think the concern isn’t as great.

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