Charlie Appleby believes Gold Town must take another step up in order to justify strong favouritism for the UAE Derby at Meydan on Saturday.
The Godolphin runner is unbeaten in two starts at the course and will attempt to go one better than his sire Street Cry, who finished second in the corresponding race before plundering the World Cup the next year.
One of the highlights of the 2018 Dubai Carnival has been the ease with which Gold Town dispatched his foes in the Guineas Trial and the Group Three UAE 2000 Guineas.
And in a blowout on grass on Wednesday and a gentle spin in the Marmoom dirt track on Thursday morning, the gelding has ably completed his preparation for the move up the class ladder.
“What he has done here has been impressive, but Saturday is a step up for him,” said Appleby.
“I think the longer distance improved him from his first race to the second and I hope he can do the same over the Derby trip.
“He is taking on better horses this time, in a far tougher contest. Hopefully he can rise to the challenge.
“We’ve been thinking about the Kentucky Derby, but let’s get to Saturday first and see how he gets on there.
“He likes running on dirt and the switch to that, along with him being gelded, have made a huge difference to him.”
Andre Fabre is looking to add to his solitary victory on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan with four runners on Saturday.
The master French trainer won the 2004 Sheema Classic with Polish Summer, although Loup Sauvage did finish third in the 1998 World Cup behind Silver Charm and Swain.
He will be represented in the World Cup this year by Godolphin’s Talismanic, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner who narrowly failed to follow up in the Hong Kong Vase behind Highland Reel.
Talismanic faces a switch to dirt but he is at least by a stallion in Medaglia D’Oro, who was second in the 2004 World Cup.
Cloth Of Stars arguably has a better chance in the Sheema Classic, though, having finished second to Enable in last season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Talismanic, trained in France by Fabre, enters the race with a prep run under his belt, beating stable companion Cloth Of Stars on the polytrack at Chantilly on March 6.
Fabre, who is Godolphin’s main trainer in France, has been to Dubai many times, but the striking Talismanic, whose bold face and white stockings attracts attention wherever he runs, might be his best chance yet to win the big race.
“Talismanic has always been a very good horse,” said Fabre. “Remember he was fourth in the Prix du Jockey Club at three and that was the year that the horse was affected by the virus.”
There should be ample pace in this year’s edition of the Dubai World Cup, but it will be Talismanic’s first attempt on the dirt and Fabre said: “I have to be fair, there is still a question mark about the surface.
“I didn’t want to run Talismanic and Cloth of Stars in the same race and Talismanic was in great shape, so I thought I’d line him up in this race.
“My feeling is that to run on dirt you need more strength. It is a surface that favours stamina and resistance more than speed. And Talismanic has the confirmation and the pedigree to act on this surface.
“They have had a good preparation and I’ve been very happy with them since.”
He added: “I don’t know what sort of chance he has, I have no idea. It is a big race with the horses from North America and Japan. It is very exciting, and I respect all the American horses, but there is no Curlin or Arrogate this year.”
Fabre also runs Trais Fluors in the Dubai Turf and Rosa Imperial in the Godolphin Mile.
Trainer Dallas Stewart has always had a way with fillies and mares dating back to the days he galloped Winning Colors, who became the third female Kentucky Derby winner in history in 1988, while working as an assistant to renowned trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
In fact, seven of his nine career Grade 1 victories have come with a female runner.
This Saturday, Stewart will attempt to make history with the most accomplished runner he has ever trained when he saddles Charles Fipke’s champion Forever Unbridled for the US $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline.
The 6-year-old Unbridled’s Song mare will be attempting to become the first female winner in the 23-year history of the race. To date, To The Victory (Jpn) has been closest when second to Captain Steve in 2001.
“She can compete with the boys,” Stewart said. “I’ve been around a couple of good ones and she’s right there.
“When you run a filly against the boys, you need to feel like they have a chance to win.
“She’s not three, she’s six, so she’s older than most of the males she’s facing. Not only is she older, but she’s had some great accomplishments.
“Given those factors and how she’s doing, we’re going to go for it.”
Stewart, 58, is making his first trip to Dubai and a win in this prestigious race would be the biggest of his career. The native of McCombs, Mississippi spent 11 years working for Lukas and in addition to Winning Colors, also worked closely with Lady’s Secret, who beat males in the 1986 Whitney Handicap (G1) and was named that year’s Horse of the Year.
He went out on his own in 1997 and to date his runners have won nearly $47 million.
Among his most prestigious wins have been with 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, the dam of Forever Unbridled, the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Unbridled Elaine and the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Forever Unbridled, who became his first champion after her victory.
Since arriving in Dubai on March 21, Forever Unbridled has only made Stewart more confident heading into Saturday’s race.
“She’s a really, really good racehorse,” Stewart said. “She’s won at eight different racetracks.
“She had three starts and three wins last year, so she’s definitely dedicated to winning. Whether or not she can beat the boys, that’s what we’re going to try and find out.
“It will be a great pay day if we can get it done, but more importantly, it will be a great accomplishment for her.
“All through her career she’s been very talented. She had an ankle injury early on and we gave her the time off that she needed. She’s bigger and stronger now.
“She’s not your typical mare. She’s big and strong. She’s massive. She has great energy all the time. She’s come here ready.”
Forever Unbridled is scheduled to be retired after the Dubai World Cup and be bred to top stallion Medaglia d’Oro, who closed out his career with a second in the 2004 edition of the race. Stewart says he is not thinking about that just yet.
“My only concern is getting her ready for Saturday,” Stewart said. “We’re proud to be here. We’re happy for the invite. Hopefully, she’ll represent.
“She’s always represented us well in the past.”