Dubai World Cup-winning jockey William Buick is relishing the prospect of being teamed with the brilliant Hawkbill at Meydan on Super Saturday, the dress rehearsal to the Dubai World Cup on March 31.
The Godolphin jockey, who sealed the 2015 World Cup on Prince Bishop, has just recovered from a compression fracture to his T12 vertebrae after falling from Permian at the Secretariat Stakes in August.
Although he didn’t require surgery, the Norway-born rider was ruled out of action until late October – when he returned for the John Guest Bengough Stakes at Ascot.
And the 29-year-old will be hoping to produce something special on Hawkbill on Saturday in the Group Two Dubai City of Gold over a mile-and-a-half.
The Charlie Appleby-trained horse will go into Super Saturday as the favourite – after finishing three-quarters of a length in front of stablemate Frontiersman in Newmarket back in July.
“He looks like he’s wintered very well. He’s done well for the winter in the UAE. In an ideal world this is a preparation race for the Sheema Classic. He brings a lot of class to the race. He’ll be the horse they all have to beat,” Buick said.
“He’s physically done well. Mentally he’s great. He’s a very energetic horse and expresses himself. All the signs of his well-being, he’s showed all of them. The main aim is March 31 and he looks like he’s he’s on an upward curve.”
Buick is no stranger to the grand stage and despite being sidelined due to injury at the back end of 2017, he goes into Saturday’s meet on a formidable 11 winners – four more than the venerable Chris Soumillon of Belgium.
Having committed to six rides in the seven-race card, the Newmarket-resident looks in firm control to win the carnival’s Champion Jockey title.
He added: “It’s an important race day, every race day is important for various reasons but we go out with the aim to win every race we’ve entered, and that makes every race important.
“I’ll approach Saturday, the World Cup or any race in a similar way. The bigger the race day the more coverage you get, but in professional sport you take it as what it is.”
Buick will ride Folkswood and Boynton in the Jebel Hatta and Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 respectively.
He will then be aboard Masar in the Listed Al Bastakiya, Comicas in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal and Jungle Cat in the third race.
The Godolphin jockey will then partner the impressive Hawkbill in the concluding race.
Mickael Barzalona insists he was pleased with the performance of Cloth of Stars despite being beaten by stablemate Talismanic in preparation for Super Saturday at Chantilly during the week.
The French-based Godolphin jockey rode the Andre Fabre-trained horse to second place – and will be aiming to have the five-year old in fine fettle for the Sheema Classic on March 31.
“It was a very good performance by Talismanic, but the plan was to give (Cloth Of Stars) a good race and just not be too hard,” Barzalona said.
“He’s travelling beautifully at the moment and he picked up very well to the line. I was a length behind Talismanic and I stayed a length behind him so I’m very pleased with that.
“It was a target for Cloth Of Stars after the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to run in the Sheema Classic and we all know how good Andre Fabre is to make a horse ready for the big days so I am sure he will be 100 per cent. He looks like he is going to be very competitive.”
The 26-year-old is still unsure whether he will be riding either Cloth of Stars or Talismanic on Dubai World Cup night, but either way both horses are serious favourites to win in three weeks‘ time.
As for Heavy Metal’s prospects in the Group Three Burj Nahaar – with two wins this year in Meydan – Barzalona is excited by the thought of racing the eight-year-old front-runner despite being drawn in the unfavourable stall 13.
“He loves the dirt at Meydan, he is very fast from the gate, he’s in great shape,” said the Avignon native. “He’s in great condition. Hopefully we will be able to get the lead and he will win the race.
“The horse looks in good condition and I’m aiming to have some luck and hopefully it goes well.”
The truly frightening thing is Winx seems to be getting better.
The Australian super-horse produced one of the most powerful displays of her career to register her 23rd win in a row – and 16th Group 1 – in the Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.
After an extended lay-off due to the suspension of jockey Hugh Bowman, Winx made her rivals look second-rate as she cruised to a seven-length win.
“Did that look as it felt?” Bowman asked part-owner Peter Tighe after the victory.
Tighe could only smile in response
Winx now looks unbeatable.
“You don’t have to say too much when she comes out and does that,” Tighe said. “There were doubters at the mile first-up but I don’t there will be anymore.
“She is just a horse of generation, a horse of lifestyle. She does it so easy – she looks like she could go around again.”
Winx was in a world of her own from the top of the straight.
The champion mare sat back in the field as usual until Bowman took her three-wide at the 600m, then four-wide. In the space of 200m, she made up half a dozen lengths.
“I enjoyed it today,” Bowman said. “She was pretty relaxed going to the gates. She pulled a bit going around and some of her better performances have come when she does that.
“I felt that acceleration at track-work but have nothing to measure it on. It was like I was in the centre of the track all by myself, just me and her.”
“She has been filling me with confidence all preparation. What she loves is that cut in the ground. She goes on the hard track but that sort of ground she really likes and that when you see her at her best.”
The win saw the six-year-old sire of Street Cry continue to set more records:
-16th career Group 1 win equals the world record set by American champion John Henry back in 1984.
-23rd win in succession, just two behind Black Caviar’s Australian record for most consecutive wins.
-First mare to win three Chipping Norton Stakes in succession.
-Prize money to an all-time record $12.4m.
For Glyn Schofield on Prized Icon, who was left in Winx’s wake in second, it was a familiar feeling – like when he was on Hay List against Black Caviar.
“I had that feeling a couple of times before on genuine Group 1 horses like him (Prized Icon),” Schofield said. “One was Hay List, the other was on Le Romain when she just went past me and disappeared like today.
“You can’t do much about it against champions.”
The scary thing is trainer Chris Waller said there was improvement in Winx.
“We have a few lengths up our sleeve. It’s 1500m in three weeks’ time [in the George Ryder Stakes] and who knows what happens after that,” Waller said.
“We don’t need to see her getting any better, we just need to see she is back. And she showed that. We are taking it one race at time, we don’t need to worry about where we are going because the right races will come around. I can’t explain it. Today’s field wasn’t the best field but they should take her to the 200.
“She was just unbelievable. Her attitude is fantastic. She is better now than when she was a four-year-old. Not much has changed in the last 12 months.
“She knows it’s her job, she enjoys her job, she enjoys going home and being another horse.”