A distant third favourite to newly crowned American champions West Coast and Forever Unbridled a week ago, the Andre Fabre trained 5-year-old has narrowed distinctly over the last few days.
One of racing’s most eye-catching runners, the bay/brown with the painted white face, has continued to impress with his speed and attitude in morning work at Meydan Racecourse.
Although this will be his first ever race on dirt, his 17 to date have been mostly on turf with one on Chantilly’s polytrack, the Godolphin great has gone about his business like clockwork, striding out beautifully.
The son of Medaglia d’Oro, the French raider was out on the Meydan dirt at 05:00 on Monday morning with exercise rider Claude Scialacqua aboard.
He was accompanied by his stable companion Cloth of Stars, ridden by exercise rider Amelie Foulon, who will run in the US$6million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup day.
Travelling head lad Joel Pouchin was on hand to watch the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner in Del Mar last November work over 1400m.
Talismanic led down the back stretch and was then joined by Cloth of Stars for the final straight.
“Both horses worked well,” Pouchin said. “We are very pleased with them.”
Lisa-Jane Graffard, who manages racing operations for Godolphin’s French branch and knows Talismanic better than most, is increasingly optimistic that he can handle his upcoming challenges.
“How Talismanic handles the dirt on his first try in competitive conditions is the big unknown and the hurdle he has to overcome,” she said.
“I think it’s worth repeating that he’s the kind of horse that encourages you to try (because) he’s talented, he’s unflappable and he’s adaptable.
“I would say hopeful rather than confident.”
The Dubai World Cup, without a doubt, is one of the biggest sporting and social occasions on the UAE calendar.
The event, which was born out of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is the world’s richest horse race.
We’ve put together all the key details you need to know ahead of the spectacular sporting spectacle.
Make sure to get in touch with us if you’re at Meydan this weekend.
DUBAI WORLD CUP DATE, TIME, VENUE INFO
DATE: Saturday, March 31st 2018
VENUE: Meydan Racecourse, Dubai
GATES OPEN: Midday (GST)
RACING START TIME: 3:45pm (GST)
TICKETS: Tickets for all race meetings, including the Dubai World Cup, are still available. Visit dubaiworldcup.com for full ticketing information and hospitality packages.
RACE SCHEDULE: There are nine races, six in Group 1 and three in Group 2 – with the multi-million dollar Dubai World Cup race bringing an end to proceedings at 8.50pm.
HEADLINE RACE: US$10 million (Dh37m) Dubai World Cup.
WHERE TO WATCH
TV: UAE – Full coverage available on both Dubai Sports and Yas TV.
RADIO: UAE – Listen to the action on Dubai Eye 103.8.
GETTING TO MEYDAN
With 80,000 race-goers travelling to Meydan on Saturday, make sure you make prior transport arrangements to get to the race venue.
There will be plenty of taxi and Uber options available but our advice is to book ahead and be wary that there will be long queues leaving the venue after the conclusion of the racing and the post-race concert.
Another day another win for the Australian super horse Winx, who just keeps getting better.
In the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill in Sydney the champion mare set a world record of 17 for Group One flat wins – the six-year-old, trained by Chris Waller, moving past the mark of 16 set by American horse John Henry in 1984.
Jockey Hugh Bowman, as usual, coolly rode Winx to her 24th-straight victory, sitting back early before launching her charge with 300 metres remaining.
As Winx strode imperiously forward, she still had Invincible Gem, Happy Clapper and Godolphin’s own Kementari in front of her.
But when Bowman released the floodgates – the mighty mare let the power surge, coasting around the well-credentialed trio at the 200m mark as if they were standing still.
Happy Clapper, Winx’s perennial brides-maid, battled on bravely and for a while down the straight stayed with the champ – before settling once more for the runners-up cheque.
At least Happy Clapper is getting closer – the length distance was the narrowest the seven-year-old has come in seven attempts – ¼ length better than the previous best in the George Main Stakes last September.
Kementari, the James Cummings trained colt who was experiencing Winx’s glory for the first time, held on for third – the much talked-up challenge never really eventuating.
Although the winning margin was nothing like the commanding seven lengths in her last start at the Chipping Norton Stakes, the ever-calm Bowman said she did what she needed to do.
“It was a bit of a tactical race,” said Bowman.
“They are high-class horses and I’ve never treated her opposition with disrespect. I’ve always treated them with the respect they deserve.
“Happy Clapper is a supreme athlete and this mare is just better than them. I have so much confidence in her.
“She gave me such a thrilling feeling as she did everyone watching here today.
“I could feel the crowd erupt as we went to the front at the 200 metres.
“What a special, special horse she is and I’m just so grateful to be her jockey. Each horse is an individual but this horse has captivated the attention of the world.”
Winx out to break more milestones tomorrow. If she wins she:— Magic Millions (@mmsnippets) March 23, 2018
🐴 Passes $16 million in earnings
🐴 Wins a 17th Group One race - a world record
🐴 Notches a 24th straight graded stakes success
🐴 Makes it 57 individual Group 1 winners met and beaten
🐴 Goes to 1077 days unbeaten pic.twitter.com/mYNugQJA5u
For trainer Waller, the Kiwi now compares the pressure of preparing Winx to playing for the All Blacks. His only emotion at the end – one of relief.
“It’s like you’re playing for the All Blacks and you’re about to get dropped,” he said.
“It’s a sick feeling in your guts every time she goes around.”
But Waller had no reason to doubt.
“I can’t explain it. There has been a bit of pressure leading up to today,” he continued.
“She makes my job a lot easier because she does what she does.
“I was a little bit concerned when I knew Happy Clapper won so well first up and he’s a horse we have so much respect for and Kementari not just winning the Randwick Guineas, but winning the two lead-ups as well.
“They are two quality horses and it was good for her today. It made her lift.”
So what next?
Royal Ascot beckons and a possible date for the equine queen with the human version.
But Waller is not getting ahead of himself, stressing the race that bears the monarch’s name – the AUD$4million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 14 – will be the next stop, before any thought of meeting the real thing.
On that day Winx will vie to equal another Aussie-legend – Black Caviar’s record of 25 consecutive wins – and Waller will steel himself one more time.
“The intensity is just unexplainable,” Waller said.
“I don’t know why, or if it is just me? You enjoy the after part of the race, crossing the line.
“You have that sense of responsibility not to go crazy and make sure you are fully respecting your competition and where she is at in her career.
“Three weeks between runs is quite good, but the intensity in that last week becomes sickening if you think about it too much.
“I’m lucky I have got a lot of distractions. [But] she has sort of outgrown the distraction, she is constantly there.
“That wasn’t the case a year ago. You are just thinking of her all the time.
“Not for everything else, but to make sure the horse is alright.”
Waller can relax on that one – Winx is a bit more than just alright.