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.”
The numbers could not have come out any worse for the international favourites and local heroes at the post position draw for the Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Wednesday.
Godolphin hope Thunder Snow, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, fared worst of all drawing the outside lane in post 10.
Heavily favoured West Coast didn’t do much better drawing post 9, while second favourite Forever Unbridled was three spots further in at post 6.
Second Godolphin hope Talismanic was allotted post 7.
But Bob Baffert, trainer of both West Coast and Mubtaahij (who drew post 5) laughed off any disadvantage from the wide berths.
“I’m fine with both,” smiled Baffert.
“Everybody wants the (post) one (drawn by USA runner Awardee), but I do not. I don’t like the one-hole and have never liked the one.
“I’ve heard you have to be on the rail here as it’s a speed biased rail, but I think in a race of this magnitude, when you get all of these good horses together, all that changes.
“We have a fast horse. From the outside, if they break a little slow you’re not going to get in trouble.
“From the inside if you break slow, you’re going to be in trouble.
“I just didn’t want them to draw next to each other. If they’d bump into each other or something else had happened, I’d hate be together.”
Baffert still vividly recalls the horror break suffered last year by Arrogate but the now retired champion still had enough gas to claim the legendary Gun Runner on the straight and win by 2 1/4 lengths.
“To me, the break is so important, as we saw last year (with Arrogate),” continued Baffert. “I don’t want to see that and go through that again.
“I don’t think there’s a really bad post when you’re going a mile-and-a-quarter (2000m). The horse is the more important than the post so I’m fine with it. I’m looking forward to it.”
One spectator who was very happy with his draw was Satish Seemar, trainer of North America who drew Post 2.
The gentle giant loves to run from the front which should be immediately established with the less explosive Awardee on the inside.
“That’s exactly what we wanted – one, two or three,” said Seemar. “I’m very positive.
“We’ve got everything right in his preparation so far, and now we have the perfect draw. He’s still to peak, and he’ll do that on Saturday.”
North America’s jockey Richard Mullen, was similarly delighted: “I’m very happy with the draw.
“When we discussed it this morning, I said to Satish that anything from one to five would be fine but I didn’t want to know if it was higher, so the two stall is ideal.
“He’s a natural front-runner, so I should be able to go forward.”