Satish Seemar and North America chase Dubai World Cup dream

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Satish Seemar has high hopes for favourite North America in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup, with the Dubai-based trainer bidding to land a maiden triumph in the marquee race after falling short in 2018.

North America, the favourite last year, came up short after blowing his start and went on to finish last of the 10 runners.

But everything looks in place for the seven-year-old to go better in the $12 million race at Meydan during the richest day of the international racing calendar.

“Last year we were positive but it didn’t work out due to the gate problems,” said Seemar.

“We used to use ear plugs for him on his way to the gates and then we’d take them off.

“They have strong loudspeakers at Meydan and once the plugs had been removed the horse got nervous and that’s compromised his chances.

“He’s gotten used to the noise and he ran two races at Meydan, which he won impressively.”

The Zabeel Stables handler, who also trains Godolphin Mile runner Secret Ambition, has guided North America to an unbeaten record this season.

The sire of Duwabi won legs of the Al Maktoum Challenge by nine lengths and two and a quarter lengths respectively, and looks in solid shape ahead of Saturday.

Drawn in post three for the mile-and-a-quarter race, North America will need a more consistent start than last year’s race.

“This year we have gone up a little bit but three is a safe draw for him, and we were hoping to get three to five for him, or even six,” said Seemar.

“He’s done nothing wrong this season. He’s very good and fresh, just like we saw in leg one of the Al Maktoum Challenge. He’s a very impressive horse.

“He likes to be fresh and hopefully it works out perfectly.”

A staggering $35 million is on offer across the nine races on Saturday and the Dubai World Cup remains the jewel in the crown for its founder His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

While North America is a worthy star under jockey Richard Mullen, Capezzano is also in the form of his life.

He has registered three impressive victories this season, including a thrilling triumph against 2018 champion Thunder Snow at Super Saturday three weeks ago.

“He won two races over the mile very convincingly to give us the signal to try him over the extended trip. He was amazing and we hope he can replicate the same form on the big night,” said trainer Salem bin Ghadayer.

“He started his career in Dubai. He doesn’t have a lot of experience. But by races and time, he will improve.

“He’s a little bit of a moody horse. He’s better than before so I’m relaxed.”

Thunder Snow, ridden by jockey Christophe Soumillon, is Godolphin’s sole runner in the race as they go in search of a record-ninth World Cup victory.

The five-year-old, who was drawn in post 12 for the race, finished third at the Breeders’ Cup classic in November and followed that up with a sluggish second place finish at Meydan earlier this month.

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor said: “He won last year from gate No10 but is in 12 this time, it’s still good from our side. I know the horse has a good turn of foot to take a good position early.

“He’s doing very good. He worked well and I’m happy with him. The more you run him, he’ll come back good. I’m happy with his progress. He’s settled. It’ll be a tough race with horses from Japan, America, local horses. He’s a tough horse.”

A colt firmly in with a shout is Yoshida.

The handsome Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry arrived in the UAE off a sixth-place finish in the inaugural Group 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park in January.

The five-year-old also boasts Grade 1 wins on turf and dirt, having captured the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs in May, as well as the prestigious Woodward at Saratoga last year.

William Mott said: “He had a lacklustre performance in the Pegasus, but came out of it well and we were happy with how he travelled.

“He always trains well. He thrives on the morning sessions in particular. He’s adaptable and with a world class jockey (Jose Ortiz), we are very confident.”

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Godolphin trainer Appleby on mesmeric 2018 season and Dubai World Cup hopes

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Charlie Appleby zipped down the slopes of Megeve in the French Alps earlier this month as the three-time International Trainer of the Year enjoyed a richly deserved break.

The cold air in the Alps may be a far cry from the rain and wind of Suffolk, but the silence and space in the mountains provided the Englishman with a chance to reflect on his memorable year.

The 43-year-old saddled 12 of Godolphin’s 30 international Group 1 winners in 2018, including historic victories at the Epsom Derby and Melbourne Cup, as well as the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Just one of those 12 victories would be the realisation of a dream for any trainer. But Appleby is different. He’s engaging, clever, a superb communicator and leader, and has a strong team around him to help train some of the best horses in the world.

For all the highs and glory of 2018, the Newmarket-based handler is relishing the prospect of carrying his success through the new season.

“It was a year that started off here on Dubai World Cup night with the two winners and seemed to rollercoaster from there,” said Appleby. “We had six winners at Craven, had five at Guineas Meeting, won the Epsom Derby and had a few winners at Ascot. It just went on from there.

“It was one of those seasons that you didn’t want to end. Unfortunately it does and we all have to start on zero again.

“I said to the team to keep the consistency going. As long as we are competing at the top end, then I feel we are doing our job. Getting horses to G1 events is not easy and you have to take some satisfaction. But if you can bag a winner, then that’s the icing on the cake.”

Dubai World Cup day will be a different prospect for him this time around. In 2018, Appleby saddled his first two winners with Jungle Cat in the Al Quoz Sprint and Hawkbill in the Dubai Sheema Classic.

A significant night for him, but a surprise also in that it had not come sooner, given the dominance he has held on the international stage over the years.

“I never had a winner until last year. Jungle Cat and Hawkbill were my first two. They are fond memories and I’ve been so lucky to be associated with Godolphin for so many years,” said Appleby, who was appointed as a Godolphin trainer in 2013.

“There have been many horses trained by Saeed (bin Suroor) that have won so it’s always been exciting for us at this time of year.”

This time around, however, Appleby has seven runners and four who look highly likely to secure victory come Saturday evening.

Blue Point is the name pursed on most people’s lips after his devastating form during the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

The sire of Shamardal sealed victories in the Meydan Sprint in February and the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint earlier this month.

His long-term target is the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, and a win this weekend will move him closer to achieving that primary target for 2019.

“It was two great performances by him. I’m pleased I gave him a second one. Originally we were going to go straight from the Meydan Sprint to the Al Quoz. He came out of it so well. He’s showing lots of sharpness,” said Appleby.

“If he turns up with his A game then he will be hard to beat.”

Cross Counter is an exciting prospect for Appleby after his devastating triumph at the Melbourne Cup in November. Although he has not raced in the last four months, rest and recovery has set the four-year-old in promising stead for what will be a long season.

“Physically he looks great. We have a long year ahead. He’s back on his A game the last 10 days. We’re delighted with him. He looks in great nick,” said Appleby.

Old Persian hummed in his sole start this year, producing a late burst to beat Racing History in the Dubai City of Gold on March 9.

Fresh and focused, the Duwabi colt will enter the Dubai Sheema Classic as firm favourite to bag his third win in four races.

“If he was to go and win on Saturday, he’d come back and target some European races. If he’s competitive and we don’t quite meet the mark, the we’ll look at an international campaign,” he said.

Divine Image is another horse speckled with class. The sire of Scat Daddy is aiming to complete a rare UAE triple crown this weekend, after already sealing wins in the UAE Oaks and Al Bastakiya over the last two months.

“The key thing about her is the last furlong, how she can grind it out well. She’ll be a strong player on Saturday evening,” he said.

Although most of the attention will centre on the Dubai World Cup itself, another portion of it will fall into Appleby’s path. The modest Southampton man has been in tremendous form during the Carnival, clinching back-to-back hat-tricks as well as an array of other victories over the past few months at Meydan.

And with the class of his runners in action this weekend, he looks set to cement his status again as one of the greatest trainers around.

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Godolphin's Thunder Snow drawn out wide for World Cup bid

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Godolphin star Thunder Snow will again have to overcome a wide draw if he is to successfully defend his crown Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Saturday.

The five-year-old provided trainer Saeed bin Suroor with a record eighth victory in the Emirates Airline-sponsored showpiece 12 months ago, before going on to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

He will be expected to strip fitter for his comeback run when second in round three of the Al Maktoum Challenge and bids to become the first horse in history to win the Dubai World Cup more than once.

Christophe Soumillon’s mount does not Appear ideally placed after drawing stall 12 of 13 – but he was widest of all in gate 10 last year.

Other leading fancies Capezzano and North America will break from stalls two and three respectively.

North America trainer Satish Seemar said: “This year we have gone up a little bit but three is a safe draw for him, and we were hoping like to get three to five for him, or even six.

“He’s done nothing wrong this season. He’s very good and fresh, just like we saw in leg one of the Al Maktoum Challenge. He’s a very impressive horse.

“He likes to be fresh and worked out perfectly.”

The Charlie Appleby-trained Old Persian is the likely favourite for the Dubai Sheema Classic under William Buick – and has drawn stall two.

Bin Suroor’s Racing History (four) also carries the Godolphin colours, while Aidan O’Brien saddles Magic Wand (three) and Hunting Horn (five).

David Simcock’s Desert Encounter drew the highest stall in eight.

Almond Eye is very much the star attraction in the DP World-sponsored Dubai Turf and is drawn in the middle in stall seven.

Sakae Kunieda’s four-year-old is unbeaten in five starts including top-level triumphs in the Japanese 1000 Guineas, the Japanese Oaks and the Shuka Sho, before beating the boys in November’s Japan Cup.

Connections have already identified this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp as her long-term objective – setting up a potentially mouth-watering clash with John Gosden’s dual Arc heroine Enable.

However, racegoers may not have to wait until October to see the star fillies lock horns, with Kunieda on Wednesday raising the possibility of Almond Eye first travelling to York this summer.

He said: “I hope to continue in international races – the Arc de Triomphe is the target.”

Almond Eye will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire, who said: “What she did last year – what she accomplished – was nearly perfect. I can’t find a weak point for her.

“She’s got the potential for that (Arc). She’s got stamina and she’s an easy ride.

“There’s a good programme for her in Europe and to challenge in the Arc. Running against horses like Enable and Sea Of Class would be a great challenge.”

Almond Eye’s 12 rivals on Saturday include Bin Suroor’s Dream Castle (stall two), O’Brien’s I Can Fly (eight) and the John Gosden-trained Without Parole (12).

Appleby’s Divine Image (six), O’Brien’s Van Beethoven (11) and Jahbath (two) from William Haggas’ yard all feature in the UAE Derby, while Appleby’s Blue Point (eight) is the long odds-on favourite for the Al Quoz Sprint – in which he will face O’Brien’s Lost Treasure (three) and Richard Fahey’s star sprinter Sands Of Mali (two).

Appleby has a particularly strong hand in the Dubai Gold Cup, with Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter (nine) joined by stablemate Ispolini (six).

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