DUBAI: Ramzan Kadyrov’s North America emerged as a leading player in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup following the post position draw at Meydan Racecourse on Wednesday.
The controversial Chechen leader’s representative was placed in the advantageous stall two on the inside of the 10-runner field for the $10 million event at the draw ceremony that was surprisingly attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the ruler of Dubai.
West Coast, the leading challenger from the US, was drawn in gate nine, while Forever Unbridled, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, will emerge from gate six.
“It’s destiny,” Richard Mullen, North America’s rider, said. “We said this morning a good scenario is a draw from one to five and that six and above was a bad one as he is a naturally front-running horse.
“We need to get him to break well, get him out, get him in to a rhythm and see where we go. It is not going to be just about getting him to the front, but I have to save him for the finish. He’s peaking at the right time, it has all fallen in to place at the right time and stall two is perfect.”
North America was purchased for an estimated $1.5 million last year ahead of the World Cup meeting at which he finished tenth in the Godolphin Mile on an unsuitably rain-softened dirt surface.
The son of super sire Dubawi has been brought along slowly this season. He smashed the track record set by California Chrome when beating Godolphin’s Thunder Snow by over five lengths in the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge over the 2000-meter course three weeks ago. His time of 2 minutes, 1.71 seconds lowered that of the Dubai World Cup-winning time of California Chrome in the 2016 edition of the race.
“Before the draw he had a chance but now, if he was trained by somebody like Bob Baffert or Saeed Bin Suroor, he wouldn’t be overlooked like he is,” Mullen added.
Trainer Satish Seemar has been a mainstay of the Dubai racing scene, having operated out of his Zabeel Stables base for more than 20 years. In that time he has sent out 48 runners on Dubai World Cup night with just two successes. His two Dubai World Cup runners hardly made a dent, either, with Richard’s Kid finishing 12th in 2011 and Surfer a lowly 15th in 2014, and he could not hide his anticipation and trepidation at the ceremony.
“He is still to peak and will do that on Saturday,” Seemar said. “This is the most nerve-wracking time because everything has gone well and all we need is for that to continue until 8:50 p.m. on March 31. It could not have gone better.”
Although it has been an advantage here all season to race up front and as close to the rail as possible, West Coast trainer Bob Baffert was unconcerned at being drawn wide. Mubtaahij, the runaway 2015 UAE Derby winner who Baffert also trains, will break from stall five.
“I’m fine with both draws,” Baffert said. “I’ve heard that 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, that changes. We have a fast horse. From the outside, if they break a little slowly you’re not going to get in to trouble. I just didn’t want them to draw next to each other.”
Draws for other notable horses include the Godolphin pair of Talismanic and Thunder Snow, who will break from seven and 10 respectively while the other US raiders of Pavel and Gunnevera are in eight and three.
Gunnevera’s backstory is one for the ages, and the horse who was orphaned as a foal is trained by Antonio Sano, Venezuela’s most prolific trainer who emigrated to America after he was kidnapped in his homeland.
The four-year-old colt has finished behind West Coast in his last three starts and Sano hopes the front-runners can give his charge a tow in to the race.
“It’s a good position but you need to remember we will come from behind so it doesn’t make much difference,” he said. “I hope he has the chance to finish with a good run in the last two furlongs. It’s very important we see a lot of speed in the race so my horse can come from behind at the end.”
The mare Furia Cruzada was drawn in gate four, while Japanese challenger Awardee has the inside berth in one.
DUBAI WORLD CUP DRAW
1 AWARDEE (USA)
2 NORTH AMERICA (GB)
3 GUNNEVERA (USA)
4 FURIA CRUZADA (CHI)
5 MUBTAAHIJ (IRE)
6 FOREVER UNBRIDLED (USA)
7 TALISMANIC (GB)
8 PAVEL (USA)
9 WEST COAST (USA)
10 THUNDER SNOW (IRE)