Es-Unico, the winner of last year’s Uruguayan Gran Criterium (domestic Group 2), is ready to follow in the footsteps of Aero Trem, fifth in last year’s Group 1 Saudi Cup, with the 3-year-old being targeted at the Group 3 Saudi Derby on Feb. 25.
Antonio Cintra’s assistant trainer Julio Olascoaga is overseeing Es-Unico’s preparation in Dubai and said: “He won the most important race for 2-year-olds in Uruguay. Then he had a problem that did not allow him to compete in the Uruguayan Triple Crown and after that we thought of aiming for the Dubai Carnival and The Saudi Cup meeting.”
Although only four of their horses — Aero Trem, Perfect Love, El Patriota and Ajuste Fiscal — have run previously at The Saudi Cup, Cintra’s team has been focused on the meeting since it started in 2020.
“The planning to run at The Saudi Cup is something that comes from a long time ago,” said Olascoaga. “In the first edition, we already had it in our minds that we wanted to compete there. Our plan is to select the best horses from Uruguay and test them against some of the world’s top performers.”
Unbeaten as a 2-year-old in Uruguay, Es-Unico finished second on his first start in Dubai, the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial over 1,400 meters.
Olascoaga said: “He ran a very good race and ran very hard at the end. It always seemed that a little more distance would help him. The mile of the Saudi Derby will suit him perfectly. His form is at a very high level and he will enjoy the long straight at King Abdulaziz.”
The only question is if he will run in the UAE 2000 Guineas first or go straight to Saudi. “He recovered very well after the race — better than we expected because it was a tough one,” said Olascoaga.
“I think that if he does the same in the 2000 Guineas, he could easily go to the Saudi Derby afterwards. It’s not ideal, maybe an extra week would have been better, but if the horse is fine, it’s very possible that he will run in both.”
No decision has been made on who will ride him in the Saudi Derby yet, but Jose Da Silva has always been on board and there does not seem to be a reason to change things.
Olascoaga said: “South America has always been an exporter of great jockeys. There are outstanding examples like Silvestre de Sousa and Joao Moreira. Anywhere in the world you will find South American jockeys. We like jockeys who really feel the silks — not only wearing the colors of an owner but those of a country, an industry and a continent.”
When anyone mentions a Uruguayan great in the horse ranks, it is inevitable that the name Invasor comes up. Although born in Argentina, he is the best horse trained in Uruguay to date.
“When Invasor ran, I was still very young, but of course I watched all his races. I don’t know if you could say they are similar as they are horses of different physiques. Invasor was a little taller and slimmer, while Es-Unico is a medium-sized horse and a little more compact which makes him more agile,” said Olascoaga.
“When he gallops he reaches top speed very quickly and I think his turn of foot will make the difference in Saudi,” he added. “But there is something they both have in common — a huge heart and the fact they both carry the Uruguayan flag. Invasor became the best in the world, let’s see how far Es-Unico goes.”