THE final stages of the countdown has begun to the running of the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup, worth a staggering $US $10 million at the new billion dollar Meydan complex on Saturday.

In what promises to be a celebration of ultimate horse power, the best of the best and the swiftest of hoof from throughout the thoroughbred world have assembled in the desert to lay down their claims to greatness.

Here is the latest news leading into the Dubai World Cup meeting courtesy of the Dubai Race Club Media Centre:


GODOLPHIN have enjoyed a brilliant Dubai International Racing Carnival, but Simon Crisford, racing manager to the boys in blue, is under no illusions about the Herculean task facing the 20-strong Al Quoz team at Meydan on Saturday.

Two Step Salsa’s success in last year’s Godolphin Mile was their first on Dubai World Cup night since Electrocutionist captured the big one in 2006, though Eastern Anthem rejoined their team after winning the Dubai Sheema Classic 12 months ago.

Crisford, who accepts that the strength of global competition has made things even tougher for the home team, said: “There are no gimmes at Meydan, and, while we are pleased with the way in which the horses have come through their preparation, all the races are very competitive, and with so many countries represented we know that we are in for a battle.

“It is a complement to Meydan and all that it represents that so many top horses are turning up on Saturday, and it promises to be a fantastic night on what is a fabulous racecourse, but, though we have some nice chances, I’ll be happy just to get one winner on the board.

“The horses have all had their final gallop over the last three or four days, and we have done all we can. Now we need a bit of luck, but we realise it will be very hard.”

Crisford will outline his hopes and aspirations, not only for Saturday but also for the forthcoming Flat season in Europe, at Godolphin’s annual media morning on Wednesday.

However, he conceded that they had “solid hopes” for the US$5 million Dubai Sheema Classic, sponsored by China Guangsha, in which Frankie Dettori has opted to partner Cavalryman from their four representatives.

“Cavalryman needed his first race and has been working well,” said Crisford, while Ted Durcan rides Campanologist, successful at Meydan on Super Thursday, Ahmed Atjebi is reunited with Eastern Anthem, who has been absent since finishing second in two Group 1’s in Germany last summer, and Richard Hills comes in for the ride on Anmar.

Similarly, Crisford is looking for a bold show from Alexandros in the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, in which he will be trying to avenge a recent defeat over the course by Presvis, while they have four runners in the UAE Derby, sponsored by The Saeed and Mohammed Al Naboodah Group with Dettori siding with Mendip.

Gayego, who flies the flag for Al Quoz in the US$2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, sponsored by Gulf News, was runner-up in the Godolphin Mile last year. However, he has been a revelation since reverting to sprinting, and, having been beaten less than two lengths in the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita, he made a promising return on his All Weather debut when chasing home War Artist over the new course last month.

Desert Party, who made a spectacular winning return on Super Thursday after being off 10 months with a chipped ankle sustained in the Kentucky Derby, will be a popular choice with the locals for their Pick 6 in the Godolphin Mile, sponsored by Etisalat, in which they also run Calming Influence (Ahmed Atjebi) and Skysurfers (Ted Durcan).

Arguably, Godolphin’s two weakest races on Saturday are, ironically, the Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates Airline itself, in which both Mastery (Dettori) and Allybar (Atjebi) look up against it, and the Al Quoz Sprint, sponsored by Emirates NBD, in which Dettori prefers Sirocco Breeze (Durcan) and Fravashi (Atjebi).


Having a job travelling to exotic locations such as Dubai and Hong Kong would be an ideal life style for most young women but throw in the proviso that the main object of their attention over many weeks overseas, not to mention the hundreds of hours of long distance flying, will be a 500kgs thoroughbred racehorse and the prospect does not seem so exciting.

But don’t suggest that to Lizzie Jelfs the travelling groom and regular track rider for David Hayes, one of the world’s most acclaimed trainers. The 26 year-old attractive blonde, who grew up in England before moving to Australia about eight years ago, would not swap her job for anything.

“I just love being around horses and I really appreciate the opportunity David has giving me’’ Jelfs said at the Meydan international stables where she is looking after Eagle Falls who is running in Saturday’s Dubai Golden Shaheen, sponsored by Gulf News.

It is her second trip to Dubai and she has also being to Hong Kong four times as well as Singapore, New Zealand and England, where she at least had a chance to catch up with family. Although she does not come from a racing family, Jelfs grew up around horses of the recreational variety.

“I was involved in a pony club when I was a kid and riding has always been part of my life while my friends were going off and becoming doctors and lawyers and the like’’ she said.

The family home is in Oxford and when she was 15, Jelfs went off to work as a stablehand for Lambourn trainer Charlie Egerton.

At that stage, her ambition was to become a jockey but “I don’t think he (Egerton) thought I was good enough’’ she said.

It was Egerton who suggested she should go to Australia where there seemed to be more opportunities for female jockeys and he arranged an interview for her with Hayes. However, she soon found out that she had to be an Australian citizen to become an apprentice jockey and instead became a groom with the Hayes’ stable.

Her ability with horses as well as the love for the animals soon became apparent and its was not long before she began taking on more important tasks. Hayes had no hesitation in sending her overseas alone with some of the stable’s best horses and on those trips she usually also acts as track rider so her responsibilities are high. When she is back in Australia, Jelfs is now based at Hayes’ Sydney stable at Randwick where she is more or less in charge.

Jelfs is well aware of the vagaries of racing and the problems of handling highly-strung thoroughbreds but it is still hard to deal with the unforeseen disasters that sometimes crop up. Such as the sudden death as the result of what should have been a relatively simple gelding procedure of the highly-rated Irish horse Changingoftheguard who was to be Hayes’ main contender for this year’s 150th Melbourne Cup.

Jelfs had spent weeks in quarantine in England with the horse before he went to Australia last October and then looked after him in quarantine again. It was a bitter blow to Jelfs and the stable, not to mention the new owners who had paid around AU$1 million for Changingoftheguard, when the horse had to be put down humanely. Now she has moved onto a new charge in Eagle Falls and success on Saturday would be a worthy reward for her efforts over the past eight years.


It will come as a surprise if Elton John doesn’t belt out one of his most popular numbers, Rocket Man, when he gallops through his extensive back catalogue of hits after the Dubai World Cup meeting on Saturday night – particularly if the Singaporean horse of the same name wins the Dubai Golden Shaheen, sponsored by Gulf News.

Rocket Man is the best horse in years to emerge from the Lion City and should he win lion’s share of the US$2 million purse, it will go down as a landmark achievement for Singapore racing.

On the form book, the four-year-old Australian-bred son of Viscount is clearly the horse to beat with an international rating of 121; the next highest-rated are his Hong Kong rival One World and British raider Regal Parade, both on a mark of 118.

Rocket Man established his lofty current assessment when a close second to triple world champion Sacred Kingdom in the KrisFlyer International Sprint in Singapore last May, the only time he has tasted defeat from nine career starts.

Shortly afterwards, he sustained a condylar fracture to the off-side cannon bone requiring screws inserted, but any fears for his on-track prowess were subsequently blown away on his comeback after a nine-month absence.

“He was awesome, he felt as good as new and though he didn’t beat a strong field he did it by over four lengths giving weight away all around - and he was only three-quarters fit,” recalls jockey Robbie Fradd.

“You never want horses to be out for so long with an injury but, if anything, that layoff might have been a blessing in disguise. He’s still only a four-year-old and still to reach his peak, and he’s come back more muscled and physically developed.”

Trainer Patrick Shaw, like Fradd, another South African, concurs, adding: “He really has matured well and it’s not unusual for horses to return stronger from that type of injury and I’m hoping he fits that category.”

Since his comeback win, Rocket Man has come through two further barrier trials at home in Kranji with flying colours to enhance his fitness for the big night and his draw in barrier six holds no fears for Fradd.

“He likes to race on the pace, but I expect the Japanese horse Laurel Guerreiro will lead and I’ll want to take a sit just off him. He’s in great form, he has travelled over here really well and he’s a serious horse with a serious chance.”

Fradd has unfinished business in Dubai. In 2002 he controversially ran second on the Hong Kong superstar Fairy King Prawn in the Dubai Duty Free, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free – resulting in an acrimonious split with the latter’s trainer Ivan Allan - and is itching to set the record straight.

“It would mean a lot to win here, not just for personal reasons, but for Singapore too. I have been riding there about three years now and I really enjoy it. Winning a race at this meeting is huge for anybody, no matter who you are or where you come from. It would be amazing.”


When the horses are in the parade ring before the World Cup, look out for the young dark-haired gentleman alongside jockey Kieren Fallon on Gitano Hernando.

If you conclude “that’s the lad who looks after the horse” – shame on you! However, such a deduction will be understandable. For the record, that fresh Latin visage will belong to his fast-rising trainer, Marco Botti, 33.

Newmarket-based Marco is the son of Alduino Botti, one half of the Italy’s perennial champion training partnership with brother Giuseppe.

The winner of some 380 races in the saddle, Botti Jr. set his heart on training early in his 20s and picked up experience working for his father and uncle for three years in between a six month stint with Godolphin in Dubai and turns with Ed Dunlop, Luca Cumani in England and Bill Mott in America.

He took out his own licence to train in England in 2006 and having improved his winning tally each season, he now finds himself with a genuine contender in the richest race ever staged.

Naturally enough he’s pinching himself at the magnitude of it all happening so soon and to one so young - but he’s not complaining either.

“It’s the greatest experience of my career so far,” he enthuses. “I always hoped I could have a runner in a race like this one day and out of the blue Gitano Hernando, a really special horse, came along and here we are.”

Maintaining the theme of improbability, not too many horses go into US$10 million races with good recent form at Wolverhampton either, but Gitano Hernando has a more unusual profile than most.

The four-year-old son of Hernando has won five of his eight starts. On his penultimate outing he announced himself as a major league attraction by winning the Group 1 Goodwood Stakes on the ProRide surface at Santa Anita.

“We knew he was good but, yeah, it was a big leap to go from a conditions race at Wolverhampton to trying a Group 1 in America. But we believed in him, so did Kieren Fallon and while winning was a bonus, the best thing was to have it confirmed that he was a genuine Group 1 horse,” Botti recalls.

Gitano Hernando’s preparation has, it appears, gone like clockwork. On his prep run for Dubai, the Winter Derby Trial (Listed) at Lingfield last month, he gave 6lbs and a four-lengths-plus caning to a horse by the name of Suits Me despite being rated “only 85 per cent fit.”

The latter horse boosted the form running a close second in the Winter Derby itself at the same venue last weekend.
“He has travelled over here well. He’s a pretty chilled out, uncomplicated horse. He still has a bit to prove against horses like Gio Ponti, Vision D’Etat and Twice Over, but he can’t be forgotten either because he is still improving, still a quite lightly raced four-year-old. The race will be tough for sure, but he does have a chance.”

And how is the youthful Botti coping with the hubbub of having such a high-profile runner?

“I love it. Good horses like Gitano Hernando don’t come along very often, never mind to be in Dubai for the richest race in the world. Whatever happens, it’s great to be here.”



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