By Andrew Hawkins in Dubai
Hong Kong duo Dundonnell and Fabulous One may have headed for Dubai with the same goals, but their paths diverge at Meydan on Saturday night (4 March) at the annual Super Saturday meeting as both chase berths in lucrative races on Dubai World Cup night.
Meydan’s Super Saturday card is the traditional local lead-up for the big dance, the Dubai World Cup meeting on 25 March, and for the second consecutive year, Hong Kong has representation at the prelude. Caspar Fownes-trained Dundonnell tackles the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal (1200m) on dirt, while Chris So’s Fabulous One returns to the turf in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (1200m).
Both horses made their UAE debut in a 1200m dirt handicap on 11 February. That day, Dundonnell finished second under top weight, beaten a length by Godolphin’s Comicas after being hampered by the winner and being forced to switch course at the 150m. Fabulous One weakened out to finish ninth, beaten almost 14 lengths.
After that effort, So admitted disappointment with Fabulous One but believes there were genuine excuses for the sub-par run.
“He wasn’t himself that day,” So said from Sha Tin on Wednesday morning (1 March). “He got worked up, and while that isn’t that unusual, he didn’t want to go into the gates. After that, he didn’t show the speed I know he has and then he didn’t corner well, with Oisin (Murphy) saying that he maybe doesn’t go as well left-handed. It’s a shame but at least we have a chance to run this weekend.”
So was eagerly awaiting news of Fabulous One’s gallop from his staff on the ground in Dubai and reported a happy camp after the Elusive City gelding posted his final major gallop on the Meydan dirt. The five-year-old looked strong in the concluding stages of his hitout, having set off from the 1600m mark with Dundonnell before stepping up his workrate in the final 800m.
“He’s really well, I’m told,” So said. “They were happy with the gallop, and it was just to top him off after he galloped last Saturday. He looks like he has taken improvement from the run and coming back to the straight track on the turf should help him. I will fly out after Sha Tin tonight and stay until Monday.”
Murphy, who partnered the gelding into a fourth at Sha Tin before his Middle East sojourn, will once again partner the bay, who will jump from stall five in the field of 16. The Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint will jump at 10:20pm Hong Kong time on Saturday, the fourth of six races included in simulcast coverage from Dubai.
On Tuesday (28 February), Dundonnell had his last serious gallop at Meydan ahead of the Mahab Al Shimaal, with the seven-year-old just having a hack canter on Wednesday.
“He’s going really well, he did some work this morning and I’ll head over after the races on Wednesday to watch him do some easy work on Friday,” Fownes said from Sha Tin on Tuesday morning before his charge came up with gate two in a field of 10. “I’d be expecting a big run this time at set weights. The key on that surface is getting a good gate and making your own luck, and if you can do that, they always run well. But once you get in behind, it’s sayonara.”
Fownes believes Dundonnell is capable of turning the tables on Comicas on Saturday, especially given rider Christophe Soumillon had to stop riding and switch over heels at the 150m last time out.
“The Godolphin horse came across ours a little bit, but let’s hope we can get a good run this time and it’s all about getting him used to that surface,” Fownes said, saying that his intention would be to push onto the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m) on World Cup night should he race to expectations. “Hopefully, he runs well enough to justify a spot and then we’ll keep him ticking over and hopefully have him right on the big day.”
The First Defence gelding will attempt to emulate globetrotter Rich Tapestry, who took the Mahab Al Shimaal in 2014 before finding only John Moore-trained Sterling City too strong in the Golden Shaheen. Soumillon retains the ride, with key rivals including last year’s winner of both the Mahab Al Shimaal and the Golden Shaheen in Muarrab, American G1 winner Wild Dude, G3 Al Shindagha Sprint winner Cool Cowboy and 11-year-old marvel Reynaldothewizard.
The G3 Mahab Al Shimaal jumps at 8:35pm Hong Kong time, the first of six races from Super Saturday to be open for betting in Hong Kong.
Dundonnell (No. 5) wins the Sprint Cup at Sha Tin in the 2014/15 season.