Vinny trio steps up on Dubai stage

5 min read
Yarraman Park's I Am Invincible is looking to join fellow Australian-bred stallions Helmet, Exceed And Excel, Mossman, Testa Rossa and Cullen in having a feature winner on Dubai World Cup night, with a three-pronged attack on Saturday's G1 Al Quoz Sprint.

Australian success at the world's richest race meeting has been relatively rare, with Elvstroem (Danehill {USA}) breaking the drought for Australian-trained horses when he won the Dubai Duty Free (now the Dubai Turf) in 2005, a race the Kiwi champ Sunline (NZ) (Desert Sun {GB}) ran third in in 2001.

Since then, Australian-trained pair Ortensia (Testa Rossa) (2012) and Buffering (Mossman) (2016) have won the Al Quoz S. a race New Zealand-bred Joy and Fun (NZ) (Cullen) (2010) and Australian-bred Amber Sky (Exceed And Excel) (2014) also tasted success in for their Hong Kong trainers.

In terms of success for Australian-bred stallions, recent years have brought some great results for Helmet, thanks to Thunder Snow (Ire), from his first Northern Hemisphere crop. Thunder Snow, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, won the G2 UAE Derby in 2017 and then the G1 Dubai World Cup last year.

Thunder Snow winning the G1 Dubai World Cup

Another Darley shuttler, Exceed And Excel, has also enjoyed great success in Dubai, where he has had seven stakes-winners including last year's G2 Godolphin Mile winner Heavy Metal (GB).

Australia's two leading sires, Snitzel and I Am Invincible, have built enviable records at home but have never had winners in Dubai.

'Vinny' gets his chance to get one up on his great rival when his trio line-up on Saturday.

He has only had one previous runner in the UAE, when Illustrious Lad finished unplaced in the Al Quoz last year. The Peter Gelagotis-trained sprinter returns this year, but has plenty of support from star mare Viddora, a dual Group 1 winner in Australia who is on her first overseas assignment.

From I Am Invincible's second crop, Viddora won the 2017 G1 Winterbottom S. in Perth and the 2018 G1 Moir S. in Moonee Valley for trainer Lloyd Kennewell and jockey Joe Bowditch.

Illustrious Lad, a Group 2 winner in 2016, was a respectable fifth behind Jungle Cat (Iffraaj {GB}) in this race last year.

Stable representative Manny Gelagotis said the 7-year-old had settled into Dubai much better than he did 12 months ago and expectations are high from the stable. Anthony Darmanin, who has tasted a run of success lately with the star filly Mystic Journey (Needs Further), takes the ride.

The third I Am Invincible is the Hong Kong-trained Wishful Thinker, which is prepared by Richard Gibson. The 5-year-old is a winner of eight of 20, including two races in Australia where he raced under the name of Katsuro for Mick Price, having been bought as a yearling for $80,000.

He has won four of his past five in Hong Kong and will be ridden by Alexis Badel.

The other Australian hope is the Japanese-bred Brave Smash (Jpn) (Tosen Phantom {Jpn}), who is coming off a third in the G1 Newmarket Hcp. Now trained by Kris Lees, he is a dual Group 1 winner having won the Futurity S. and the Manikato S.

The other runner by an Australian sire in the Al Quoz is Mazzini (GB) (Exceed And Excel), trained by Fawzi Nass.

The brilliant Godolphin sprinter Blue Point (Ire) (Shamardal {USA}), trained by Charlie Appleby, is clearly the one to beat. He won the G1 King's Stand S. at Royal Ascot last year and has won his two lead up runs at Meydan for this race by a combined eight lengths.

Thunder looks to back up World Cup success

Thunder Snow again provides the Australian connection in the main race, the US$12m Dubai World Cup. The 5-year-old Godolphin gelding is fancied to make it back-to-back wins in the race, providing another boost to his sire Helmet.

Another Australian connection in the Dubai World Cup is Gronkowski (USA), who is by Champion Australia sire Lonhro and owned by Phoenix Thoroughbreds, the UAE-based outfit who have substantial racing and breeding interests in Australia.

Australian trainer Simon Foster, now based in Korea, could provide the fairytale result should he win with Dolkong (USA) (Afleet Alex {USA}).

The G1 Dubai Turf features Australian-bred and now Hong Kong trained Southern Legend, who is by Not A Single Doubt. He won four of nine in Australia for Les Bridge included the Listed Darby Munro S. and finished third behind Illustrious Lad in a Group 2 race at Flemington.

His Hong Kong career for Caspar Fownes has featured five further wins and Group 1 placings at three of his past four starts.

Aidan O'Brien presents I Can Fly (GB), by Australian sire Fastnet Rock, while Godolphin has Mountain Hunter (USA) engaged, who is by Lonhro.

The other Australian-bred sire represented in that race is Gimmethegreenlight, who is a son of More Than Ready (USA) who was a Group 1 winner in South Africa and is a half brother to Australian G1 winner OfcourseIcan (Mossman). His son Yulong Prince (SAF) runs for Mike De Kock.

All eyes will be on Almond Eye (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) in that race, with the star mare having her first start since winning the G1 Japan Cup in November, her sixth win from seven career starts.

Meanwhile, last year's G1 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}) and third placegetter Prince of Arran (GB) (Shirocco {Ger)) resume in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup.