Royer-Dupre's 'very special' Vazirabad ready for history-making Meydan bid
The grand nature of Meydan racecourse provides the perfect setting for history making and Alain de Royer-Dupre’s star stayer Vazirabad can achieve just that if successful in the Dubai Gold Cup on Saturday.
The Aga Khan-owned six-year-old bids to become the first thoroughbred to win three times on Dubai World Cup night, a feat only achieved by purebred Arabians Alanudd and Madjani.
Royer-Dupre was pleased with the son of Manduro’s work on the turf course on Wednesday morning and confirmed his status as a firm favourite of everyone at his Chantilly yard.
He said: “Vazirabad is a very special horse – he’s an animal who is very close to people. He loves his carrots and enjoys being around everyone – he’s very confident and very popular.
“His turn of foot is his main asset – he has very strong acceleration for a two-miler. It’s a rare ability for a horse that runs over that far.”
Vazirabad, the mount of Christophe Soumillon, is best priced 9-4 favourite with bet365 to land a historic success and finished a length and three quarter second to Rare Rhythm on his return in the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy.
Royer-Dupre feels the re-opposing rival, trained by Charlie Appleby, is the one to beat.
The trainer said: “He ran very well on his return and finished strongly – it was a better preparation this year than it was last year.
“It’s always difficult to win a race three times, particularly at this level, and I’m not sure he can turn the form around with Rare Rhythm. He’s a good horse and it appears to be a strong field.”
Royer-Dupre is targeting the Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup later in the season but feels the WH Stayers’ Million bonus, on offer to a stayer that wins one of four designated early-season prizes, then the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and the sponsor's Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup, is impossible for any horse.
He said: “It’s just too much of an ask. You need to have your prep run in England, and from my experience if you move all the time with a horse it proves too much.
“It’s too much for any horse wherever they are trained. When a horse runs over long distances it's very demanding, it requires a big effort.”
Orange on the prowl
There was a positive update for supporters of popular stayer Big Orange, one of the chief dangers to Vazirabad, who returned to the training track on Wednesday after a setfast setback two days earlier.
Trainer Michael Bell said: “He cantered this morning and is due to do a stronger piece on Thursday, so at this stage we’re all systems go.
“It’s a strong renewal and I was very impressed with Rare Rhythm and Vazirabad in the trial a few weeks ago. They look to be the form horses, but Big Orange is remarkably consistent and on fast ground he’s very effective.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve, tends to be a front-runner and shows all the qualities you want in a racehorse.
“He’s got courage and determination and gives everything – you can’t ask for more than that and you can see it just by watching him. You couldn’t help but like those qualities and people are endeared to him.”
Potentially problematic berth for World Cup favourite
The Dubai World Cup draw sparked movement in the market ahead of Saturday’s highlight contest with favourite West Coast drifting to 11-10 (from 5-6) with Sky Bet after being allocated stall nine, from which Arrogate suffered a tardy start last year.
There was support for Satish Seemar’s North America, backed into 8-1 (from 10) with Betfair, Betfred and Paddy Power, who was drawn in stall two.
Baffert said: “I’m fine with it. In a race of this magnitude it’s not much of an issue.
“He needs to be in the clear so stall nine is good for that. The horse is more important than the draw, but the start will be crucial.”
There was a blow for local trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi on Wednesday with Ertijaal, a general 8-1 shot for the Al Quoz Sprint, ruled out of the race with a stress fracture, resulting in Jim Crowley replacing Dane O’Neill aboard Faatinah.
Stablemate Muaarab was scratched from the Golden Shaheen after being found to be lame.
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