Since I often remember seeing an interesting news item, but not so much where it was reported (and sometimes even doubt my memory until searching for it again), I’ve decided to collect these international odds and ends in a new feature dubbed “The Dispatch Box.”
I’ll try to resist my medieval tendency to be encyclopedic – since that would become unworkable in pretty short order. The game plan is to be disciplined enough to select just those bulletins that I found most important for future reference. (And that I won’t cover elsewhere, like my Dubai Carnival thoughts on Mondays. Analysis of Polar River and Reynaldothewizard, for example, will belong there.) Hopefully you’ll find this kind of round-up helpful too.
Blue Creek and Lani on the U.S. Triple Crown trail: Godolphin’s Blue Creek, who created a big impression in his career debut at Meydan January 1, and Japan-based Lani, who’s won two straight on the dirt at home, have designs on our Triple Crown. Both are bluebloods. Blue Creek, a Street Cry colt, is the first foal from Blue Bunting, the winner of the 1000 Guineas (G1), Irish Oaks (G1) and Yorkshire Oaks (G1) in 2011. According to the Dubai Racing Club release, trainer Charlie Appleby plans to skip the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) because Blue Creek is already looking for a step up in trip. Hence the Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday, March 5, and the March 26 UAE Derby (G2) are likely ports of call. And although Blue Creek didn’t compete in an official race until he turned three January 1, he shouldn’t fall under the “Apollo curse” — he previously won a trial at Meydan that doesn’t count on his race record.
With the UAE Derby being a major scoring race for the Kentucky Derby (G1), with a grand total of 170 points on offer, it’s no surprise that Lani is likewise looking to Dubai en route to Churchill Downs. Paca Paca Farm’s Kate Hunter tweeted his itinerary, beginning with the February 21 Hiyashinsu (Hyacinth) S. as his prep for the UAE Derby. The Hyacinth, held over a metric mile at Tokyo, was won by Golden Barows prior to his third in last year’s UAE Derby. In a Yahoo Japan report picked up by several American media outlets, trainer Mikio Matsunaga said that a top-two finish at Meydan would propel Lani into the Kentucky Derby. If he doesn’t make the exacta in Dubai, his fallback position is the May 14 Peter Pan (G2) and June 11 Belmont S. (G1). By Tapit and out of the Grade 1-winning Sunday Silence mare Heavenly Romance, who defeated males in the 2005 Tenno Sho Autumn (G1), Lani has won his past two on the dirt at Kyoto and Tokyo. The gray is a half-brother to two Japanese stakes winners on dirt, Grade 3 scorer Awardee and Amour Briller.
Vancouver transferred from Waterhouse to O’Brien: Last year’s Australian champion 2-year-old Vancouver, whose unbeaten campaign culminated in the Golden Slipper (G1), is leaving Gai Waterhouse and shipping to Aidan O’Brien with a view toward Royal Ascot. The Medaglia d’Oro colt is regarded as a 4-year-old of 2016 on Northern Hemisphere terms.
“As an unbeaten champion two year-old and winner of the Golden Slipper, he has nothing more to prove in Australia,” Waterhouse said in the Coolmore release announcing the switch. “I have no doubt that he is world-class and this plan gives him the best opportunity of proving himself on the international stage, with a view to possible dual-hemisphere stud duties.
“We’ll obviously be sad to see him go and I’m sure Aidan will have a lot of fun with him – Coolmore has followed this route very successfully in the past with So You Think, Starspangledbanner, Haradasun and others and I wish Aidan every success with a horse I consider as talented as any.”
The move comes after Vancouver’s sophomore season went awry. Fourth in his return in the August 15 San Domenico (G3) back at Rosehill, he was only third in a September 1 barrier trial, prompting Waterhouse to call off his Australian spring and send him on vacation.
By dispatching Vancouver to Ballydoyle, Coolmore is employing a divide-and-conquer strategy. For they’re also partners in the exciting Pride of Dubai, another Australian 3-year-old who’s very much on course for a lucrative autumn Down Under. They’ve separated them, giving each the opportunity to maximize his value. And with the retirement of Gleneagles, Coolmore needs a flagship miler in Europe. As James Willoughby astutely noted in his TDN column, Vancouver needn’t be pigeonholed as a sprinter. Once you look past Solow, the European mile scene has an open look, and Vancouver could make his presence felt. In any event, this strikes me as a savvy gamble to restore his reputation.
Able Friend’s career in jeopardy after tendon injury: So there was a bit more to Able Friend’s loss in the Hong Kong Mile (G1) after all. The subject of a last-minute injury scare, the defending champ had to pass vet exams on his right front foot before being pronounced fit to race December 13. But The South China Morning Post reported that Able Friend was subsequently lame in trackwork, and an MRI discovered a strain to his deep digital flexor tendon in the same right front. Trainer John Moore has ruled him out for the rest of the Hong Kong season, prescribing a six-month holiday in Australia in hopes that time will prove the best healer.
“He went into the Hong Kong Mile with a bruised sole, we kept him in minor work and the problem didn’t resolve itself,” Moore told SCMP’s Michael Cox.
“I’ve never seen this injury before, so I can’t tell you,” the trainer added regarding the prognosis and the possibility of a comeback.
“He is a 1,300-pound animal, so that may be a factor. We just have to get him in a paddock and give him some rehab. Most of all, we need to let the injury cure itself in a nice paddock.”
Duramente on the comeback trail: Newly crowned Japanese champion 3-year-old colt Duramente, who missed the second half of 2015 with fractures in both front legs, is scheduled to return to Miho Training Center January 22. According to Racing Post, the Japanese 2000 Guineas (G1) and Japanese Derby (G1) winner has been limbering up on the farm. The February 28 Nakayama Kinen (G2) is penciled in for his comeback, as a prep for the March 26 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night. His ultimate objective, of course, is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).
Ron the Greek 10th in Saudi Arabia: Multimillionaire expat Ron the Greek looked like a shadow of himself when trudging home far up the track in the January 2 Crown Prince Cup. Although he was poorly drawn in post 15, it’s tough to blame that for such a big loss, especially because he was never traveling well. Recall that Ron the Greek was knocked out of last year’s Dubai World Cup (G1) by injury. He did return with a rallying second going about 1 1/8 miles December 5, but after his dispiriting title defense in the Crown Prince Cup, you’ve got to wonder about him now — especially since he’s a 9-year-old. We’ll know more if he’s able to defend another crown in next month’s Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup. (For details on his Saudi career, see frusiya.com – and look him up under the name of Wattani.)
Azeri’s son wins again in Japan: Leukerbad, a 3-year-old colt by Japanese legend Deep Impact and out of U.S. Hall of Famer Azeri, won his second straight race at Kyoto January 11. Topping the 2013 Select Sale of foals at ¥252 million, the dark bay was second in a Kyoto newcomers’ race at about 1 1/4 miles November 8. Leukerbad broke his maiden on the same course November 29, beating Vodka’s kid by Sea the Stars, Tanino Urban Sea. By capturing his sophomore bow, Leukerbad now brandishes a 2-for-3 mark. Spot his rally from off the pace (sporting number 5):
Frankel and Danedream’s daughter to Varian: According to a GaloppOnline.de report picked up by Racing Post, the newly turned 2-year-old daughter of Frankel and Danedream is in training with Roger Varian in Newmarket. Named Nothing But Dreams, she’s the offspring from the first breeding season for both her parents.
“Of course it’s a great honor and privilege that I have been asked by the Shadai Farm to train Nothing But Dreams,” Varian said. “She is the daughter of an Arc winner [by the] champion Frankel.
“She has been broken in and is currently undergoing light canters. Of course it’s early, but she has a good action and good character.”