Exercise rider Nick Bush smiles at the camera after galloping Dubai World Cup contender Neolithic at Meydan
A day after he breezed about 800m (four furlongs) at Meydan, Arrogate spent a peaceful morning on Tuesday in the quarantine barn area.
“They just walked and it was nice and cool for them, which was great,” said trainer Bob Baffert, referring to Arrogate and his stablemate and fellow Dubai World Cup contender Hoppertunity (USA). Baffert added that he plans to send both horses out to gallop on Wednesday morning prior to the draw for the Dubai World Cup.
Dana Barnes, an assistant to Baffert who has been riding both horses in their morning work, reported that Arrogate was “just perfect” in his brief drill on Monday. “He was a little aggressive early on, so I kind of geared down on him a little, but Bob told me (via a radio connection) to pick it up a little. I was afraid to pick it up too much because he can go from zero to 60 pretty quick,” she said with a laugh.
Arrogate moved superbly over the Meydan dirt and seems to be thriving prior to Saturday’s race, in which the 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song will be ridden by Mike Smith.
“His stride is just unbelievable. I’ve never ridden him on any track that he didn’t handle, and he was just beautiful yesterday,” Barnes said. “And he bounced back to the barn – he doesn’t usually do that on the way home, but he was bouncing yesterday.”
Joining his stablemate Arrogate, Hoppertunity enjoyed a leisurely Tuesday morning in the quarantine barn area, venturing out for a quiet walk a day after he worked an easy 800m (half-mile) at Meydan.
“Both are doing great. They’re eating everything and they are just doing perfectly,” Baffert said.
Hoppertunity, who finished third in last year’s Dubai World Cup, “was very happy” during his Monday workout and “just loves it here” in Dubai, said exercise rider and assistant trainer Dana Barnes.
“He and Arrogate both love the big windows in the back of their stalls. They look out those windows and watch everything. They are really doing great,” she said.
The 6-year-old son of Any Given Saturday will be ridden on Saturday by Flavien Prat.
Keen Ice arrived shortly after 5 a.m. and followed the daily plan trainer Todd Pletcher has designed for his three Dubai World Cup programme contenders by galloping about 2200m (12 furlongs). By going out during the earliest training time slot for international runners, he also gained the experience of conditions similar to race night by seeing the track under bright stadium-style lighting.
“Keen Ice is doing unbelievable,” said exercise rider Nick Bush. “He’s hitting the ground really well.”
Keen Ice can be a challenge to ride, reported Bush, who explained that he can try to grab hold of the bit and take off with his rider.
“He’s so big, he can run off with you,” he added. “But if you give him his head, he’ll relax, and he’s totally chilled out over here. He gets over this track so easy and so well.”
Since Keen Ice has handled the journey to Dubai and his training at Meydan so superbly and also thrives over the 2000m distance of the Dubai World Cup, Bush is optimistic about his chances in the race, in which the 5-year-old son of Curlin will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
“There should be no excuses – no reason that he shouldn’t show up,” he said.
Neolithic also galloped about 2200m (12 furlongs) on Tuesday morning with his ears pricked most of the way.
“He’s blossoming,” said Nick Bush, who rode the colt during the 7am training slot for international runners at Meydan and also has ridden his two Todd Pletcher-trained stablemates at various times this week.
“He feels good and I like him a lot,” Bush added of Neolithic. “It seems that he likes the surface here.”
The major question about Neolithic, Bush said, will be how he handles the final part of the 2000m Dubai World Cup since he weakened somewhat in the latter stages of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes over about 1800m (1 1/8 miles) that was won by Arrogate on January 28 at Gulfstream Park.
Neolithic, the 4-year-old son of Harlan’s Holiday, underwent an ownership change on Tuesday when Qatar Racing purchased a half-interest from ownership group Starlight Racing. He will be ridden on Saturday by John Velazquez.
All three Pletcher trainees (include UAE Derby contender Master Plan) were scheduled to school in the Meydan parade ring on Tuesday evening.
American fan favorite and racing’s resident “bad boy” Lani, the 2016 UAE Derby winner who competed in all legs of the Triple Crown in the USA last year, cantered two laps over the dirt course at Meydan Tuesday morning.
Assistant trainer Katsuyuki Kido said: “Everything has gone well as planned.”
The 4-year-old son of Tapit will be ridden in the Dubai World Cup by international superstar Ryan Moore.
Awardee, Lani’s 7-year-old half-brother by Japanese stallion Jungle Pocket, is also scheduled to contest the Dubai World Cup. He also cantered two laps over the dirt track on Tuesday. Like Lani, Awardee is also trained by Mikio Matsunaga, though he will be piloted by top Japanese jockey Yutaka Take.
Assistant trainer Katsuyuki Kido said: “He has not been familiarised with the new surroundings, so he worked behind Lani and ran along with him to have him concentrate more. Once Awardee came up with Lani, he launched himself a bit and moved nicely. Jockey Yutaka Take will gallop tomorrow.”
In his most recent two starts, Awardee ran second in both the Group 1 Champions Cup and the Group 1 Tokyo Daishoten. Lani, meanwhile, was most recently sixth in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
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