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Mshawish Making A Name For Himself

Dubai World Cup contender, Mshawish, trained by Todd Pletcher, has California Chrome in his sights.

Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Andrew Watkins

Mshawish Making A Name For Himself

By Michele MacDonald

In Arabic, the name of Al Shaqab Racing’s Mshawish (USA) means ‘confusing’ or ‘not clear”.

The six-year-old horse who previously was a star on turf has a chance to live up to that name in the most dramatic fashion when he enters the starting gate for the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates with what his connections believe is a strong chance to upset favorites California Chrome (USA) and Frosted (USA).

Throughout his life, the handsome bay has done his share of confusing, outperforming expectations since the time he was a foal.

By Darley’s top international sire Medaglia d’Oro, he was the second cheapest weanling sold by the stallion at the Keeneland November sale in 2010, bringing only $25,000.

The following season, he was the cheapest colt by his sire sold at the Keeneland September yearling sale when the hammer fell at a meagre $10,000. Overall, the average price of Medaglia d’Oro’s 86 offspring sold at auction from that crop was $199,610, which shows just how far below average buyers viewed the colt.

Confounding those early valuations, he blossomed into a €170,000 ($219,589) two-year-old at the Arqana May breeze-up sale in 2012 when he was bought by Mandore International Agency on behalf of Qatari Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani’s Al Shaqab operation.

From there, the colt dubbed Mshawish just kept getting better. He won second-time-out when trained by Mikel Delzangles, and in his fourth start was a creditable fourth to Intello in the French Derby.

He went on to triumph in the Group 2 Zabeel Mile on turf at Meydan in 2014 prior to a fourth against record-breaking Just a Way on Dubai World Cup day. Transferred to master American trainer Todd Pletcher in mid-2014, Mshawish began a whole new life that has seen him rank among the world’s most versatile runners, the rare individual good enough to be a Grade 1 winner on both dirt and turf.

While Mshawish proved last year he can run with some of the globe’s best grass competitors when he was third in the Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World, he has got stronger as he has matured.

Now the Pletcher team believes the horse they affectionately call ‘Swish’ and describe as an “aggressive warrior”, could have found his best stride on dirt.

“When we first got him, he was very difficult—he was strong and hard to handle,” said exercise rider Nick Bush, recalling that Pletcher decided the horse should train in draw reins so that he could be more easily controlled.
“He’s a very aggressive horse. He’ll go out there and, if you knock him around, he’ll knock you back,” Bush said. “He is not going to take anything off anybody.”

Yet at the same time, Mshawish can be coolly unflappable. Bush said that while the horse was in France, a tree fell on a barn in which he was housed, trapping him in his stall, but that he did not panic and waited quietly until he could be freed.

Partly due to his pedigree - he is by a Dubai World Cup runner-up and out of a mare by Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch - the Pletcher team wanted to try Mshawish on dirt some time ago, but initially the horse wasn’t galloping out after workouts as strongly as they would like to see. However, he became more fluid on the surface over time.

“Every time I work him on the dirt now, he gives me 100 per cent,” Bush said. “He’s going out there and he loves it.”

Pletcher’s assistant Ginny DePasquale said Mshawish felt right at home as soon as he landed in Dubai this month after his flight from Florida, where he won the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Gulfstream Park’s dirt track on February 6. Both she and Bush said Mshawish seems to relish the footing on Meydan’s dirt track.

“I think he’s better on the dirt than the turf, for sure,” said Bush.

For the about nine years he has worked with Pletcher, Bush has ridden some special horses, including brilliant 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map. None have had more talent than Mshawish, he said.

“Now that we are figuring him out, he is unreal. He’s versatile. He’s solid. He has a good foundation under him,” Bush continued.

“He’s one of the best I’ve been on; I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s a big horse to watch (in the Dubai World Cup). I’m thinking this is our chance to win.”

General admission to Meydan Racecourse is free and there are hospitality packages to suit every budget.

For more info, please visit www.dubairacingclub.com, call +971 4327 2110 or email: ticketoffice@dubairacingclub.com.

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