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Dubai World Cup 2018 Features, Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Photo: NEOREALISM (DRC/Andrew Watkins)

Pavel Showing He Loves To Travel

He’s a long way from home but the lightly-raced Pavel has handled the 13, 381 km journey from Santa Anita, California to Meydan Racecourse in Dubai with great maturity.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has previous form travelling horses, having captured the 2007 edition of the Group 2 Godolphin Mile with Spring At Last.

A 17-year partnership with top assistant Leandro Mora makes the task that much easier when trying to both assess if the horse has the temperament to travel, and ensuring it is in good hands upon arrival.

“The horse will tell you if he is a good traveller and Pavel is a good traveller,” Mora said. “If you try it and they don’t like it then you have to try and avoid races. This guy tried it and he loved it.”

With just seven starts to his name, Pavel has already competed at five different tracks with a trip over the Meydan dirt track in Saturday night’s US $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline, marking an impressive sixth pin on the map.

From a winning debut at Santa Anita, Pavel travelled across North America to New York to be a credible fourth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. Pavel then returned home to California and trained at Del Mar before shipping back east to Philadelphia to win the Grade 3 Smarty Jones.

Pavel made Parx a temporary home, breezing twice at the Philadelphia track, before hopping on the van to Belmont Park to run third, defeated less than two lengths, in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

It’s no wonder the talented fellow may have been a little over the top for his Del Mar homecoming in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic when beating just one runner home. But Mora points at the significant purse earnings, more than $300,000 from July 1 to October 7, as the sign of a well-balanced horse.

“When he ran at Del Mar, that was his fourth move. He was never in his own house,” Mora said. “When they travel like that and get to the stable and act like they’ve been there their whole life, that’s when you know they can travel.”
Pavel’s maturity made the decision to come to Dubai a simple one, a journey made easier with the help of officials at Meydan.

“To bring him over here is not easy. The horse plane takes almost 24 hours non-stop,” Mora said. “But, the crew here (at Meydan) are so willing to adapt to what you do back home. They send you a list to ask what you want. We get the shavings we want. I always want Canadian oats and Washington hay. They have it, we apply for it and when we get here there’s no changes for the horse.”

With food and lodging sorted, ensuring the young horse was in familiar hands was the next box to tick. Also making the journey with Mora and Pavel are exercise rider Amir Cedeno and groom Andres Martinez. The bond between Martinez and Pavel is key to ensuring a smooth transition from California to Dubai.

“We bring over the people the horse is comfortable with. A nice racehorse is used to the person who looks after him,” Mora noted. “Andres is there every day rubbing his legs and cleaning him up. They get used to that so we try to bring the same team. Once they know the caretaker is there, it’s more comfortable for them.”

Regular checkups from the vet and keen observation from the entire team, led by Mora, is paramount as the horse copes with jet lag.

“They get used to it faster than we do,” Mora said. “Once they land here, we do check their temperatures to make sure they don’t have any fever. If they get too dry, we can give them fluids to get back to normal.”

Buoyant most mornings on the track this past week, Mora smiles wide when asked when he knew that Pavel had travelled well.

“When he starts savaging you,” Mora laughed. “When he starts to bite and kick, okay, you’re happy!”

Mora and O’Neill maintain regular contact throughout the experience. On Tuesday morning, Mora was trackside filming Pavel’s easy canter over the Meydan dirt track which was immediately sent to O’Neill for review.

“It lets Doug know how the horse is doing. Technology like that is great for us. We talk twice a day. Once in the morning and then in the afternoon. It’s tough with the time zone,” Mora said.
On Saturday, Pavel will face off against some of the best in the world including fellow US-based shippers West Coast and Forever Unbridled. And at this stage of his young career, Pavel has already proven he can get the distance. Now, it’s just a matter of class.

“I’m very happy with what he’s done. The rest is up to him now and the luck of racing,” Mora said.

-Keith McCalmont, DWC Notes Team

Well-Traveled Furia Cruzada Ready for World Cup Stage

In terms of international interest, one locally-trained contender for Saturday’s Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline is as good a representative as any.

Furia Cruzada was bred in Chile, made her name in Argentina and was based in Britain and France between several periods in Dubai for her current handler, French-born Erwan Charpy. The 6-year-old mare is owned by the Uzbekistan interests of Avaz Ismoilov and will be ridden in the main event by the Italian Antonio Fresu.

“Her groom is Indian as well, so it’s a bit of a United Nations,” Charpy said. “It’s brilliant for us to have a runner and I’ve had texts from the breeders in Chile because it’s fantastic for everyone to be part of it all.

“The owner is coming for the race and they are very excited about it. He has a lot of Akhal-Teke horses in Uzbekistan and he has owned some good horses in France like Bathyrhon, who is a stallion now.”

It is fair to say that Furia Cruzada keeps the vastly experienced Charpy, who has largely been labelled as a top trainer of the Purebred Arabian horses, on his toes. A Grade 1 winner both at Hipodromo Chile and Palermo in Argentina, the daughter of Newfoundland has largely been kept away from the Meydan track in training as she is liable to get overexcited by the distractions.

She has fared well in competitive action at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, finishing in the first four in all three starts in Group-race company.

“She’s improved a lot this year, she’s a bit older and very consistent,” Charpy said. “She tries very hard and we know her a lot better now.”

The best effort of the three runs was when beaten a short-head by Promising Run in the Balanchine Sponsored by Azizi Developments.

“When we went to the Balanchine people were saying ‘what are you doing going on turf, she’s a dirt filly’ so it was nice to show that as residents here, we have a little clue (about what we’re doing),” Charpy said with a smile.

“Then she ran well behind Satish Seemar’s horse (North America) in the Al Maktoum Challenge R3.

“Everything went wrong in this race last year - the track was not to her liking and she collided with Arrogate coming out of the gate. I don’t say I’m going into it feeling sure we’re going to win but she’ll be competitive. Realistically, if we get a place we’ll be happy.”

After her appearance in the 2017 Dubai World Cup, Furia Cruzada was transferred to the French-based Japanese trainer Satoshi Kobayashi, taking in key events at Royal Ascot and Deauville.

This time around, she could remain in Charpy’s care. “I think we’ll talk about it after the race,” he said. “I thought they might want to retire and breed her but they seem happy to keep racing her as long as she enjoys it.”

-Tom Peacock, DWC Notes Team

Survivors Sano And Gunnevera Seek Cup Glory

If proof was needed that anything is possible in life, then Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline contender Gunnevera and trainer Antonio Sano provide validation in ways worthy of an epic movie.

Orphaned as a foal, Gunnevera has grown into a strapping blaze-red colt who has banked nearly US $3 million while under the care of Sano, who survived a brutal kidnapping in his native Venezuela before moving on to training success in the United States that has defied even his own imagination.

“I tried everything after my kidnapping,” Sano declared in the English language he still struggles with as he stood by the Meydan Racecourse rail on Tuesday morning. “This horse is very important to me. He’s given me opportunities to train the best horses of my life. And he’s my best friend - he loves me. I don’t have words to explain what Gunnevera means to me.”

Sano already was the top trainer in the history of Venezuelan racing, having saddled 3,338 winners and earned the nickname ‘Czar Valencia Hipismo’ (king of Valencian horse racing) when his world nearly came to a violent end in 2009.

Seven armed men drove to his home and dragged him into their sport utility vehicle and Sano was hauled off and held shackled to a wall in a small, empty room for most of 36 days in captivity. Only after his wife, university engineering professor Maria Christina Sano, scraped together a ransom payment was he released.

The experience led Sano to flee Venezuela with his family for a safer life, and he wound up at Calder Race Course outside Miami, Florida, after a brief stay in Italy. He had to leave behind over 150 racehorses in his care in Venezuela and start over with virtually nothing in a foreign land.

Five years later, Gunnevera was born on the last day of February at Jim and Pam Robinson’s Brandywine Farm in Paris, Kentucky. His dam, the Unbridled mare Unbridled Rage, survived a haemorrhage after foaling but ten days later suddenly died of a heart attack, leaving her foal vulnerable. But after the Robinsons arranged for a nurse mare to tend to the colt, he thrived.
More than a year after that difficult beginning, the leggy chestnut caught the eye of Sano at the Keeneland September yearling sale, and the trainer put up a modest $16,000 to acquire him.
Since that time, they have soared to the highest heights of American racing, winning 5 of 15 starts in addition to the huge prize-money, and contending in the most prestigious events including the Kentucky Derby, Travers Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic. The success has led to more good horses entering Sano’s barn.

Their latest contest was the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January, when Gunnevera finished a good third behind 2017 Gun Runner whilst earning $1.3 million for his efforts.

Although Gunnevera has not yet won a Grade or Group 1 race, Sano believes the Dubai World Cup could be his breakthrough event, partly because of an unusual procedure to help him compete more comfortably.

“He is a totally different horse now than when he ran in the Pegasus,” Sano said, relating that a veterinarian was able to adjust the colt’s undescended testicle-without surgery-so that Gunnevera can run more fluidly and without aggravation from the condition. “He has never worked like he is working now.”

Racing in the Dubai World Cup, win or lose, with the horse that helped revive his professional life in the aftermath of the kidnapping nightmare will be the pinnacle of Sano’s tenure in horse racing.

“I’m so proud to be here in Dubai with my horse,” Sano said. “I hope he has a good pace to run behind and that he can come charging home in the stretch.”

-Michele MacDonald, DWC Notes Team

Hori’s Hong Kong Stars Take on Dubai

Noriyuki Hori’s name has become synonymous with the word winner over in Hong Kong with five Group 1 titles in the past three years.

While three of those came from the mighty Maurice in 2015 and 2016, he also won the Hong Kong Vase with Longines Dubai Sheema Classic starter Satono Crown in 2016 and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup with Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World starter Neorealism in 2017.

In lieu of what could be another winning spring in the Far East, the top conditioner has chosen to send two of his best horses to the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival.

“Both of these horses prefer the distances of their Dubai races over that of the 2000m event in Hong Kong,” Nori said. “Neorealism is best at 1800m, while 2000m is a little long for him. Satono Crown reversely prefers 2400m to a 2000m race, which would be too short for him.

This will be Satono Crown’s first start of 2018, coming in fresh after a much needed break. After winning in Hong Kong, he needed to prove himself on his home turf and he did just that in landing the Takarazuka Kinen (G1) last June.

Autumn proved more difficult, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort, racing six times over the course of the year, with his best result being in the Tenno Sho Aki (G1) when failing by the narrowest of necks to fan favorite Kitasan Black. With his good friend Joao Moreira, who guided him to victory in the 2016 Hong Kong Vase, in the irons again Saturday they could make it a magical evening for Japan.

Brazilian Moreira will also be aboard Neorealism, having also steered him to third in the Hong Kong Cup last December when the son of Neo Universe failed to settle during much of the race.

This will be Hori’s fourth go at a Dubai title, having made his first appearance with Dark Shadow in 2012 and going close with Golden Barows in the 2015 UAE Derby.

He went into the 2016 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic with the second favorite Duramente and with all likelihood it could have been the year for him to finally go home with the gold, but the racing gods had other ideas.

The usually temperamental Duramente not only head-butted his trainer but most importantly he lost a shoe during the post parade. After a failed attempt to get a new shoe on in time for the race, he had to run with only three shoes, but still managed to finish a game second to Postponed, losing out by only two lengths.

There are a lot of what-ifs surrounding that race and the success that might have been if things had gone as planned.

“I learned a lot from my past experiences in Dubai, all of which I will be using this weekend,” Hori said.

“I am always looking for a challenge and I’ve seen just how competitive Dubai can be.”

If all goes well this weekend, this young and talented trainer will be adding Dubai to his growing list of international successes.

-Kate Hunter, DWC Notes Team