French raider Vazirabad will extend his own record even further should he come up with a third consecutive victory in Saturday’s Dubai Gold Cup sponsored by Al Tayer Motors.
Based at Chantilly, the now 6-year-old gelding was only seen another four times after becoming the first horse to claim Meydan’s premier staying race for the second time last March.
His handler, Alain de Royer Dupré, explained, “Following his start in Meydan last year, we were aiming him at the Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup, but during his prep race in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier, a Group 2, he was struck into by a horse that was wearing blinkers.
“There were only three runners in that race and he got a proper knock to his tendon. As we didn’t want to risk further injury by working him too early, it kind of ruined our season a bit. He did win another Group 1 in the autumn, but he wasn’t the horse as we know him.”
Luckily that incident is now only a distant memory for the son of Manduro, who carries the famous colours of HH Aga Khan. The sun in Dubai seems to suit him and, although he was beaten a length and three-quarters by the Charlie Appleby-trained Rare Rhythm when he made his seasonal reappearance in the G3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy sponsored by Al Naboodah Civil Engineering, his trainer was well pleased with the result.
“I think his run in the prep race this year was much better than last year’s,” said De Royer Dupré, who had flown over specially to oversee that first run of his stable star. “Last year he was the runner-up after a mediocre performance, but this year he and the winner produced a fantastic run up the final straight. I think they left the others seven or eight lengths behind.”
He laughed and added, “It’s funny, we have never seen him so calm before a race. It really was the first time in his career that he was so calm. It’s a sign that he was feeling good, that he was confident.”
Last year, Vazirabad was a different horse from the prep race when he lined up at the start of the 3200m Dubai Gold Cup, and the trainer is hoping for a similar performance this year.
“We always wanted to come back,” he confirmed. “We thought, he did well twice, why not a third time. However, last time out he came up against a real good horse and we will have to beat him. Vazirabad will have come on from that first start, but for all I know, so will Rare Rhythm.
“He is trained by Charlie Appleby, who knows how to get his horses spot on. He is no amateur! But the longer trip should help us a bit. What is a bigger concern to me is the big field. We could easily run into traffic problems. However, we are really happy with Vazirabad and for the time being are not worried. He did his last serious work last Tuesday on the turf course and from now on will only be ticking over on the dirt track.”
He paused and concluded: “You know at his age, the more you age, the less you should work hard. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about!”