Thursday morning at the Dubai World Cup is an extra-special affair, because the stars – both human and equine – come out to play for training hours at the track.
Because I am both slightly jetlagged and more than a little excited to be here, I woke up at 4 a.m. and decided to head to the racetrack to catch the sunrise. After all, what’s the point of travelling half way around the globe just to stay in bed? I’m so glad that I decided to go, because the morning was an absolutely spectacular affair.
There were plenty of other horse racing personalities out for the early a.m. action with me: I spotted trainer Todd Pletcher, whose horse Mshawish looks amazing preparing for the Dubai World Cup, granting interviews.
And one of my favorite racing presenters, Zoe Cadman, was rocking the coolest backpack I’ve ever seen:
Zoe will be doing the post-race jockey interviews on horseback on Saturday, so keep an eye peeled for her when you watch the show either on TVG or via the livestream of the races right here.
At about 7 a.m., the international four-legged celebrities emerged. The first horse on the track was California Chrome, who shone like a copper penny as he walked with jockey Victor Espinoza alongside him.
The group met up with trainer Art Sherman and his son and assistant Alan before California Chrome and exercise rider Dihigi Gladney moved off to begin their circuits around the dirt track.
I was even more impressed with California Chrome today than I was yesterday. He seemed more focused and comfortable as he moved around the oval, and I really like his chances on Saturday.
Once Chrome and Dihigi had completed their training the pair reunited with groom Raul Rodriguez, who removed California Chrome’s bandages; and assistant trainer Alan Sherman, who gave his charge a lot of affection before the group returned to their barn.
Another horse I was tremendously excited to see was Hoppertunity. He’s also an American competing in the Dubai World Cup, and I just have always liked him on a personal level. On his first lap around the track, he looked great to me (and I spied a big smile on exercise rider Dana Barnes’s face) but I did notice that he was very, very sweaty on the relatively cool morning when he was finished with his gallop.
I also spied my current horse crush Mshawish, who just looks absolutely fantastic every time I see him. He just cruises over the surface here and if I were to play a longshot in the Dubai World Cup on Saturday, he’d be the horse I’d go with. He just looks so professional out there.
Keen Ice seemed like a different horse to me this morning from yesterday. The giant 4-year-old was much more eager to be out and galloping, making sure that exercise rider Tammy Fox had her hands full as they started their lap around the track.
And she must have loved the way that Keen Ice galloped, because as they headed back to the barn she raised her hands in a double fist-pump of happiness:
Sadly, the only other American-connected Dubai World Cup contender, Frosted, is training at his owner Sheikh Mohammed’s private facility off of the Meydan property, so I won’t be seeing him before Saturday’s races. He was so impressive in his win in his prep race here last month, so he should be a major challenger in the headline race two days from now.
I also spied Frank Coversation today, who will run in Saturday’s UAE Derby to try for the winner’s share of the $2-million purse as well as 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby. He came all the way here from California for a shot at glory, and I think he looks the part after watching him gallop over the last few days.
He has a major challenger in the filly Polar River, who trains elsewhere but has a very impressive resume coming into the UAE Derby. I’ll be very interested to see who wins that event and books a ticket to Churchill Downs!
As training hours wound down, the fun was just beginning as crowds had assembled on Meydan’s beautiful trackside apron to enjoy a delicious breakfast, top-notch entertainment and interviews with the assembled racing celebrities who have congregated in Dubai for Saturday’s World Cup.
While I was there, I spotted team TVG (made up of Mike Joyce and Matt and Ren Carothers) repping American horse racing TV in Dubai:
I also got to meet the adorable Serene Haddad, who was repping the Chrome in Dubai Twitter account. She had California Chrome halter that her aunt and uncle bought at a charity auction, and Serene and her sister ended up getting to meet the big horse’s jockey Victor Espinoza at the Breakfast with the Stars!
Victor was the center of attention today; everyone wanted to chat with him, and he graciously made time to talk to fans, grant interviews to journalists, and sign autographs all morning.
And when the interviews were over, so was the Breakfast with the Stars. Time seems to be flying as we get closer to Dubai World Cup day on Saturday, and I can’t wait to share the rest of my experiences with you along the way! There’s certainly is so much to look forward to in this magical place.