Any one of the three U.S.-based contenders in Saturday’s $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) is more than capable of singled-handedly retaining the trophy stateside. But when the American trio consists of Eclipse Award champion Roy H; defending Golden Shaheen titleholder Mind Your Biscuits; and the 2016 near-misser X Y Jet, you’re entering dream-team territory on World Cup night at Meydan.
Each brings a compelling storyline in tow as well. Roy H is trying to become the first reigning TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner to add this about six-furlong contest to his resume. Secret Circle came closest, as the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint hero who went on to Golden Shaheen glory in 2015, but he’d yielded his Breeders’ Cup title to Work All Week in 2014. Trained by Peter Miller, who’s triple-handed in the Al Quoz (G1), Roy H is arguably unlucky not to bring a seven-race winning streak into Dubai, with a forced-out wide trip in the Bing Crosby (G1) his only loss in that span. Otherwise the More Than Ready gelding was perfect last season, and he’s opened 2018 in a similar vein with a cakewalk in the Palos Verdes (G2). Drawn in post 6, Roy H projects a favorable stalking trip with Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux.
Mind Your Biscuits, third to Roy H in the Breeders’ Cup, hopes to emulate Caller One (2001-02) as the only two-time Shaheen winners. If the Chad Summers charge looked sharper a year ago, when coming off a Malibu (G1) victory and a flying second by a neck in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3), he may be rounding back to that level after a narrow loss in a Gulfstream allowance prep.
The other past Golden Shaheen champions in the field, locally based Muarrab [scratched Wednesday] and Reynaldothewizard, are in the twilight of their careers. Muarrab, the one who edged X Y Jet in 2016, hasn’t shown as much early dash as he used to, whether due to age or by design. Reynaldothewizard, now 12, won the Shaheen the year Orb won the Kentucky Derby (G1) – 2013.
X Y Jet seeks compensation after his heartbreaker two years ago. The Jorge Navarro trainee exited his tough beat with an injury, made two subpar starts in late 2016, and headed to the sidelines again. Now good as new following surgeries, X Y Jet is a perfect three-for-three since resurfacing, each start more emphatic than the last.
An additional storyline involves the common ownership between speed merchant X Y Jet and the tactically flexible Roy H. Rockingham Ranch is the co-owner of both, and accordingly has all bases covered. X Y Jet looms as speed-of-the-speed, a desirable place to be at Meydan, but if he gets embroiled early or the track is playing more neutral, Roy H’s complementary style can benefit.
Two Carnival competitors have good early speed – Jordan Sport, who trounced the Mahab al Shimaal (G3) in track-record time in his first dirt try for Fawzi Nass, and Doug Watson’s My Catch, winner of the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) two back who fluffed the Mahab al Shimaal start. Yet Jordan Sport had the run of the race on a Super Saturday card tilted toward speed on the rail, a gift scenario unlikely to repeat. My Catch is eligible to bounce back, but he’s draw-dependent and pretty much needs the inside path.
Wild Dude, a multiple Grade 1 winner in his former days with Jerry Hollendorfer, hasn’t performed at that level since. Showing signs of a revival with a rallying third in the Mahab al Shimaal, he’s earned himself another chance at the Golden Shaheen with a late call-up. Fellow local Shillong worked his way through the handicap ranks and scored in the Jebel Ali Sprint.
Japanese shipper Matera Sky has never faced this level of competition in the dirt sprints back home. On the plus side, he’s a Kentucky-bred son of Speightstown who commanded $350,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. His dam, Group 2-placed Mostaqeleh, has produced three stakes performers including UAE denizen Nawwaar and Aidan O’Brien’s multiple Group 2-placed Triple Crown nominee Murillo.
Here’s the complete field after Wednesday’s draw, noting the withdrawal of Muarrab who came up lame: