Unplaced in his two previous attempts in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), eight-year-old Switzerland finally reached a new career high in Saturday’s renewal at Meydan. The American expat swept from off the contentious pace to give leading UAE trainer Bhupat Seemar and perennial champion jockey Tadgh O’Shea their first Group 1 wins.
Switzerland was ignored at 32-1 after a lackluster sixth in the Feb. 26 Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) on Saudi Cup Day. But the Speightstown gelding scoped badly there. And two starts back in his seasonal reappearance, Switzerland routed the Garhoud Sprint at this track and six-furlong trip. Seemar at that time said that was the best shape he’d been in since becoming a Dubai resident. Switzerland vindicated that judgment here, rewarding his loyalists with a $67.20 win mutuel.
The leading fancies were logically American shippers, led by the 7-5 Dr. Schivel. The 7-2 Drain the Clock was off a beat slow, then hustled to take the lead from locally-based Al Tariq. The 5-1 Wondrwherecraigis raced prominently out wide, but couldn’t sustain it. Although Drain the Clock shook free in upper stretch, he weakened late.
Switzerland advanced onto the premises and shot 1 3/4 lengths clear in a final time of 1:11.13. Japan’s Red le Zele finished energetically for second, for the second straight year. Dr. Schivel likewise did his best work late another half-length astern in third, denying Japanese distaffer Chain of Love.
Eastern World, a Dubawi half-brother to two-time Dubai World Cup (G1) star Thunder Snow, was a creditable fifth from post 12. The winner of the Super Saturday prep, the Mahab al Shimaal (G3), in his first try at the sprint distance, he has upside for Ahmad bin Harmash.
“Great run,” jockey Ray Dawson said of Eastern World. “If I had been drawn a bit lower, been a little closer to the inside, he could have got second. There is a big race in this horse.”
Strongconstitution wound up sixth, one spot ahead of fellow American Drain the Clock.
“He broke a step slow,” jockey Irad Ortiz said of Drain the Clock. “I had to use him up earlier than I wanted, and it told in the finish.”
Everfast, Manjeer, Wondrwherecraigis, Al Tariq, Mobaadel, and Good Effort rounded out the order under the wire. The speedy Meraas was withdrawn, but the pace was no easier in his absence.
RRR Racing’s Switzerland has bankrolled more than $1.8 million from his 27-8-3-4 line. Out of the Indian Charlie mare Czechers, herself a multiple stakes winner and Grade 2-placed, the dark bay was bred in Kentucky by Branch Family Trust. He sold three times at auction, ultimately bringing $500,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May juvenile.
Switzerland’s first stakes scores came for Steve Asmussen stateside, in the 2018 Maryland Sprint (G3) and Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3). Sent to Dubai for the 2019 Carnival, he ended up staying. He made limited appearances in ensuing UAE seasons, not winning until the 2021 Dubawi (G3). But Switzerland turned the corner in the Garhoud, and even a Saudi hiccup couldn’t interrupt his march to the Golden Shaheen.
“There was a lot of speed on,” O’Shea commented, “and this horse excels in a truly run race. We were the outsider today and I said to Bhupat, let’s ride him accordingly. There’s no point putting him in the race and getting him in a speed duel, so we rode him like we did in the Al Garhoud Sprint, and if he shows that turn of foot he’d be competitive.
“Thankfully it all worked and he’s a horse who grew in confidence as the race went on. They were starting to stop and flounder and he was coming harder on the bridle – so it was fantastic.”
Seemar used the same word in his summation.
“It’s such a fantastic result,” the horseman said. “We’ve always really liked the horse. Tadgh and I spoke this morning and made a plan. Knew there’d be plenty of pace in the race so wanted to pick up the pieces. Turning for home Tadgh said we’d just go with one kick.”
This is the yard (then under Bhupat’s uncle Satish) that kept senior citizen Reynaldothewizard going for years in the sprint division, so Switzerland has more time on the clock.
“We’ll look to bring him back next year and you never know,” Seemar said, “even at eight there could be some more improvement in him. It’s a fantastic team we have behind us and I need to thank so many people, I’m in a very privileged position.”