Credit: Dubai Racing Club|Penelope Miller
Dubai World Cup Carnival and Dubai World Cup night star Old Persian will attempt to take his place among the world’s best middle-distance grass horses when the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) winner lines up this Saturday in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita Park. Owned by Godolphin and trained by Charlie Appleby, the son of world-leading Darley stud Dubawi will carry the flag of DWC Carnival form when he takes on the likes of Investec Derby (G1) winner Anthony Van Dyck, Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) winner Bricks and Mortar and Turf Classic (G1) winner Arklow.
On Tuesday morning, the nine-time winner from 16 starts got his first feel for Santa Anita in greater Los Angeles, California, galloping around the dirt oval in preparation for his 2400m turf assignment in four days’ time. With Appleby looking on, the earner of $4,349,231 turned some heads as he extended beautifully while taking in his surroundings.
“We know he’s here with a live shot and we know he stays well,” Appleby said. “He shipped in well and I’m delighted with the way he’s moving around there. The great thing about him is he has experience traveling and doing his track work. It’s second nature to him.”
If the multiple G1 winner is successful, he will have the enviable title of a horse who has won a fixture at four of the most prestigious meetings in the world: the Breeders’ Cup, Dubai World Cup, Royal Ascot and Yorkshire Ebor. In 2018, the English-bred 4-year-old was a rousing victor over Rostropovich in the King Edward VII Stakes (G2) at Ascot. Two months to the day later in August, he defeated stablemate and subsequent Melbourne Cup (G1) and Dubai Gold Cup (G2) winner Cross Counter in the Great Voltigeur Stakes (G2) at York Racecourse.
Since his popular victory in the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic over Japanese Group 1 winners Cheval Grand, Suave Richard and Rey de Oro on Mar. 30, things took a slight dip for the well-made colt when he failed to fire in the Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom Downs on May 31, finishing seventh, 14½ lengths astern top-class runners Defoe and Kew Gardens. Given some rest, he returned on Aug. 11 at Hoppegarten in Germany, where he finished a game third by a length to French King in the Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1).
“At Epsom he just showed us signs that he gave us a big performance on World Cup night in the Sheema,” Appleby said. “He had trained through the winter and had his two starts in Dubai, so I think he just showed the signs, to be brutally honest, and ran flat. We naturally gave him a short break after that.”
“We had pencilled in the Arlington Million as an option, but we saw the race in Germany and we did not want to ship him back and forth too many times,” Appleby continued. “We used the German race to get some conditioning back into him. We also, after Epsom, wanted to get everyone’s confidence back on track.”
Shipped across the Atlantic next out, he sprang powerfully back to form in Woodbine’s Northern Dancer (G1) in Canada, defeating an overmatched field by 2½ facile lengths and racing in his fifth different country and third separate continent. The Dubai City of Gold (G2) winner appears primed to fulfil what has been a season-long goal.
“Our plan was always to work back from the Breeders’ Cup Turf, so timing-wise we felt it fit well,” Appleby continued. “Our plan was always to have a crack at the Northern Dancer en route to here. He came out of the Northern Dancer really well, so we did not want to race him again.”
Appleby looks forward to getting back to Dubai, himself, in the next couple weeks to prepare to defend his title as top trainer at the DWC Carnival, but in the meantime is squarely focused on preparing Old Persian to make history as the first Sheema Classic winner to land the Breeders’ Cup Turf in the same year.
“As you know all these horses are sportsmen, so you like to keep their confidence high,” he concluded. “As you can see, he’s alert and he’s enjoying himself. He’s taking it all in. Seeing that, I feel confident as well.”