Salute the Soldier after winning Super Saturday’s G3 Burj Nahaar (Erika Rasmussen)
In early March, before the globe completely turned on its head, Salute the Soldier and his connections were on top of the world, exiting a more-than-successful dirt track experiment in Super Saturday’s Group 3 Burj Nahaar and heading into the Group 2 $1.5 million Godolphin Mile as the market favourite. Purchased the previous October at Tattersalls for 380,000 guineas ($513,000) by Bahrain-based ownership Victorious, which includes trainer Fawzi Nass, the son of Sepoy was subsequently unable to participate on Dubai World Cup night when the meeting was abandoned due to COVID-19.
Fast-forward through a nine-month gestation of the racing world adapting to numerous ‘new normal’ nuances… and hope has been born anew for Salute the Soldier. The long-striding 5-year-old bay German-bred is well into his preparation for Thursday evening’s Dubai Creek Mile (Listed), kicking off his 2020-21 UAE season over the same course and distance of his aforementioned 5½-length romp over the likes of Secret Ambition and Kimbear.
“The horse is where you want him coming into this race and the last work went well,” Nass said. “I would say he’s about 85-90% fit for this, but after the race I might tell you something different. You never know until they race.”
No slouch on turf and all-weather in his initial 16 starts, including five wins and a close-up fourth in the Zabeel Mile (G2), the maternal grandson of Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry looked a superior horse when tried on the sandier surface. If he moves forward again on Thursday against those aforementioned foes, as well as G1 winner and likely favourite Capezzano, it could lead to even loftier goals.
On Tuesday, he was nominated to the $20 million Saudi Cup (Feb. 20), which takes place a mere two-hour flight away in Riyadh and was contested by Capezzano last February.
“I had always wanted to try him on dirt,” Nass said. “He had shown a lot in his training on it—working very well—and obviously we saw how he performed. I nominated him yesterday (to The Saudi Cup) and he was my only nomination in that race. It’s a dream, for sure, but whether it does materialize or not, we’ll see. That may sound foolish after this race, but the horse is doing very well.”
Nass, who has his horses split between Dubai—where he has 13—and his home in Bahrain, has already proven he can get it done on Saudi Cup night. In February, he won the undercard’s $1 million Neom Turf Cup with Port Lions at market odds of 40/1.
If Salute the Soldier is to follow suit, a proper effort is expected not only on Thursday, but also on Jan. 21 in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2), which produced a Saudi Cup starter (North America) last year and is scheduled ideally—30 days prior—for its nine-furlong regional counterpart.
Adrie de Vries will once again be astride Salute the Soldier on Thursday.
Watch Salute the Soldier’s Burj Nahaar win HERE.