There are two main components involved in running an American horse in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1).
The first involves how the horse fares against international competition in a $12 million race.
The second centers on how that horse fares after he leaves Dubai and journeys home to American shores.
Some horses, like Gun Runner , thrived. He finished second in the 2017 Dubai World Cup and won his next five races, all of them grade 1 stakes, before heading to the breeding shed.
Meanwhile, the horse who beat Gun Runner in Dubai, Arrogate , seemed to be cut from the same mold as Secretariat after his victory at Meydan Racecourse, but after the long trip home he then lost his next three races, twice winding up unplaced, before he was retired.
Godolphin’s Mystic Guide handled part one of that equation with aplomb March 27 when he charged to a decisive 3 3/4-length score in the rich Dubai World Cup that currently put him atop the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll and second in the initial Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) rankings.
An initial answer to part two will be offered July 3 when Mystic Guide makes his first start since the trip to Dubai and squares off once again with the unbeaten Happy Saver in the $400,000 Suburban Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 6 Classic at Del Mar.
So far, it’s been so good for Mystic Guide as trainer Michael Stidham said the homebred son of Ghostzapper is coming into the 1 1/4-mile Suburban looking as sharp as he was three months ago for the Dubai World Cup.
“We’re aware it’s no easy spot, especially coming off the trip to Dubai, but I couldn’t ask for my horse to be training or doing any better than he is now. I feel he’s as good going into this race as he was going into the World Cup,” Stidham said. “We walked him for a week after he returned home and gradually brought him back to the track. He handled everything great. Even over there he was thriving and doing great. I thought he lost a few pounds coming home as he seemed to visually lighten, but in April when we just gave him light breezes and jogged him, he bounced back. Since then, he hasn’t missed a beat while training at Fair Hill.”
Mystic Guide grazes outside Mike Stidham’s barn at Fair Hill Training Center
The 135th Suburban offers an exciting rematch of last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) when the 3-year-old duo of Mystic Guide and the Todd Pletcher-trained Happy Saver faced their elders and youth was served with a 1-2 finish. Wertheimer et Frere’s homebred Happy Saver prevailed by three-quarters-of-a-length over Mystic Guide in the Oct. 10 grade 1 test that brought down the curtain on both colts’ 2020 season. Since then, Mystic Guide notched wins in the Feb. 27 Razorback Handicap (G3) and 10-furlong Dubai World Cup to earn $7.3 million, while Happy Saver, a son of Super Saver , made his only 2021 start while posting a length victory in a May 28 allowance optional claimer at Belmont, lifting his lifetime record to a perfect five-for-five.
“Anytime you ship into Belmont and have to run against Todd Pletcher at his home track you’re in tough and you know it. We looked at the options and (Godolphin’s) Maxfield was going to the (June 26) Stephen Foster (G2, at Churchill Downs), so that was not an option for us. The next logical spot looked like the Suburban,” Stidham said about the son of the multiple grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Music Note . “He’s run well at 1 1/4 miles, and it’s a distance he’s been comfortable at. He ran well at Belmont last year, so we felt good about that and the Suburban makes a lot of sense for us.”
Pletcher said Happy Saver has developed physically since his last meeting with Mystic Guide in the fall.
“I think as an older horse he’s a little more laid back in some of his works. He always performs well, and he’s really filled out and matured,” Pletcher said about the son of the Distorted Humor stakes-placed daughter Happy Week. “For the way he ran in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last year, he’s proven he likes that distance and that race looks even stronger now with what Mystic Guide has done.”
Pletcher will also send out Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Repole Stable’s Moretti who was second in last year’s Suburban, albeit he was 8 3/4 lengths behind Tacitus, who was later third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
In his lone 2021 start, Pletcher’s 5-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro was third in the June 5 Brooklyn Stakes Presented by Northwell Health (G2), 12 1/4 lengths behind in the 1 1/2-mile stakes.
The field of six also includes the Uriah St. Lewis-owned and -trained Informative , a son of Bodemeister who was a stunning 79-1 winner of the Salvatore Mile Stakes (G3) in his last start; William Clifton Jr.’s Prioritize , a Tizway gelding who was fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup for trainer James Bond; and George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds’ Max Player , an Honor Code 4-year-old who was third in both the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) but was unplaced in his two 2021 starts for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Belmont Park, Saturday, July 03, 2021, Race 10
- Grade II
- 1 1/4m
- 4 yo’s & up
- 5:44 PM (local)