Joseph O’Brien believes So You Think can scale even greater heights this season as he kicks off his campaign in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan.
The six-year-old arrived at Aidan O’Brien’s yard last year with a huge reputation after winning five Group Ones in Australia, including two Cox Plates.
After a successful debut for O’Brien in a Curragh Group Three he went on to land the Tattersalls Gold Cup at that track before defeating 2010 Derby winner Workforce in the Eclipse at Sandown.
Victory over Snow Fairy in the Irish Champion Stakes also rated as a highlight but defeats at Royal Ascot, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and in the English Champion Stakes slightly tainted his admirable record in the eyes of some experts.
His close-up sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on his final start of 2011 was an extra disappointment for connections but O’Brien jnr is anticipating more success this term as he prepares to get the leg up at Meydan in the world’s richest race.
He said: “He’s tough horse and he’s genuine. I can see no reason why he can’t have come through it (a tough last season), with a nice winter under his belt.
“He was a very good horse in Australia and has been competing at the very, very top level. I think he’s a horse who is going to be a force to be reckoned with this year and will be hard to beat wherever he goes.
“A few things didn’t go 100% last year, and he probably took a little bit longer then we expected to blend into his surroundings and hopefully he can show what a good horse he is this year.”
O’Brien snr added: “He seems fine. Obviously he’s had a clear run since we started looking towards Dubai. Everything’s good so far.”
The former French-trained Planteur has his first start for Marco Botti.
A son of Danehill Dancer, the five-year-old has plenty of smart form to his name, including a Group One success over Sarafina in the Prix Ganay last April.
Botti said: “I have been happy with his work at home. We took him to Wolverhampton for a spin 10 days ago and he handled it really well.
“We are happy with is condition here. The only question mark is the surface, but that’s the same for many other horses in the race.”
Bill Mott knows what it takes to win the race after saddling the great Cigar to win the inaugural World Cup in 1996.
He relies on Royal Delta, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic last November, and admits he has targeted the race with her for some time.
“She’s got many things going for her. The one thing we don’t know is whether she is good enough,” he said.
“But the distance doesn’t seem to be a factor; she’s won over a mile and a quarter. She’s won races on a synthetic track. She’s won under the lights and she doesn’t need any medication to speak of. She’s jumped through a lot of the hoops that you have to clear to win here.
“She’s quite determined – willful, I suppose you would call it – and she uses it to her advantage.
“He (Benjamin Leon, owner) spent a lot of money for her and obviously the filly is a champion. But he’s an owner who is clearly willing to take risks. It didn’t take much convincing to talk him into it (running here).”
The former O’Brien-trained Master Of Hounds won the Jebel Hatta on his latest start, a race traditionally viewed as a trial for the nine-furlong Dubai Duty Free.
However, trainer Mike de Kock sends him for the headline event after intended runner Bold Silvano failed to shine in his prep race.
De Kock explained: “The Dubai World Cup was the target when we bought him and his first run in the opening round of the Al Maktoum Challenge was very pleasing. His next two runs were OK and that was a good win last time.
“With Bold Silvano disappointing on Super Saturday, Master Of Hounds is the obvious one to take his place in the big race.
“He has come out of Super Saturday well and should be capable of a good run in what looks an open renewal.”
Capponi appears to be the best of locally-trained hopes with the colt trained by Godolphin handler Mahmood Al Zarooni but running in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum and partnered by Ahmed Ajtebi.
Al Zarooni said: “Capponi has done remarkably well throughout the Carnival, showing great improvement. His last run was excellent and he just loves the all-weather surface. “Ahmed has built up a good rapport with the horse and gets on well with him.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved