Victor Espinoza had barely arrived in Dubai before he was set the task of trying to win the World Cup aboard California Chrome on Saturday at Meydan from Gate 11 of 12.
The Mexican jockey landed on Tuesday night from America and walked alongside the 2014 US Horse Of The Year from the international stables to morning trackwork and back on Wednesday, and was also present at the post-position draw at Meydan.
At the ceremony, one-by-one connections of each horse were presented with the opportunity to choose their horse’s starting gate.
Trainer Art Sherman was left with the decision between the widest two starting gates and he went for one outside fellow American raider Hoppertunity in ten and chief rival Frosted in gate nine.
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Racing wide has only one benefit for last season’s runner-up in that he is unlikely to be pelted with kickback. Otherwise, he may be forced to race possibly four horses wide off the rail with likely pacesetters Hokko Tarumae primed to break from stall eight and Al Maktoum Challenge winner Special Fighter ready to emerge from stall five.
“There were not many choices,” Espinoza said with a shrug. “I had hoped to be somewhere in the middle, like six or seven, it would have been good. Life goes on. I just need to go with the flow, break out and just see how it goes.
“He is a tactical horse and can go either way. I will not be in rush to go with the bunch but I don’t want to be too far back. The most important thing is the confidence in the horse and he is game, I don’t think we have too much of a problem.”
William Buick, who won the World Cup 12 months ago on Prince Bishop, is unlikely to cede ground or his advantage on Godolphin’s Frosted, either.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin underlined the long run to the first turn to the 2,000-metre race which helps jockeys secure their position and highlighted that Frosted will be ridden aggressively in to the turn.
“We were hoping to be outside of the speed,” he said. “Inside going in to the turn you can get jammed up in the traffic. This way we can break well before they find their places and be out in the clear. As it is a long run to the turn we are unlikely to be that wide.”
On Super Saturday there was a marked bias near the inside rail and connections of last season’s UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij, Donn Handicap winner Mshawish and Travers Stakes victor Keen Ice were all happy with their draws respectively in four, two and on the rail.
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