Kabirkhan carries Kazakh hopes in 2024 Dubai World Cup

Four-year-old colt, son of 2016 winner California Chrome, is aiming for hat-trick of wins at Meydan

Kabirkhan on his way to victory in January's Al Maktoum Dubai Challenge. Photo: Dubai Racing Club
Powered by automated translation

Having picked up two wins from two runs at Meydan, Kabirkhan has raised hopes he can deliver what would be a first success for Kazakhstan in the Dubai World Cup.

All in all, he has won 10 times and finished second on his other start. Success in the $12-million Group 1 race would make him a superstar as well as providing a first success in the showpiece for Doug Watson, the long-serving American trainer based in Dubai.

Kabirkhan faces his biggest challenge at Meydan on Saturday when he comes up against a highly competitive 12-runner field that also includes the defending champion Ushba Tesoro, the $20-million Saudi Cup winner Senor Buscador, Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap hero Newgate and the Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up and last year’s UAE Derby winner Derma Sotogake.

Kabirkhan, the four-year-old chestnut son of 2016 Dubai World Cup winner California Chrome has continued to impress the racing fraternity.

He won on his first two starts at Meydan, even though Watson remains realistic when he says the horse must step up in class. He does think, however, he can follow his victories over the track and trip on January 12, followed by his Group 1 success in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 just two weeks later.

Kabirkhan and Hero Mo – the only horse to deny Kabirkhan victory with a win at the Russian Derby – moved to Watson’s Red Stables last year.

Kabirkhan avenged his defeat to Hero Mo when he reversed that result by four lengths on his Meydan debut and comes into the Dubai World Cup spotlight following his win in the Al Maktoum Challenge.

“He’s got to step up his game and we think he can,” Watson, the seven-time UAE champion trainer, said of Kabirkhan at Meydan on Tuesday.

“I think what he's shown out there is that he likes the track. I don't have many that work like him. He’s got the pace to be in the race early somewhere and he comes home nicely.”

Watson liked the horse from the first moment he watched him breeze over the trackwork in Dubai.

“We kind of all just looked at each other, and were like ‘wow, this is a pretty nice horse’. Then we saw him win that first handicap pretty well and two weeks later he ran a huge race in the Al Maktoum Challenge. After that win, we really got excited.

“He’s a horse that does everything you want in the morning and in the afternoons. Just looking back the Al Maktoum Challenge, he travelled so well.

“When you look at that race, you see about six or seven jockeys, just scrubbing their horses to get towards the front and he just kind of took Pat [Dobbs, the stable jockey] there.

“He doesn't break particularly well. We did work on that a little bit and I just think it's a kink in him, but hopefully on the night, he breaks well and can put himself in the race and then from there, a little racing luck, and see what happens.”

Kabirkhan was picked up for a modest $12,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“I liked him physically by himself, although there were minor flaws,” Nadir Khassanov, the Kazakh agent who made the purchase told The Racing Post.

“In general, I liked his father California Chrome. I watched him when he raced. That year my budget was more than $12,000, I would have given up to $20,000 for him, but that year the prices for California Chrome foals fell and I managed to buy Kabirkhan.”

Kabirkhan began his racing career with Kazakh trainer Turganzhan Yuldashev in June 2022 at the Almaty Hippodrome. He beat just two rivals on his debut on a dirt track.

“He won all his races in Kazakhstan, racing three times for three wins, including in the main race for two-year-olds, the Favourite Prize,” Khassanov said.

Kabirkhan was sold to Kazakhstani owner Tlek Mukanbetkaliyev and was transferred to training in Russia with Arslangirey Shavuyev, where he continued his domination.

“As a three-year-old in Russia he had five wins out of six starts, winning two Derbies [Pyatigorsk and Kabardino Balkaria] but losing the main Derby,” Khassanov continued.

“It's very exciting for us to see him run in the Dubai World Cup. This is a historic moment when our horse performs from Kazakhstan, especially since he has come this far.

“He became a champion two-year-old in Kazakhstan, then one of the best three-year-olds in Russia, and is now winning races in Dubai.”

Updated: March 27, 2024, 2:54 AM