Bhupat Seemar banking on 'high-class' Laurel River to deliver Dubai World Cup glory

Zabeel Stables trainer has nine runners across five races, with UAE trainer title also in his sights

Tadgh O’Shea on Laurel River on their way to winning the Group 3 Burj Nahar on Super Saturday at Meydan in March. Photo: Dubai Racing Club
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With nine runners across five races, including one in the $12 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup, trainer Bhupat Seemar has high hopes for this Saturday at Meydan.

That number was 10 until Killer Collect was withdrawn due to an injury. The Collected colt was Zabeel’s main contender of Seemar's three entries in the UAE Derby based on jockey bookings when the declarations were announced.

Despite that, the obvious highlight of his entries on the night is Laurel River in the Dubai World Cup race.

The six-year-old son of Into Mischief returned to the racetrack at Meydan in January for the first time in 516 days, but struggled over the 1,200-metre sprint.

However, Laurel River proved a different horse in his next start, coming home six-and-three-quarter lengths ahead to win the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over the 1,600m trip in the Super Saturday meeting this month.

Laurel River is stepping up in trip to 2,000m and there is some speculation over his ability to last the distance. Back in the United States, he won three times in a row, twice over the 1,600m distance and once over 1,400m. He was runner-up on his debut over 1,300m.

“There's a lot of talk about him staying the distance. But I feel, and I think my jockey Tadhg O’Shea feels, that he's going to get better going further,” Seemar said.

“It’s quite an orthodox preparation to go six furlongs on his first start here, and the mile last time out. I think he's a very high-class horse and the good horses have won over six and gone on to win the Breeders' Cup.

“So, I think every high-class horse has to have speed. He hadn't run for a long time and it was easier to run in a six furlong race than to go to a mile straightaway.

“We had him a little bit undercooked because we were trying to take care of him since he hadn't run for a while. He then got some proper training after that for the mile race, and he was very impressive.

“I think we've got a good horse and a good jockey. We have done our job, so hopefully, we’ll wait and see what’s going to happen.”

Laurel River is drawn widest of the 12 runners but he was also drawn in Stall 14 in the 16-runner field in the Burj Nahaar.

“He’s a tactically very fast horse,” Seemar said. “When he won the over the mile, he came off a wide draw. He’s got a natural speed and then he stays.

“We are going to go forward, and if somebody wants to come with us, then they'll have to run very fast. I only had two goes with him. Hopefully the best still to come.”

Laurel River was trained by Bob Baffert in the US but arrived at the Zabeel Stables in Dubai after spending time at the Saudi owners’ Juddmonte Farms.

“They freshened him up. I think he had a three-month break in the farm, and then he came over to us,” Seemar said.

“We're incredibly grateful for Juddmonte to send us a horse. Since I was a kid, I was watching those famous silks run in some of the best races in the world, and never thought we'd train one for them. Now we've got one in the World Cup, one of the biggest races in the world.”

When asked to assess the strength of the 2024 race, Seemar said: “It's like the Olympic finals, or it's a big final where you meet the best. We're meeting the best horses in the world, and they're ridden by some of the best jockeys and owned by some of the best owners.”

Seemar has three entered in the $2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen with Tuz, the choice of stable jockey O’Shea. Richard Mullen is on Freedom Fighter and Pat Cosgrave is booked on Leading Spirit.

“Tuz is a stable favourite,” Seemar said of the seven-year-old Oxbow gelding. “He’s an incredibly fast horse. We were hoping for a good draw, and we finally got it [Stall 2].

“He's been marred by outside draws and we've got a good draw. There's plenty of speed in this race but you know, again, you're meeting some speedy horses from around the world. He ran in it last year [finishing seventh].”

Seemar won the Dubai Golden Shaheen with Switzerland in 2022 and was denied the prize with the same horse by Japanese raider Sibelius 12 months ago.

The Zabeel Stables also has three entered in the $1 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile. The former Godolphin inmate Walk Of Stars is the choice of stable jockey O’Shea while Cosgrave is atop Remorse and Antonio Fresu aboard Southern Artist.

Guns And Glory and the UAE 2000 Guineas winner Mendelssohn Bay carry the trainer’s hopes in the $1 million Group 2 UAE Derby.

Seemar was crowned the UAE champion trainer in his first season after taking over from his uncle Satish Seemar in 2021/22. He was second last season but topped the money list in both the seasons.

He is currently second in the trainer standings, two behind Michael Costa, and with nine runners across five races at the Dubai World Cup and two more meetings left before the end of the season, he can still regain the trainers title.

“It’s not been in my thoughts, to be honest. If I can win a race or two in the Dubai World Cup night, that'll be the icing on the cake,” he said.

“If the championship happens, it happens. My stable's done very well for our owners. They've won a lot of prize money. It's been a satisfying season. It can always get better.”

Updated: March 29, 2024, 9:41 AM