Richard Mullen is excited as he waits to “enjoy and embrace” his big day at the Dubai World Cup (DWC) in front of a global audience on Saturday.
The two-time champion and the longest-serving jockey in the UAE is aboard five runners in the nine-race card that has a prize fund of US$30 million (Dh110.18m), the richest race meeting in the world.
Mullen’s plum ride on the night is North America, who was a mere Dh140,000 purchase at the Dubai Sales but is now widely regarded as a horse that can challenge for the $10m race.
The Zabeel Stables jockey was impressed of what North America did in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, and he described that run as “fantastic” after beating Godolphin’s Thunder Snow by more than five lengths over the DWC course and distance on March 10.
“He richly deserved to be in the World Cup,” said the Englishman, whose previous two rides in the DWC were atop Richard’s Kid in 2011 and Surfer in 2014.
“This is my third ride in the World Cup. The previous two were probably outsiders, but to go into the race with a horse that has a serious chance is something very special.
“He has been timed for this race and trained to perfection. We just hope we get a nice draw like what everybody wants. I’m extremely excited to ride a horse that has an extremely good chance.”
Mullen said the World Cup is a wide open race this year despite the presence of American raiders West Coast and Forever Unbridled, and Godolphin’s Talismanic.
“North America has improved at every race from last year,” he said. “Satish [Seemar, the Zabeel Stables trainer] has planned this race for him all along. He is proven over the course and distance, he’s uncomplicated and he travels extremely well.”
Mullen, who first arrived in Dubai as an apprentice for Godolphin, is hoping for a good draw - anything from Gates 1 to 5 for the six-year-old gelded son of Dubawi.
“I would obviously like No 1 as he’s a horse who want to be in the front,” he said. “At the same time I would settle for anything between 1 to 5. Higher than that, it makes it difficult because he’s a natural front-runner. If not, he will have to work a bit harder to get into a good position.”
Mullen is “honestly very excited” in the build-up for Saturday.
“It’s a big day for me but I don’t want to think on it very much. I treat every race the same. I want to win every race I ride and it’s the same principal at the World Cup meeting.”
Mullen has a tough decision in choosing between Secret Ambition and Raven’s Corner in the opening race, the $1m Group 2 Godolphin Mile. He rides Yulong Warrior in the $2m Group 2 UAE Derby, and Reynaldothewizard in the $2m Group 1 Golden Shaheen, all trained by Seemar.
Mullen has left the decision to choose between Secret Ambition and Raven’s Corner until the very last moment.
“I still don’t know which one I’ll ride,” he said. “They are both very good horses and in what looks like an open race this year. They have both got strong claims.”
Secret Ambition comes into the race after a good second behind Kimbear in the Group 3 Burj Nahar and Raven’s Corner was unplaced in the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal over the 1,200m trip.
However, prior to that he broke the track record over the 1,400m trip when beating Kimbear in a handicap rated 95-plus.
He rides Yulong Warrior in the UAE Derby and the Street Cry colt comes into the race after back-to-back victories.
His most recent win was in the Listed Al Bastakiya, the Derby trial, and he won it by seven lengths over Nordic Defense.
“He’s improved dramatically since his maiden win,” Mullen said. “He has to improve again because the competition a lot stronger.
Reynaldothewizard provided Mullen with his first Group 1 winner when he won the Golden Shaheen in 2013. This is the only victory he has had in the Dubai World Cup meeting from his 38 rides so far.
The 12-year-old gelding by Speightstown is on his swansong as racehorses beyond the age of 12 are not permitted to race on the flat. “This is his fifth Golden Shaheen he’s taken part in but his life is getting more difficult now as he’s a lot older,” Mullen said.
The one horse he rides outside his stables is the Jean de Roualle-trained Ziyadd in the Dubai Kahayla Classic, the Arabian showpiece at the meeting.
“He is the winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round-3 which is always an important race and a pointer to the Kahayla Classic,” Mullen said.
“He was very impressive when winning over the Kahayla Classic course and distance and the horse that probably all have to beat in this race.”