Mystic Guide trainer Michael Stidham has said his horse is "flourishing and thriving" having experienced unique preparations in challenging circumstances before his tilt at the Dubai World Cup on Saturday.
The Godolphin horse is one of the favourites in the silver jubilee running of the $12 million race at Meydan, ran over the 2,000-metre dirt surface.
After the cancellation of the 2020 Dubai World Cup because of the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday will mark the 25th anniversary of the prestigious event. However, it will be held amid stringent health and safety measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
That included the transportation of international horses and their subsequent routines since arriving in Dubai, and Stidham is delighted with how well Mystic Guide has adapted.
“It is a great feeling,” Stidham said. “It is a long trip and as a trainer, you always worry about all the things that can go wrong and so far, it’s been really good.
“The horse has come over here and he’s really seems like he’s flourishing and thriving on everything that’s going on. The weather is great, the accommodations are amazing so, he’s doing fantastic.”
Mystic Guide, who arrived from the United States, has gone through his morning work as well as a schooling process at Meydan, which involved vanning over from the international quarantine barn, walking the 800m tunnel, saddling, parade-ring walking and then returning.
“It’s a lot different here,” Stidham said. “It is the total opposite of what we do in the States. Doing all this in a week’s time is very demanding on a horse and their routine, so you have to adapt your training with this extra activity and that’s what I’m doing.
“He’s plenty fit. I don’t want to put him over the top and have a flat horse on race day.”
Mystic Guide will be one of three Godolphin horses competing in the Dubai World Cup's flagship race, alongside Gifts Of Gold, trained by Emirati Saeed bin Suroor, and Andre Fabre’s Magny Cours .
Among the 11 other horses set to take their places in the starting gates, Musabah Al Muhairi’s Military Law is expected to present a strong challenge. He made a winning debut in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 before finishing sixth in the $20m Saudi Cup in his last start in February.
Dubai World Cup 2021 contenders take to Meydan track
Salute The Soldier, meanwhile, has been a revelation this season. He won both the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 and 3, and his jockey Adrie de Vries is upbeat of his chances.
“He is a very exciting horse and we are all really looking forward to Saturday,” De Vries said. “If you remember, this time last year he was favourite for the Godolphin Mile, now he has a live chance in the big race."
Elsewhere, Doug Watson’s Thegreatcollection has been a model of consistency. He has run five times this season, winning once and finishing runner-up three times before finishing fourth behind Salute The Soldier in his last start on Super Saturday.
“I am delighted be back on him and have a decent record on the horse this season,” Watson said. “I am not saying we are going to win but I certainly think he will run a big race.”
Completing the local challenge are Salem bin Ghadayer’s pair Hypothetical and Capezzano, while Title Ready, Speedy Eyes Todd and Jesus’ Team carry the American hopes.
Dallas Stewart, Title Ready's trainer, believes his horse can raise his game for such a big occasion.
“The horse came in good and we’re excited to see what he can do on Saturday,” he said. “He looks like he’s getting over the track good. Like any of them, he’s going to have to step his game up. He’s a very nice horse who’s six now and he’s training well and coming off his best race. His best races might be ahead. Hopefully he’ll step up to this level."
Completing the line-up is Great Scot, who came third in the Saudi Cup, under the affable Frankie Dettori, while Chuwa Wizard and Ajuste Fiscal are the flag bearers for Japan and Uruguay respectively.