Jockey Gary Stevens could make comeback at Dubai World Cup

The Hall of Fame rider, set to return from a seven-year hiatus, will likely be offered to compete aboard Dullahan, writes Geoffrey Riddle.

Jockey Gary Stevens smiles as he heads towards winner's circle after winning the 133rd running of the Belmont Stakes aboard Point Given 09 June 2001 in Elmont, NY. Stevens and Point Given also won the Preakness Stakes. AFP PHOTO/Tom MIHALEK
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Gary Stevens has been handed a dream opportunity to cap his return to full race riding by being offered the mount on Dullahan in the Dubai World Cup.

Stevens returned to full race riding in January after a seven-year hiatus and since then has proved his fitness and that he retains his tactical acumen.

The Hall Of Fame rider turned 50 last Wednesday and is set to be offered a full-time position with Donegal Racing, the racing syndicate that owns the colt.

That would result in him also replacing Kieren Fallon aboard Little Mike, who is set to take his chance in the Dubai Sheema Classic, staged on the World Cup card at Meydan Racecourse on March 30.

"We are very excited that we reached an agreement with Hall Of Famer Gary Stevens to ride Dullahan in the Dubai World Cup," Jerry Crawford, the Donegal president, said.

"We are in the middle of discussions to make him the permanent stable jockey for all of our horses.

"We have enormous respect for his comeback effort and this could be a tremendous opportunity for both parties on a go-forward basis."

Stevens won the World Cup on Bob Baffert's Silver Charm at Nad Al Sheba in 1998. Other notable victories in Dubai include the 1996 and 1998 Dubai Duty Frees on Key Of Luck and Annus Mirabilis. He has also won the Dubai Golden Shaheen on Ramp And Rave in 1999 and on Caller One in 2002.

He last rode in the UAE in 2004 when he had four rides on World Cup night including Domestic Dispute, who was ninth to Pleasantly Perfect in the world's most valuable race.

During a riding career that spans 34 years and counting Stevens has also accumulated three victories in the Kentucky Derby, eight Breeders' Cup successes and a victory at Royal Ascot for Godolphin when he won the 1997 Hardwicke Stakes on Predappio for Saeed Bin Suroor.

Dullahan finished a disappointing 11th to African Story in the Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday on his first start on Tapeta. The four-year-old colt had previously secured three victories at the highest level in America on synthetic and Crawford believes there is more to come from the son of Even The Score.

"We are convinced that Dullahan has performed better than any horse in the world going a mile and a quarter on an artificial surface and to team him with somebody of his big-race calibre is beyond exciting for Donegal racing," Crawford added.

In other news from America, trainer Graham Motion has handed Joel Rosario the ride aboard the well-fancied Animal Kingdom, who is also slated to run in the World Cup.

Rosario appeared to go for home too soon when beaten by Point Of Entry in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap last month. It was Rosario's first ride on the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner.

Animal Kingdom worked on Monday and is scheduled to work again this Monday before shipping to Dubai the next day with fellow US raider Royal Delta.

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