Thoughts of Dubai and Florida were uppermost yesterday and not just as alternatives to the biting British weather. At Nad Al Sheba, Sakhee delighted the Godolphin team when romping home in his prep race for the Dubai World Cup, while in wintry Lambourn Noel Chance was mulling over the threat that Florida Pearl may still hold to his Gold Cup favourite Looks Like Trouble.
Anything other than victory for Godolphin's champion colt would have had seismic repercussions but nevertheless, his nine-lengths success in the 10-furlong dirt race under Frankie Dettori, gained from his stablemate Atlantis Prince, seemed to have been what was required of the Arc winner.
"I was very pleased with him," Dettori said, "especially as he was only 85 per cent fit and race rusty. This will put him spot on for the World Cup [on 23 March]."
Sakhee, officially rated the best horse of 2001 in the International Classifications, was having his first run since being narrowly beaten in the Breeders' Cup Classic last October. It was also his first race at Nad Al Sheba and his first under the glare of floodlights.
Every move of Looks Like Trouble remains under the spotlight as the gelding continues his preparation for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 14 March. A gallop at Kempton on Saturday inflicted no damage to his fragile frame and Chance reported: "He's excellent, there are no problems. Onwards and upwards now. It's just fingers crossed for two and a half weeks time. I wish it was this Thursday because a lot can happen in two weeks but everything is 100 per cent at the moment."
Surprisingly, perhaps, it is Florida Pearl, well beaten in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown last time out, that Chance believes could be the danger to Looks Like Trouble.
"I don't care what anybody says," Chance said. "He's 20-1 and everyone says he didn't stay, but without Looks Like Trouble [in the 2000 Gold Cup] he would have been some winner. He bounded up that hill and he's going to be a danger again.
"We'll treat Looks Like Trouble like a normal horse. If he doesn't do his work he won't be fit, and if he's not fit he won't win, it's as simple as that. You can't go there half-cocked. The rest of them will be super fit so we have got to be the same. He'll do a couple of more bits of work at home next."
Oddly, Ladbrokes have eased Looks Like Trouble to 5-1 from 4-1 for the Gold Cup, while cutting Ireland's Foxchapel King to 12-1 from 16-1.
At Naas yesterday, Knife Edge and Colonel Braxton booked their Festival tickets when odds-on wins in their respective trials. In the heavy ground Knife Edge made hard work of completing a four-timer, but remains on track for either the Queen Mother Champion Chase or Cathcart Cup.
Colonel Braxton got off the mark over fences and is engaged in both the Royal & SunAlliance Chase and Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham, with the former preferred by his trainer, Dessie Hughes.
Edward O'Grady withdrew some of his horses and admitted concerns about their health with Cheltenham just over a fortnight away. "A few of mine have runny horses and it's very worrying at this time," he said. "I was going to work my Cheltenham horses, including my Champion Hurdle runner Ned Kelly, tomorrow, but I'll sit with them instead."
No such problems for Philip Hobbs, who is targeting the National Hunt Handicap Chase at Cheltenham for his racing Post Chase winner, Gunther McBride, whose stump of a tail may be down to the curious appetite of some calves.
* Industrial Pioneer, known as Sobriety when winning the John Smith's Cup at York for Fulke Johnson Houghton, took the second leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown at Sha Tin yesterday in adding the Group One Gold Cup to his Derby success for his jockey, Gerald Mossé, and trainer, Brian Kan.
* The retired cross-country specialist McGregor The Third, winner of 11 races for the late Gordon Richards, has been put down at the age of 16 after suffering serious leg injuries when frightened in his field by nearby tree-felling.Reuse content