Donn winner Mshawish deserving of long look in Dubai World Cup

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

February 6th, 2016

With a solid victory in Saturday's $500,000 Donn H. (G1) at Gulfstream Park, Mshawish is now a Grade 1 winner on both turf and dirt. While that surely pleases owner Al Shaqab Racing with respect to Mshawish's future stallion potential, in the near term the win gives connections reason to chase the most lucrative prize in racing, the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 26.

Bottled up along the inside in third as Financial Modeling set a modest pace of :24.12, :48.13, and 1:11.88, Mshawish was switched to the three path by John Velazquez approaching the quarter pole and took aim at Valid, who rated in second early and prepared to seize control of the lead entering the stretch.

Looking as if it would be repeat of the stretch duel of the January 9 Hal's Hope (G3), where Mshawish ultimately edged Valid by a neck, the Donn instead turned out to be a more significant score for the six-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro. Mshawish drew off from Valid with relative ease and passed the wire two lengths in front in a time of 1:47.81 for 1 1/8 miles on a fast track.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, who was winning his fourth Donn in seven years and a record fifth overall, Mshawish paid $11.20.

"He finished up really well," Velazquez said. "For a horse that they were concerned about going two turns and a mile and an eighth, it doesn't seem like it bothered him at all."

Generally campaigned as a turf miler for much of his career, Mshawish has nonetheless done well at 1 1/8 miles. His initial Grade 1 win came at the distance in last year's Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1), which was renewed on the Donn undercard, and he was subsequently third behind the European superstar Solow in the Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan.

Mshawish has raced only once beyond nine furlongs, finishing fourth in the 2013 French Derby (G1) at 1 5/16 miles, but certainly has the pedigree to fare well over the World Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles (his dam is by dual classic winner Thunder Gulch). Also, this recent success on dirt has opened the door to a World Cup attempt rather than third stab at the Dubai Turf, which the seemingly hard-to-beat Solow is also targeting.

Taking most of the money in the Donn was Keen Ice, American Pharoah's conqueror in last year's Travers (G1). Starting as the 2-1 favorite, Keen Ice was a non-threatening sixth, beaten four lengths. The moderate pace and short distance obviously worked against him in what his connections considered a prep for the World Cup. He should find the World Cup's 10-furlong distance more to his liking, but given he was unplaced in three of four outings at that distance and beyond last year, the jury is arguably still out on his capabilities at the highest level.

Valid ran a solid second in the Donn at a distance generally beyond his best. Nine furlongs is not so out of his scope on speedier tracks like Monmouth Park, where he captured the Philip H. Iselin (G3) last summer, but expect him to target races at a mile and 1 1/16 miles for the rest of the year.

Third-place finisher Mexikoma, coming off a peak effort in the Sunshine Millions Classic, evidently remains in top form and might have a graded stakes with his name on it later in the year. Fourth-place finisher Itsaknockout, seemingly overbet as the 4-1 second choice, is not quite top class yet.

(Adam Coglianese Photography)