Connections of Hong Kong Cup winner, Akeed Mofeed have elected to bypass the million-dollar offerings of Sydney's revamped carnival in April for an even more lucrative prize in Dubai.
After lifting Hong Kong's richest race last month, trainer Richard Gibson had declared that taking on the world's majors on foreign soil would be the next aim with Akeed Mofeed and the A$4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 12 had been mentioned as a potential target.
The concept had some credibility as Akeed Mofeed may go to stud in Australia when his career is finished and a Group One outing there might have been used to showcase his talents for the sake of that audience, with the Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2,000m looking ideal.
But the five-year-old's owner, Pan Sutong had asked Gibson to prepare him a brief on the merits of taking the horse to Australia versus going to Dubai and the desert won out.
"I think you can say that Dubai is confirmed for Akeed Mofeed, although we still have to think about which race - the Dubai Duty Free or the Dubai World Cup," Gibson said yesterday. "In the end, the quarantine situation with Australia made the decision for us."
"If we go there instead of Dubai, the quarantine requirements after the race ensure that Akeed Mofeed would be cancelled out of the QE II Cup. The QE II is worth a lot of money, too, it's at home and at a course and distance where the horse has already won a Derby and a Hong Kong Cup. And as a Hong Kong trainer, the QE II Cup has to be a big item on the agenda every year."
"If we take on the challenge of Dubai instead, the situation is that he can still be in and out of there, and back here to run in the QE II Cup as well. Australia would just cancel that option altogether."
But Gibson said he and the owner were still tossing up about the horse's actual target in Dubai and the choice would have an impact on the horse's preparation path beyond the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m) on February 23.
"He definitely won't run next week in the Stewards' Cup, in any case," said Gibson. "He will run next in the Gold Cup and what happens after that will depend on whether his owner chooses the World Cup or the Duty Free.
"If he prefers to run in the World Cup, then I'll want to give the horse a prep race on the Tapeta surface beforehand, so that he isn't going in cold for the big one. That means Akeed Mofeed would have to go there earlier and run in the Maktoum Challenge on March 8 at the Super Saturday meeting, three weeks before the World Cup."
"If Mr Pan chooses the Duty Free, which is on turf, then our lead-up plans could be different."
Gibson said that both Akeed Mofeed and his Stewards' Cup-bound stablemate Gold-Fun galloped yesterday morning on the grass.
"That's the first time Akeed Mofeed has been on the turf since winning the Hong Kong Cup and I'm very happy with him," he said. "Missing the Stewards' Cup is just to keep him on fresh legs for what's to come later."
"Gold-Fun is prepping well for the Stewards' Cup, though, and I'm very happy with him too. There are no plans to go away with him."