Dubai Honour chases third straight Gr1 win in FWD QEII Cup

Steve Moran

29/04/2023 10:38

Dubai Honour exercises under Issy Paul at Sha Tin ahead of the FWD QEII Cup.
Dubai Honour exercises under Issy Paul at Sha Tin ahead of the FWD QEII Cup.

Seven races in three countries and some 16 months have passed since William Haggas-trained Dubai Honour was first set for the international racing stage at the 2021 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin.

On that occasion, he more than confirmed the quality of his three-year-old form with a closing one and a quarter lengths fourth to Japan’s Loves Only You, who earlier that year had also won the G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m), in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

However, a fruitless 2022 season followed and some debate continues as to whether he has recaptured his best form or improved in 2023 despite his two Gr1 wins in Australia in March and April. That debate may well be adjudicated in Sunday’s HK$25 million G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m).

Issy Paul, the gelding’s regular rider and assistant to Haggas, has been by his side – and on his back – in Australia and Hong Kong and is best placed to offer some insight into his progress.

Dubai Honour scores a stylish win in the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick.

Id love to think he has improved,” Paul said,  “And I do think hes in better form than he was last year but well see what happens in the season to come. The one-on-one attention he certainly enjoys and even the silly stuff like having the sun on his back in Australia and a good roll in the sand has seen him thrive.

Perhaps, he was a little below his best last year. Obviously, he was a very good three-year-old so whether hes improved now or gone back to the level of that very good three-year-old form Im not sure.

“We do have some very nice mile and a quarter, 2000 metres horses at home (England) and how he would fare against them this season I guess remains to be seen.”

First is the matter of Sunday’s race where he faces small but select opposition headed by last December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) winner Romantic Warrior.

“From my perspective, he still feels great as he did in Australia. It will be a really tough ask but the boss (William Haggas) is very shrewd and wouldn’t have him here if he didn’t think he had a flying chance.

“His weight is good, he takes everything in his stride and he feels like he’s in really good form so fingers crossed we see another very good performance on Sunday,” said Paul.

Paul harbours an ambition to train in her own right but not in the immediate future.

“Maybe one day but no rush on that. William is brilliant to work for her and we get the opportunity to work with some great horses. We have lots of communication with the boss, of course, but it’s amazing how he trusts us to get the job done.

“I’m very fond of this horse (Dubai Honour) and by Sunday, Ill have been away with him for nearly two and a half months so I’m hopeful he’ll run very well again and I’m sure he will,” Paul said.

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