HH Sheikh Mansoor Festival Races at Sam Houston Race Park

by Steve Andersen

Coady photos

There is nothing like the comfort of home, even for a champion racehorse.

Last November, Paddys Day, the 2015 Darley Award winner as Horse of the Year, was sent to Abu Dhabi for two races. He finished fifth and eighth on consecutive weekends, the only times in a 10-race season Paddys Day was worse than second.

Back home, Paddys Day (Burning Sand x AK Loretta, by Virgule Al Maury) resumed racing in the $52,700 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup at Sam Houston Race Park on March 4. He won by a length for the 12th stakes win of his career.

The win confirmed Paddys Day was back to his best form, and left owner and trainer Scott Powell anxious for the rest of 2017.

“I was pretty happy with Paddy,” Powell said.

Paddys Day has won 17 of 26 starts and earned $344,466. His record is even more impressive when the three career losses in Abu Dhabi are removed from consideration. In his 23 starts in the United States, Paddys Day has been first or second in 22 races. 

Paddys Day won 5 of 10 starts in 2016 and had a vacation after his return to Powell’s New Mexico ranch.  The Sheikh Zayed Cup drew a field of 12, with Paddys Day a big favorite. In his preceding start in the United States, Paddys Day won the President of the United Arab Emirates Cup by 81/4 lengths at Churchill Downs last September.

Deshawn Parker, who has won more than 5,000 Thoroughbred races, had the mount on Paddys Day for the first time. Parker had Paddys Day in contention throughout the seven-furlong race, racing within a neck of the leaders after the first quarter-mile. On the turn, Paddys Day was fourth, trailing by a length, but moved to the front with an eighth of a mile to go.

Paddys Day won by a length over Easter Man, the leading four-year-old male of 2016. Easter Man (Burning Sand x Angel Proof, by NF Proof) finished 103/4 lengths clear of Quick Sand AA (Burning Sand x Triumphs Silkie, by Seyvilla Triumph). Easter Man and Quick Sand are owned by Joe and Betty Gillis of Mississippi and trained by Jerenesto Torrez. 

From Powell’s perspective, Paddys Day gave a workmanlike performance in the Sheikh Zayed Cup. He wondered whether the now six-year-old is doing just enough to get the job done. “He’s gotten a little lazy in his own way,” Powell said. “I think he’s getting the game a lot better. He thinks, Okay, game on, let’s race. He knows it’s not play time. Let’s get the job done and get it over.”

As for a third trip to Abu Dhabi later this year, Powell says a decision will be made closer to the race. The journey is expensive, and takes him away from his ranch.

The Sheikh Zayed Cup was one of two stakes on the March 4 program at Sam Houston. In the $41,500 Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship for amateur riders, Ruby AA (Burning Sand x Triumphs Pearl, by Seyvilla Triumph) won her second stakes, and for the fifth time in her career, against a field of nine fillies and mares.

Ruby AA, who races for Torrez and Joe and Betty Gillis, won by 18 lengths over the 5-2 favorite, Dream Pearl (Burning Sand x Triumphs Pearl, by Seyvilla Triumph). The Gillis’s bred Dream Pearl, who races for Dorothy Burt, Evelyn Call, Cory Soltau, and Terri Eaton. Dream Pearl, a stakes winner at Los Alamitos last fall, was favored in the Sheikha Fatima Stakes. 

Ruby AA was ridden by Lisa Lindbjerg of Denmark. The race brings together amateur riders from throughout the world. Lindbjerg had Ruby AA in front shortly after the start and in control of the race midway through the seven furlongs. Ruby AA led by three lengths after a half-mile and had a 12-length advantage with a furlong to go.

Ruby AA has won 5 of 10 starts and earned $64,628. She was third behind RB Nash in the Texas Six Shooter Stakes in her first start of 2017. Last November, Ruby won the Texas Lone Star Futurity for her first stakes win.

The Sheikha Fatima Stakes was not without a bit of drama. The Powell-trained Ivory Shores encountered trouble at the start and unseated jockey Ilaria Saggiomo.

“We were real disappointed that our rider fell off in the amateur race,” Powell said. “We thought Ivory Shores could win that race.”

Steve Andersen is a correspondent for Daily Racing Form.

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