Peruvian Champion Dominguin, Fifth in UAE Derby, Arrives for Texas Mile

(April 22, 2006) - It should tell you something about the quality of Peruvian-bred Dominguin that champion jockey John Velazquez was seriously considering riding the colt back in next Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Texas Mile before the rider was injured Thursday at Keeneland. The 4-year-old Dominguin finished fifth under Velazquez in his last start, the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai, and will make his American debut in one of Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie's signature races.

Dominguin arrived at Lone Star Park on Thursday with trainer Dante Zanelli Jr., also a native of Peru. The Kentucky-based conditioner knew what he was getting when he acquired Dominguin in September from his uncle, Juan Suarez Jr., long one of the leading trainers in his native country.

Dominguin was Peru's champion juvenile in 2005 (a Southern Hemisphere 3-year-old is considered the same age as a Northern Hemisphere 2-year-old), winning all five of his starts by a combined 62 1/4 lengths. Zanelli said the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, had inquired about the colt as a possible South American prospect for the UAE Derby. When that deal never materialized, Zanelli found other partners willing to follow the same path.

The skeletal past performances from Nad Al Sheba in Dubai do not tell the full story of the UAE Derby. What can be gathered on paper is that Dominguin finished fifth, 10 3/4 lengths behind the highly regarded Discreet Cat, who was considered a top Kentucky Derby contender before withdrawing from consideration earlier this week. There were 13 runners in the UAE Derby and the final time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:48.59. The official chart comment-"Tracked leaders, ridden to close 700m out, one pace,"-suggests that Dominguin stalked the pacesetter before flattening out.

"They went the mile in 1:35 2/5 and he was sitting second, but he just gave in the final sixteenth," Zanelli said.

The effort was even better in light of the fact that it came off a 10-month layoff. Anecdotal evidence has created a perception that horses returning to the United States from Dubai need several months to recover from the rigorous travel, but this does not appear to be the case with Dominguin, who flew back to the U.S. on March 28.

"Once we had him ready we couldn't get a race for him to go, so we had to go into the Dubai race without a prep," Zanelli said. "I thought we'd bring him back to relax after such a long trip, but he wants to train every day and he's training great. He ran such a great race and he's been so full of himself. He really wants to run."

Now the connections have decided to regroup and point for lucrative middle-distance stakes. The eight-furlong Texas Mile should be perfectly suited to Dominguin, who was sired by Domingo, a champion miler in Peru. Domingo, a son of Saint Ballado, won four of his five starts at one mile, including three graded stakes.

"He's just dying for a mile," Zanelli said of Dominguin. "A mile is perfect and I'm sure he's fresh and ready."

Dominguin, who is staying in Bubba Cascio's Barn B1, is scheduled to breeze Monday morning.

Zanelli comes from one of Peru's most famous racing families. According to a recent article in The Blood-Horse, his maternal grandfather, Juan Suarez Sr., trained Peruvian champion Santorin II, winner of the Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini in 1973. His uncle, an ex-jockey, is the father of California rider Jose Valdivia Jr. and an aunt is married to former jockey Fernando Toro.

Prior to the UAE Derby, the Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., now Velazquez's agent, worked Dominguin over the Nad Al Sheba track and gave the thumbs-up for his two-time Eclipse Award-winning rider to accept the mount.

"Overall I think he did very good," Cordero told the media after an unpublished half-mile breeze in :49 3/5 the week of the race. "He's very smart, very handy."

Texas Mile Update

The Lone Star Park racing office reports that Halos Sailing Sain, a 4-year-old gelding trained by Joseph Orseno, is probable for the Grade III, $300,000 Texas Mile. Halos Sailing Sain was second to top older horse Bandini in a one-mile Gulfstream Park allowance last month run in 1:34. The Florida-bred has only one off-the-board finish in nine starts.

Also likely to run, according to stakes coordinator Mike Shamburg, is Mr. Trieste, an easy winner of the $100,000 Sunland Park Handicap for trainer Gary Cross.

Two top California horses remain under consideration. Minister Eric, winner of last year's Grade II San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes, and Dixie Meister, second to Yes He's a Pistol in the Santana Mile Handicap at Santa Anita, are possible. Minister Eric, trained by Richard Mandella, is owned by Dallas businessman Gerald Ford's Diamond A Racing Corporation. The 4-year-old gelding Dixie Meister is a Texas-bred trained by Julio Canani.

Other known probables for the Texas Mile include Preachinatthebar and Texcess, the one-two finishers in the Grade III Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita on April 1, and Texcess, third in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic and winner of the $1 million Delta Jackpot in 2004.

By Jim Mulvihill

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