Jerry O’Dwyer’s Sibelius is stepping up to a Group 1 race for the first time in its life at the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on the World Cup night, and the Irishman is hoping the magic touch of jockey Ryan Moore will make the long, 14-hour trip from Miami worth it.
The 41-year-old O’Dwyer has ridden more than 200 winners in his career as a jockey and is now making his name as a trainer in the United States. He has had 35 winners in his new avatar, but gets a chance to secure his first Group 1 win on Saturday with the fleet-footed five-year-old gelding.
It is Sibelius’ first Group 1 race and also O’Dwyer’s first run in Dubai. He had come here in 2020 with Shotski slated for the Grroup 2 UAE Derby, but the Dubai World Cup was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Sibelius is in winning form, having triumphed in his last two starts at the Group 3 Mr Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream and the Listed Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. That takes him to three wins in his last five starts dating back to his first stakes win in the Lite the Fuse in September last year at Pimlico.
The good news for O’Dwyer is that two of the last four Shaheen winners – XY Jet in 2018 and Zenden in 2021 – also won the Pelican Stakes.
If that isn’t enough, O’Dwyer has managed to rope in Moore, the fifth most successful jockey in the history of the Dubai World Cup with seven winners and four seconds in 82 rides. The 39-year-old Englishman takes over from regular rider Junior Alvarado, who had to stay back in the US to ride Art Collector for Bill Mott.
Moore recently won a Group 1 race in Australia in Rosehill, and finished second in the Hong Kong Derby.
“Ryan’s just one of the top guys in the world and it’s fabulous to get someone like him on board,” said O’Dwyer. “It’s huge that we have him on board.
“You know, he is well-travelled and there’s not a horse or a race track he cannot ride well.”
O’Dwyer is happy with what he has seen of Sibelius in Dubai so far.
“Very pleased with his weight, now that he has travelled. He is drinking a lot of water and eating well and settled right in. Chelsea (his assistant) gave him a blow the other morning and he finished up really strong and well,” informed O’Dwyer.
“He is just such a laidback horse. I mean, as soon as you give him the go signal, as soon as you pick that bridle up and put that in his mouth, he kind of lowers down and goes pretty darn fast.
“He is unassumingly fast. When you sit on him, you never quite feel like you’re going as fast as you are. Even Junior felt that while winning the Prospector. He said you just don’t feel he is going that fast.”
In the six-furlong contest, Sibelius faces the challenge of defending champion Switzerland, who is trained by Bhupat Seemar, as well as recent G2 winner in the US, Steve Asmussen’s Gunite.
> Sibelius is a five-year-old gelding and has raced from 2021
> He was sired by Not This Time out of the Pulpit mare Fiery Pulpit
> He is trained by Jeremiah O’Dwyer and has raced for Park, Jun H. and Nash, Delia
> He was bred in Kentucky, United States by Taylor Brothers Properties LLC, Pollock Farms, Patrick H. Payne
> He has raced at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Charles Town, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Penn National, Pimlico Race Course, Saratoga, Tampa Bay Downs
> He has wins at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Pimlico Race Course, Saratoga, Tampa Bay Downs
> His stakes wins include wins in the 2023 Pelican (LS), 2022 Mr. Prospector (G3), and the 2022 Lite the Fuse (LS)
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