Jun Park and Delia Nash’s multiple stakes winner Sibelius breezed a half-mile Friday morning at Gulfstream Park in his final work before heading overseas to run in the Group 1, $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 25 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.
With jockey Junior Alvarado aboard, the 3-year-old Sibelius went four furlongs in 48.80 seconds over a fast main track, ranking 20th of 50 horses at the distance. Previously, he went a half in 48.25 seconds March 3 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, Fla., where trainer Jerry O’Dwyer is based.
“Everything went great. I’m very pleased with him. He went a half-mile in 48 and four, just easy in hand,” O’Dwyer said. “Junior was very pleased with how he was moving and acting and doing.”
Sibelius’ latest work came over the same surface where he became a graded-stakes winner with a 2 1/4-length upset of the seven-furlong Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) on Dec. 31. He followed up with a 1 1/4-length triumph in the Feb. 11 Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in a stakes-record 1:08.75 for six furlongs.
O’Dwyer said assistant trainer and exercise rider Chelsea Raabe will be traveling with Sibelius when the chestnut Not This Time gelding boards a flight for Dubai on March 12. O’Dwyer plans to join them March 17.
“I’m shipping him out there Sunday in a very good frame of mind,” O’Dwyer said. “When everything goes right in their last breeze, everything goes smoothly, there’s not much more you can do. We’ve got him good and happy.”
Gulfstream-based Alvarado has been up for each of Sibelius’ last six races, four of them wins, including the gelding’s first career stakes win in the Lite the Fuse last September at Pimlico. He is committed to ride at Fair Grounds on March 25, including Art Collector for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, and will be replaced by champion English jockey Ryan Moore in the 1,200-meter (about six-furlong) Golden Shaheen.
“I’ll let Junior have a chat with him,” O’Dwyer said. “There’s not too much to tell him, just the usual instructions: Let him break cleanly hopefully and go forward for a sixteenth and then relax and see where you are, give him a chance to travel before you ask him to run home.”
O’Dwyer has slightly adjusted Sibelius’ training regimen in an attempt to acclimate him to the conditions he’ll face in Dubai.
“He’s under tack every morning for an hour probably. We’re training him probably in a more European-style regimen. He’s under saddle for like 20 minutes before you do any jogging or galloping,” he said. “It’s a good walk, 15 or 20 minutes, to the track from the barn where we’re at so we’ve just been trying to replicate that so he’s used to it when he goes there.”
O’Dwyer previously traveled to Dubai in 2020 with Grade 2 winner Shotski, who ran fourth in Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), to take part in the UAE Derby (G2). The card was ultimately canceled following the outbreak of the COVID pandemic.
“We’re doing our best to try and do all the right things,” O’Dwyer said. “Hopefully we can nail it, as they say.”