Carolina Reaper ready to kick-off in Dubai

New Zealand-bred mare Carolina Reaper (NZ) (Vespa) is nearing her debut in Dubai.

The daughter of Vespa was purchased out of Graham Richardson and Rogan Norvall’s Matamata stable following her victory in the Gr.3 Easter Handicap (1600m) last April and underwent pre-training in Australia before heading to the United Arab Emirates where she has joined expat Australian trainer Michael Costa’s barn.

Costa moved to Dubai in June last year to take up a position as Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s private trainer, and he is excited to welcome the former Kiwi to his barn.

While it hasn’t been smooth-sailing in getting the mare halfway across the world, Costa has been delighted with the way Carolina Reaper has settled into her new environment.

“She got in a little bit later than we wanted. We had to go through a few quarantine hoops to get her over here,” Costa said.

“She couldn’t look any better. She has adapted well and settled in well. I couldn’t be any more confident with the way she is going.”

Costa has mapped out what could potentially be a lucrative campaign for the five-year-old, however, he has a number of contingency plans up his sleeve.

She will kick-off her preparation at Meydan this Friday in the Ipi Tombe Stakes (1400m) and Costa expects the mare will take plenty of benefit from her first-up run.

“We have taken her to Meydan to get her on the turf a couple of times and she has really impressed in her work,” the Jebel Ali-based trainer said.

“She is extremely clean-winded, so I haven’t completely screwed her down because she has been in the barn for 72 days and we are heading into 1400m first-up.

“We did have her kept in pre-training in quarantine in Australia. She had a pretty decent base, but it would have been nice to have a couple of extra weeks up our sleeve.

“I think she is good to go in her first-up run, with improvement to come.”

Depending on how she performs on Friday, Carolina Reaper could remain in Dubai for her next assignment or head to neighbouring Saudi Arabia to tackle riches on offer by the developing racing jurisdiction.

“We have got a four-run campaign marked out for her with a few different plans as well,” he said.

Trainer Michael Costa is looking forward to Carolina Reaper having her first start for his stable at Meydan on Friday.
Photo: Grant Peters

“The Cape Verdi (Gr.2, 1600m) and the Balanchine (Gr.2, 1800m) is plan A. Plan B could potentially be to head over to Saudi. I think this mare’s pet distance is a mile, but if we did keep her fresh, there is a 1351m turf race at Saudi over the carnival there. It will all just depend on how well she goes first-up over the seven furlongs.

“But the natural progression would be to the Cape Verdi and Balanchine.

“All going well in those three runs, then she will come back to the boys on the big night over 1800m.”

Carolina Repaer is one of four New Zealand-sourced horses in Costa’s care and he said he is enjoying his time in Dubai and is looking forward to developing his team over the next few years.

“We have bought three from the trials in New Zealand. An Astern, American Pharoah, and an Echoes Of Heaven,” he said.

“All three have won trials and have just arrived in the UAE. We will hopefully get one or two runs into them before the end of the season, before we look to next season with them.”

The trio add to Costa’s already impressive arsenal, with the trainer having posted eight wins and 16 placings from 53 starts to date, plus nearly US$750,000 in prizemoney. Additionally, he has unearthed a promising three-year-old colt in Seyouff (Flatter), who is bound for the UAE 2000 Guineas (1600m) on February 10.

“They are telling me we are breaking all of the records. Sunday night’s Meydan win (with Nibraas) gave the stable more Meydan wins in two and a bit months than they have had in six years. But I still feel we have got so much more to achieve because we got to Dubai quite late and inherited these horses and staff, and you can’t change it all over night,” he said.

“It is going to take a couple of years for the new injection of horses to get to the level that I want it to be. It is going to take a couple of years for the yearlings we purchased to go through the process. But it has been a good start.”

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