Dubai World Cup: 'Underdog' Sleepy Eyes Todd 'Tries His Eyeballs Out Every Time' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Dubai World Cup: ‘Underdog’ Sleepy Eyes Todd ‘Tries His Eyeballs Out Every Time’

Sleepy Eyes Todd post-morning training at Meydan

Thumbs Up Racing's Sleepy Eyes Todd continues to grow his fanbase heading into the toughest test of his career, the 10-furlong, $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 27. While his propensity to pose for the morning racing media and genuine nature around the barn have earned him points with onlookers and horsemen, alike, it is his grit and consistency that flock favor to those only aware of his performance record. All of the above will likely come into play if the roan warrior is to be successful on the big day.

“He's a gentleman,” said trainer Miguel Angel Silva. “He feels really good to be around. Even though he's a stallion, he acts like a good friend. He's just gentle with everyone and he doesn't like to do anything bad or stupid to the groom or gallop-people. He's a cool guy and he likes the (media) cameras.”

A five-time stakes winner who has shown marked versatility in trip and track, the photogenic son of Paddy O'Prado is not considered a favorite in the market for the Dubai World Cup, but is respected by many as one they know will have a say in the outcome. He exits a strong-closing fifth in the $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh, suffering traffic issues, and has won graded stakes at nine furlongs and seven furlongs.

“We didn't get the trip we wanted in Saudi,” Silva explained. “It's just racing luck and hopefully he can have better luck this time and maybe we can get the win. This time, like last time, I would like to see him five or six lengths behind the speed, but you never know what's going to happen during the race. That was the plan last time and all of a sudden we were dead-last and had to come running.”

The eight-time winner from 17 starts will be reunited with jockey Alexis Moreno, who was aboard in the Saudi Cup. While he has yet to prove himself at the G1 level, he has been successful against G1 horses with the proverbial world watching.

On the Breeders' Cup World Championships undercard at Keeneland in November, he defeated a talented Lafayette Stakes (Listed) field, including next-out Cigar Mile (G1) winner True Timber and Burj Nahaar (G3) victor Midnight Sands. In December's Mr. Prospector (G3), he turned back G1 winners Diamond Oops and Mind Control, as well as multiple G2 winner Firenze Fire. Those efforts have been par for the course for a runner who has consistently and successfully taken his show on tour, including winning last year's Charles Town Classic (G2) over nine furlongs. He will have to stretch another furlong in Dubai, attempting 1 1/4 miles for the first time.

“I would love to see him finish the way he did on Breeders' Cup day,” Silva said. “He tries his eyeballs out every time. He's a hard-working horse who's always the underdog and we just love him. He's had issues in the races, but always managed to come back and perform well.

“He's training amazing right now and he really likes this track. The transition from Saudi to here has been great and we've had no issues so far. It's a little more similar to a U.S. track and he loves to train and gets over the track. The works have been a little bit longer with him (to build stamina), but I don't see any problem with the distance. He has been, in the last couple races, one of the only horses who is finishing in the race. In Saudi, he was the only horse really closing in on the frontrunners. If anything, the distance will be good for him.”

The ride Sleepy Eyes Todd has taken the Mexico City native on has undoubtedly been a memorable one. A second-generation horseman who has worked his way from hotwalker to head trainer, Silva is not quick to take any part of this experience for granted.

“It is an amazing experience to have him and I've been trying to take it all in,” Silva said. “Hopefully we will get more horses who have this kind of quality of racing in them after this, but we'll see. We are trying to enjoy it and are going step by step with the horse heading into the race.

“I have climbed the ladder and found my own path. It has been like a family business to work with horses, from my grandfather to my dad and to me and my brothers—we all belong to these beautiful animals.”

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