They flew across the Atlantic Ocean to compete for a chunk of the $35 million prize purse on the Dubai World Cup card.
They'll fly back this week without having gotten the chance.
On Sunday, the Dubai Racing Club (DRC) canceled the Dubai World Cup races scheduled for Saturday, including the $12 million main event and the UAE Derby, a prominent race on the road to the Kentucky Derby race based on the qualifying points it offers.
In a release announcing the move for precautionary measures against the novel coronavirus, the Dubai Racing Club said the World Cup at Meydan Racecourse would be postponed until next year, effectively canceling the 2020 races.
A total of 21 U.S.-based horses and their handlers shipped to the United Arab Emirates, including Pegasus World Cup winner Mucho Gusto, 2019 Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston, Tacitus, stakes veteran War Story and Imperial Hint, one of North America's top sprinters who was targeting the $2 million Golden Shaheen.
Horses who were supposed to run in the UAE Derby included Shotski, Tizamagician and Wrecking Crew.
The DRC had planned to run the card without spectators, but took the extra step to not run the races at all "to protect the well-being of residents and guests," it said in a release on Sunday.
Sir Winston had a published workout in Florida last Monday and arrived in Dubai on Wednesday.
Imperial Hint, who broke a six-furlong track record in winning the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga Race Course for the second year in a row last summer, had been overseas since February, when he finished 12th in the Sprint on the inaugural Saudi Cup card.
A contingent of horses from Japan had also arrived last week.
Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O'Brien was scheduled to bring a group of his stars from the United Kingdom to Dubai, but decided against it last week because of potential travel difficulties.
It's still all-systems-go for the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, when Sackatoga Stable's Tiz the Law will be one of the top contenders, based on his dominating victory in the Grade III Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Feb. 1.
He breezed five furlongs in 1:02.65 at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida on Sunday.
"I talked to [trainer] Barclay [Tagg], and he said that the track was really, really dull, particularly on the front side where the finish line is, but he galloped out great and we’re ready to go, hopefully, on Saturday, Sackatoga managing partner Jack Knowlton told the Gulfstream media office.
"We’ve been pointing for this race for eight or nine weeks now. This was the plan. He had that little foot bruise back several weeks ago and that’s well, well behind us. We got the works in we wanted, which you can see. He’s fit and we’re anxious to get a chance to run, because nobody knows when the next chance is going to be."
The Florida Derby field likely will also include Ete Indien, who won the Feb. 29 Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream by 8 1/2 lengths, the highly regarded Gouverneur Morris from Todd Pletcher's barn, Independence Hall and Ajaaweed.
Gouverneur Morris won his career debut by nine lengths on closing day of the 2019 Saratoga meet. He worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Palm Beach Downs on Saturday.
"He worked as well as he ever has this morning," trainer Todd Pletcher told the Gulfstream media office. "I think we should take what's in front of us [Florida Derby], assuming they keep running at Gulfstream."
Besides the Florida Derby, the April 4 Santa Anita Derby and the rescheduled May 2 Arkansas Derby are the remaining races with points toward qualifying for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby. The Wood Memorial hasn't officially been declared off, but the New York Racing Association has shut down live racing at Aqueduct indefinitely.