Race 1 – $110,000 Friday Trophy Handicap (Rated 95-105), 1,600 metres, Tapeta
#6 REYNALDOTHEWIZARD has been dazzling in two starts at Meydan since returning from a prolonged break. He is a half-brother to multiple G1-winner Seventh Street and a stakes placed filly, American Story. He was one of our horses to watch from the Dubai Racing Comprehensive and had been entered earlier in the Carnival but landed amongst the reserves. This might be his ideal distance and the draw is favorable. Field quality has definitely increased in this spot. Now is his chance to shine on a brighter stage. The pick.
#4 ATLANTIS STAR had been with Godolphin when he won at Wolverhampton and is now owned by Sultan Ali, but remains under the training care of Saeed bin Suroor. Overall, you don’t see that much. Still, he beat a quality field when winning and just getting up over a Sheikh Hamdan runner. Tough call on the silks change.
#7 RIGGINS is quite interesting. Unbeaten on an all-weather surface, he shared the frame last time in the William Hyde Stakes (Listed) at Kempton. Perhaps most impressive, he was a quality second beyond a class field at Royal Ascot in the Royal Hunt Cup over 1,600 metres on grass, beating, among others, Forgotten Voice, Lovelace, Stoic, Axiom, Dandy Boy, and Noble Citizen – all Carnival placers or winners. He has kept some quality company and could pop with another good one here first up.
#12 FINAL DRIVE deserves a look considering how well this gelding has gotten over synthetic surfaces. 8 for 19 with three placings and the son of Viking Ruler just finds a way to be in the mix. More concerning, however, is that this is his 14th start since August 29. He ran on back-to-back days in November (at Kempton and Lingfield) and then on a day’s rest later in the month at the same two tracks, winning both races. Those were class six and four races, and this is just tougher. Another regular placer is #13 RAKAAN who has managed a second in his only non-grass start. Jamie Osborne is winless in the Emirates, but this one is tough to ignore near the finish with 10 of 13 starts ending in the top three.
1st – #6 REYNALDOTHEWIZARD, 2nd – #7 RIGGINS, 3rd – #4 ATLANTIS STAR
Race 2 – $120,000 GNB Sprint Handicap (Rated 100-110), 1,200 metres, turf
#13 CLEARLY SILVER lost plenty of ground last time out going 1,400 and cuts back today after a two week-respite, arguably needing the race. It helps that #8 HAPPY DUBAI franked the form from a week ago and Clearly Silver was well in front of him. We liked him for a minor spoil last time and there aren’t any world beaters in here, all of which should help him. Drawn in the middle, he should get a clean run to improve second up.
#7 TOO NICE NAME was getting over the course well but set a solid tempo that the closers trounced two weeks ago. He too was first up and also had to sprint over from a far outside gate to secure a decent position before fading. Now in the straight, he might be able to carry that speed a bit farther, but with more patience. He has every right to improve for Xavier Nakkachdji, who has been knocking on the door.
It is too soon to right off #6 STAR CROWNED who checked in last a week ago, his first start since the Al Quoz Sprint. He has improved second up in recent years but we just don’t understand the jockey booking.
The last time #14 GOLDEN DESERT went from synthetics back to grass, he had a solid effort at Ascot in 2008. Last week looked like a leg-stretcher and he stands an each-way chance of moving forward over a more favorable surface.
1st – #13 CLEARLY SILVER, 2nd – #7 TOO NICE NAME, 3rd – #6 STAR CROWNED
Race 3 – $150,000 Aquarius Trophy Handicap (Rated 95+), 2,200 metres, Tapeta
After liking and tipping #1 HAPPY VALLEY last time, he set a suicidial pace over a long trip and faded. DeKock had high expecations from this son of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Alphabet Soup, but he wheels him back two weeks later in an open handicap on Tapeta, not keeping him on the turf where his goals were. To me, this is a test – if he runs well, we’ll step him back into better company, if not, it’s the end of the line. He tacks a few extra kilos this week, also. Tough to pick on top.
The selection here goes the way of Godolphin and #5 PRIZEFIGHTING. Aside from the fact that he was farther behind than the eventual winner and traveled almost as wide as his stablemate Rock N Roll Ransom that day, he ran into the slow pace even more and still just missed. Add to it that Prizefighting hit a wall when the eventual winner closed from his right and #10 HALICARNASSUS closed from his left, forcing Frankie Dettori to pick him up and lose enough ground that it probably cost him a win. This is trip handicapping at its simplest and it is our belief that with a cleaner run, Prizefighting gets it done Thursday night.
With the presence of Mahmood Al Zarooni horses getting more attention, it’s humorous to try and determine who is top mount for Godolphin here. Ajtebi had been riding #4 BURDLAZ and ends up on Prizefighting, while Dettori who was on Prizefighting gets Burdlaz. Ajtebi is #1 for Al Zarooni and Dettori is #1 for Saeed bin Suroor, who has #7 BAY WILLOW and #14 LOST IN THE MOMENT. Head spinning yet? Oh, and Ajtebi will wear the second string (typically) white cap with Dettori in the all blue. Oh intangibles! Heck with it.
#2 KING OF ROME has had two prep runs and now gets back to a distance where he had some success last season. He is a strong placing candidate, if not a win candidate, and that last race improvement was heartening to his supporters.
1st – #5 PRIZEFIGHTING, 2nd – #2 KING OF ROME, 3rd – #1 HAPPY VALLEY
Race 4 – $150,000 Wheels Trophy Handicap (Rated 95-105), 2,810 metres, turf
The jockey back-and-forth we saw in race three is in full force here as Frankie Dettori goes the way of a non-Godolphin mount for Saeed bin Suroor and takes up #5 AGE OF REASON. That isn’t necessarily the entire reason for our picking this 6-year-old gelding, but he essentially won this race last year, a prep for the DRC Gold Cup (Listed) later in the campaign. He did that off an almost identical performance at Kempton with a similar time structure between races and gets our nod…why is still isn’t in the blue is befuddling.
#2 DRUNKEN SAILOR was discussed as an Emirates Melbourne Cup (G1) starter for months and it never materialized when he had two “poor” performances in the Australian spring, one of which was a finish behind the eventual big race winner, Americain. We use quotes to highlight “poor” because he really wasn’t beaten by much and considering he did well in Dubai last season, it gives us hope he steps back to a better position at the end.
#13 LEITMOTIV has been well trained into this race and there was no catching the winner last time, who had a ridiculous pace advantage over the rest of the field. A similar effort can put him in the mix.
1st – #5 AGE OF REASON, 2nd – #2 DRUNKEN SAILOR, 3rd – #13 LEITMOTIV
Race 5 – $110,000 InsideOut Trophy Conditions, 2,000 metres, Tapeta
We are going back to #2 MR. BROCK once again, despite the wide draw. He gets a relatively favorable weight condition here and should improve for that last run, which wasn’t bad. No one was going to catch Mendip that day, even though we thought Mr. Brock was good for the win. He gets added ground which is to his favor and is top-rated for a reason. We go back to the well.
Carrying the red cap for Godolphin isn’t often a great sign, but a stablemate won with it on opening night and we think #6 PSYCHIC ABILITY could be an improver with pedigree that suggests he can definitely get over something other than grass. His lone start over the synthetic at Wolverhampton was his first start and he was slow away from the barriers that day – forgivable. The breeding is superb and there is no reason to think he can’t run up to his turf races, even if in lesser company.
#11 JALIL ran his best race in a long time last week and with a slight improvement, he is right in the mix of this one. Now third off a long layoff, Jalil could be in store for some board-hitting surprises.
#10 ESPIRITU is likely going to be forgotten but his two starts at Meydan last season were admirable and he comes back off those with a chance to land a share.
1st – #2 MR. BROCK, 2nd – #6 PSYCHIC ABILITY, 3rd – #10 ESPIRITU
Race 6 – $200,000 Al Rashidiya sponsored by Gulf News (G2), 1,800 metres, turf
First off, making all on the Meydan turf has never happened – and until I see it happen, I won’t back a horse who loves to run up front. So, toss #1 SEA LORD, one of the likely favorites. As for the other top contender, #13 PRESVIS worked himself into shape at last year’s Carnival and it is tough for us to think he wouldn’t be doing the same. Run incredibly well in this race or progress on to the bigger and wealthier pots? For Presvis to be in top form right now is beyond logical. Let’s look elsewhere.
#6 IRISH FLAME is a likely contender but the distance is certainly a concern. His greatest successes have come over, at the very least, 200 metres of extra more ground. He won a listed event over 1,800 last season before testing top company, and before that, had two wins over 1,600. It was an 11-race campaign from November 2009 through July 2010, and like others, he is one to potentially need the run, and extra ground, before the top races.
Ted Durcan may have landed in the driver’s seat on #8 STEELE TANGO who was a flashy winner on opening night. He actually was shuffled to last under a patient ride by Ryan Moore, one that makes him such an up-and-comer. But when heads were turned for home, Moore let loose and his mount fired away, mostly under a vigorous hand ride, and picked up the field in the shadow of the wire. You might get a few heart flutters watching it again, but the speed with which he carried himself in the final 400 metres was impressive, getting the distance in 23.92 seconds. #10 TAM LIN and #3 TEQUILA HEIGHTS will ensure a solid pace, along with Sea Lord, so if Durcan can muster the same patience as Moore, it could be a juicier price on Steele Tango this time.
1st – #8 STEELE TANGO, 2nd – #6 IRISH FLAME, 3rd – #13 PRESVIS
Race 7 – $150,000 Xpress Trophy Handicap (Rated 95+), 1,600 metres, turf
It is worth immediately noting that two Luca Cumani runners, #1 MABAIT and #17 SWOP are non-runners, which allows another Cumani runner, #18 START RIGHT to get into the field. That alone makes him an interesting entrant. A solid fourth behind opening-night second #10 HUJAYLEA gives some pop to the form, and the light weight helps as well. Speaking of that 8-year-old son of Dubai World Cup winner Almutawakel…what a race he ran on opening night. From a ridiculously wide draw with a short run to the turn, he traveled wide, settled at the back and exploded home with a final 400 meters in 22.7 seconds. Could he do it again and win? Dandy Boy isn’t in this race and the quick swing back indicates he is in great form. Hujaylea was running some of the best of his career when he came to Dubai. Very possible.
Pace in this event is important to find, and it will likely come from #6 FAREER, #12 BARBECUE EDDIE, #16 ANAM CHARA and to some extent, #11 TIGER REIGNS. With a rail draw from Barbecue Eddie, expect him on the muscle and gunning, which could set it up for Hujaylea. Also to come from behind, #4 LOCHINVER looks the part. Could Ted Durcan land the late double with come from behinders? Entirely possible. We’ll take the horse we know is in top form.
Is there a reason #13 CLASP couldn’t get a piece of the action. I think it is entirely feasible to see him with a share in a bunch where a winner could be tough to find.
1st – #10 HUJAYLEA, 2nd – #4 LOCHINVER, 3rd – #13 CLASP
Meydan Carnival-to-date stats: 15 selections – 2 first, 1 second, 0 third (13% winners, 20% top three)
Meydan season-to-date stats: 57 selections – 12 first, 7 second, 6 third (21% winners, 44% top three)
UAE season-to-date statistics: 172 selections – 38 first, 30 second, 20 third (22% winners, 51% top three)