Race 1 – $250,000 Dubai Kahayla Classic for purebred Arabians (G1), 2,000 metres, Tapeta
1st – #2 DARIYA, 2nd – #9 NO RISK AL MAURY, 3rd – #14 NIRWAN
Race 2 – $1,000,000 Al Quoz Sprint (G2), 1,000 metres, turf
#11 JJ THE JET PLANE may not have looked too impressive winning that last race, mostly because he didn’t kill the field with a devastating margin. However, a glance at the Trakus data indicates he actually ran 1,285 metres instead of the rail to wire margin of 1,200. That was attributable to his quirky shifting in the lane, breaking from the rail and slowly shifting ground the entire race. The point…he ran almost 1,300 metres doing what he did, and that was impressive in its own right. He has worked well on Tapeta all week, something the South Africans do in the morning but not in the afternoon, so don’t read into that in his one dud race here in Dubai. Now third off the layoff, he is a deserving choice and the class of the race. His ground loss is likely less this time with the draw.
#16 MR GRUFF has run incredibly fast in California, but is also incredibly fragile. His best efforts have come off the layoff, and over significantly longer trips, often coming down the hill at Santa Anita. In April 2010, he led through six furlongs (almost 1,200 metres) in an eye-popping 1:05 3/5 seconds, faster than I’ve ever seen before over that course. With a fresh horse in the barn, trainer Ron Ellis is giving it a chance, and despite the health issues that have clearly plagued his career, the speed could be too much for the competition to topple. A very live chance who might find the class of JJ The Jet Plane too much to hold off in the end.
#5 PROHIBIT earned a win at the Carnival in February and we thought was in line for another one when fourth to #2 HAPPY DUBAI on Super Thursday. Occasional flashes of brilliance are muttled along with head-scratchers in this gelding’s history. If he shows up at his best, he will vie for the title, but a placing shot when flying late could be what we get instead.
1st – #11 JJ THE JET PLANE, 2nd – #16 MR GRUFF, 3rd – #5 PROHIBIT
Race 3 – $1,000,000 Godolphin Mile (G2), 1,600 metres, Tapeta
#12 RILEYSKEEPINGFAITH had a few troubled trips then found glory in the Zabeel Mile (G2). While we would have loved to see his closing kick in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), he’ll still get pace to attack and could end up going well for last year’s winning team. Consider how fast they are likely to go, if he stays in form, it’ll be an exciting final 400 metres if you watch this guy. Ahmed Ajtebi told us he was his top pick for the day, and #2 CONVEYANCE knows no other than going fast and trying to hang. He is our pick.
#1 MUFARRH seemed outclassed last time but the two performances before that were spot on, enough to grab the frame here. Trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe couldn’t have said more positive things about this guy, who won a domestic meeting event then came on to dominate a Carnival race. He hasn’t beaten much, will be sitting well behind the speed and reminds us of a horse that will get to the front too soon in the straight and fade just in the shadow of the wire.
#10 I WANT REVENGE had so much promise when winning the 2009 Wood Memorial, a main Kentucky Derby prep, but never made the big race, nor has he won since. His trainer believed he was deserving of a spot in the Dubai World Cup, but this is more realistic, and might fit him well. Rick Dutrow trained Diamond Stripes to a nice Godolphin Mile win in 2008 and could have another one if this colt starts finding the front more. The camp’s reports are bullish and Ramon Dominguez gave us the impression (granted, it was just an impression) that he likes his chances with this guy over Gio Ponti later in the night. He’s been working in practical secrecy at some early hours and while he could win, we’ll side with a placer chance instead.
1st – #12 RILEYSKEEPING FAITH, 2nd – #1 MUFAARH, 3rd – #10 I WANT REVENGE
Race 4 – $2,000,000 UAE Derby (G2), 1,900 metres, Tapeta
#8 ZANZAMAR caught an arguably awful ride in the UAE 2000 Guineas and still almost got up to nip #3 SPLASH POINT. With a cleaner trip under Richard Hills, he comes through and gets the job done. There was no love lost that night between the connections, but you have to think everything will be done to avoid a repeat. He is a top contender that gets a marvelous pace setup. #13 XIN XU LIN knows nothing but the lead, and you have to think #1 REEM, #5 MAHBOOBA, #11 KHAWLAH are all going to show speed. He gets the win on the bounce.
#5 MAHBOOBA is queen of the 3YO fillies, at least in our estimation, in what has been a year of overwhelming success from her class and less-thrilling performances from her same-aged male counterparts. She’s also faster. Even when second behind Khalwah in the UAE Oaks, Mahbooba ran faster times than her male counterparts a week earlier. The UAE 1000 Guineas was faster than the male equivalent. While horses such as #3 SPLASH POINT and #8 ZANZAMAR might have finished their races with decent speed, the fillies have been more consistently faster and Mahbooba, the fastest. The problem is that she can’t be held back, and when she is, the result isn’t good. She might not be on the lead, but she’ll be close and that might be enough to keep her out of the top spot.
#3 SPLASH POINT has brilliant breeding, especially for dirt in America. A win in the UAE Derby could, ever-so-slightly, get the connections thinking Kentucky Derby (G1). Still, their thoughts on him are introductory as he wasn’t with team blue. Had a dream run last time which helped propel him to victory. Still, he is progressively slower than the fillies who might simply be the beneficiary of a pace collapse.
1st – #8 ZANZAMAR, 2nd – #5 MAHBOOBA, 3rd – #3 SPLASH POINT
Race 5 – $2,000,000 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), 1,200 metres, Tapeta
#5 DYNAMIC BLITZ is a fabulously intriguing prospect from Hong Kong. He ran just off the blazing pace set by Inxile in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) and galloped away to win by almost three lengths. Were it not for some significant ground loss in an all-weather event at Sha Tin, this guy would be just once beaten on the surface. The second, eighth, eleventh, and twelfth-place finishers all came back to run big races next time out, boosting the form. Based on our understanding of the pace, we think he might be outrun early and end up mid-pack, which could leave him in a cat-bird seat to come pick up the pieces late, something he did in that Hong Kong race he narrowly lost. A win candidate that gets our longshot nod on top.
#1 KINSALE KING hadn’t won since last year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen when he made easy work of a conditions event on the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields. Trainer Carl O’Callaghan has had his hands full keeping the sensitive feet of this gelding in good order, but all systems are go after a long winter of tending to “King.” He’ll likely get a trip settling off the main speed in EUROEARS and could sit a trip just off the lead that might propel him to an unprecedented second big race. In Dubai this week, he’s thrived, to the point O’Callaghan calls him better than he was last year coming to this race. The repeat chance is very live.
#6 SUNNY KING is incredibly interesting to us, as a likely closer in a race that lacks many who will settle last, or near it. With so much early speed, he becomes a unique quantity here. When racing back in the UK, under the name Kingsgate Prince, this 8-year-old had four wins over the all-weather. Since 2007, it’s been all turf, all the time. His performances against Beauty Flash, the 2010 Hong Kong Mile winner, have been impressive, even in defeat. The pace was relatively slow in the Stewards’ Cup (G1) and he still ran on when prompted as a bit of a price. When winning two starts back, he carried 133 pounds, spotting 15 pounds to the second-place finisher and 10 to the third home, and still closed from well off the pace. He doesn’t often put together the types of performances we’ve seen from him in recent months, so things must be going well. He is reportedly quirky in the mornings and we saw that side of him this week. Still, a definite chance to spring the upset, but more probably underneath.
#9 ROCKET MAN caught a bad trip last year and is partnered with Felix Coetzee this year to make amends for last year. Such a game performer, he always shows his best, if even his best isn’t enough. Losses at home in the KrisFlyer International Sprint (G1) and then Sha Tin’s Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint (G1) were still game and narrow. You just simply do not anticipate this guy being out of the equation. He never really lets horses get away from him, and after a year in which he was strangled back much to his dismay and still almost won the race, you have to think the connections want to let him run freely regardless of how much EUROEARS burns on the lead. With a post draw in nine, and speed all over his inside, he is going to have to gun or lose ground at some point. What a stretch run awaits!
1st – #5 DYNAMIC BLITZ, 2nd – #1 KINSALE KING, 3rd – #6 SUNNY KING, 4th – #9 ROCKET MAN
Race 6 – $5,000,000 Dubai Duty Free (G1), 1,800 metres, turf
#9 BANKABLE has been a real gallant fellow for the Herman Brown camp despite constant issues. They kept him on the Tapeta, according to Brown’s own admission, as a result of those issues, believing that the turf might take too much out of him. He was a strong second here last year, closing at the end, and his late turn of foot to land the Mahab Al Shimaal was nothing to deny. Under a heady campaign, we think his number could be up for a big, long awaited score. The connections are bullish on him, saying they have maintained his sensitivities to the point where he is currently 100 percent. With the likely frenetic early pace, we see him being the one to come and get them. The pick.
#12 BETTER THAN EVER – how the rest of the world interprets his form is up for debate, but we love him. Back when DubaiRaceNight.com was lucky enough to be at the 2010 Singapore Airlines International Cup, we caught this guy and deemed him the “best horse you’ve never heard of before.” 14 from 15, he is rounding back into form and now goes third off the layoff. If he looks a sweaty type, that’s his typical appearance. A son of French Deputy, he normally settles just off the speed and runs on turning for home. He got a strong gallop in over the Polytrack when stutter-stepping the start and getting knocked off his typical style. There is little doubting he could do Singapore proud in this spot. A massive chance from mid-field.
#16 RAIHANA set a course record in winning a handicap before landing short of DERBAAS in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2). Faltering a bit isn’t a real shock after a top score. Three races into her season, she was put away early to prepare for this event, and lends some real power to the race. She’s gone over every surface and just seems to thrive here. Defeating Fanunalter isn’t going to hurt her form either, as he came back to finish a decent third in the Zabeel Mile (G2). A shot that might be hampered by the draw.
1st – #9 BANKABLE, 2nd – #12 BETTER THAN EVER, 3rd – #16 RAIHANA
Race 7 – $5,000,000 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), 2,410 metres, turf
#2 DEEM was our pick in here last year, and she is yet again. After giving us a run for our money at 23-1 in the international pools, she had turf and Tapeta to lead into this spot – what might be the most impressive second of the Carnival. Deem finished behind our Dubai World Cup pick in the fastest ten furlongs in the history of Meydan. She was full of gusto in that spot, and we can’t help but think she could get a ton of benefit from that big race, one that certainly caught our eye. Third off a 60-day freshening last season, she won the Balanchine (G3). Now, she goes third-up for Jerry Barton and had the situation been similar last year, she may just have won the prize. Let’s not consider this chasing an old beat, but she gets the nod again.
#7 CHAMP PEGASUS got an easy go of things in the Breeders’ Cup Turf when second behind #12 DANGEROUS MIDGE, but has performed well in 2011 under a more traditional style of running. The company here is significantly better than that which was in the Breeders’ Cup, so supporting a top placing might be asking too much. Trainer Richard Mandella had the best American finish in a Dubai turf race when second with The Tin Man several years ago, so if any American is going to run big on the grass, it might be a Mandella trainee. His natural speed should have him handy, but not on the gallop of #1 LAAHEB who is likely to go from the rail.
#6 IRISH FLAME, we’ll be honest, would not surprise us if he shows life. Granted, the three races at the Carnival have been disappointing, and could be signs he just hasn’t enjoyed Dubai. But this is a quality animal whose second in the Durban July Cup is meaningfully strong, as was his win against Bold Silvano in the Daily News 2,000 (G1). Kevin Shea told us he has been a revelation in work with blinkers, something he will be equipped-with on race day for the first time. That should increase his prominence and give him a chance to get first crack. Live at a big, big price.
1st – #2 DEEM, 2nd – #7 CHAMP PEGASUS, 3rd – #6 IRISH FLAME
Race 8 – $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup (G1), 2,000 metres, Tapeta
What a race. Bottom line, one of the most contentious events in its history – should be a treat.
#14 GOLDEN SWORD is the fastest horse in the race. His course record for 2,000 metres was exceptional and his previous races all produced solid next out performances. Christophe Soumillon never really asked him for much in those races, and a review of the replays shows just how effortlessly he strides over the Tapeta. Kevin Shea is hoping to do the same thing and get on with following the top contenders from the outside, something he did with aplomb in his last race, the record-setter, when he was three-wide throughout. The form coming into this race is so similar to that of Lizard’s Desire, it’s scary. If he gets a clean trip and the pace is decent enough, he is going to come flying from the back and is our pick to take the 2011 edition of the world’s richest race. On top, a strong pick.
#13 BUENA VISTA is the darling of the Japanese contingent, her every move tracked by the masses. Her final strong track has proven she will get over this surface, soaring home in a quick time. Running with a prep race in Japan last season, she was a stellar second behind Dar Re Mi in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), and now hopes to replicate Japan’s only other Meydan winner when Red Desire bolted first-up on the Tapeta after battling with Buena Vista in 2009-2010. We can’t say a bad word about her given her appearance and performance. A top chance.
#7 MUSIR was likely not primed for 2,000 metres last time, which puts him into consideration. You’ll notice his last race could have been best to go over a mile, but the absence of Bold Silvano got him promoted. Third off the shelf, he offers a good chance to get a piece of the pie, one that could even provide a Mike De Kock exacta. He loves this track, and could be peaking at the right time. Musir is a real chance to improve enough to win given a more traditional approach to this race.
1st – #14 GOLDEN SWORD, 2nd – #13 BUENA VISTA, 3rd – #7 MUSIR
2011 Carnival stats (top picks) 73 selections – 18 first, 13 second, 8 third (25% win, 53% top three)
2011 UAE season stats (top picks) 311 selections – 71 first, 56 second, 39 third (23% win, 53% top three)