Below is our analysis for Friday’s races at Meydan. We indicate Friday’s card is “Night 4,” but recognize the local racing is due to kick off just past 3:00 P.M. local time.
Saturday’s analysis will be posted later.
Race 1 – $110,000 Swaidan Trading Company VDL Handicap (Rated 95-105)
2,200 metres – Tapeta
We backed #4 LYSSIO last time on the premise that he was likely to be the only one to go forward, and James Doyle took him off the pace. Naturally, the race developed with no speed at all, and Frankie Dettori schooled them all sending Honour System to the front with 1600 to run and it was all over. That being said, he still ran very well, and at a huge price, internationally. This race sets up in a similar fashion.
#7 SIRVINO looks like the pace on paper after going forward last time when well beaten by Mahbooba, who we see in the finale on the night. But given his fading after racing with prominence, there seems no reason to think he’ll go forward again over this trip.
Backing horses like #5 MEASURING TIME can be hazardous to your health – he’s winless since consecutive scores on debut, and that’s it. But he’s placed in eight of 11 starts since, and while encouraging, even doing so in decent company, it makes you wonder what is holding him back. Of his second place finishes, he’s lost by .5L, a neck, a nose, .5L, 2.25L, and .75L, all in races from 1400m to 2000m, with his worst performances coming over ground more than 2000 metres. Problematic? It sure makes him tough to support here.
The quality of company #1 ROCHDALE has defeated leaves plenty to be desired in this company. He has the look of a horse that will do the same thing he did last season – win two local races then flounder in Carnival company. He did that on January 13, 2011 when tenth beaten eight by Rock N Roll Ransom over 2,000 metres at Meydan off two November victories. He needs to prove it to us.
#3 CLUB OCEANIC is one of the few to come in with success over an all-weather surface, and seems to have some trouble getting involved in the early pace. He is a new purchase for Godolphin, having previously been in the care of Jeremy Noseda, and defeated two decent Godolphin chances last time at Doncaster in Burj Nahar and Janood. Considering the early pace last time wasn’t great, he ran a brilliant race under Jamie Spencer, and we could even contest the comment line that he dwelt in the gate…we’d call it more like a quarter-step slow. The fifth place finisher in that race, Prince of Johanne, came back to win by almost two lengths over a field of 31 challengers when dismissed at 40-1, and the third place finisher, only a half-length behind, Sharaayeen, was a half-decent second behind Jamr here on January 6. He’s the pick.
1st – #3 CLUB OCEANIC, 2nd – #4 LYSSIO, 3rd – #5 MEASURING TIME
Race 2 – $150,000 Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism Handicap (Rated 95+)
2,000 metres – Tapeta
Analysis of this race has to start with #2 PRINCE BISHOP, tenth in last year’s Dubai World Cup, beaten as much there as he was three weeks earlier in the Maktoum Challenge R3 (G2). For what it’s worth, go back five starts ago and this is the same horse that defeated the mighty Cirrus Des Aigles in the Conseil Paris Stakes (G2) at Longchamp. He was somewhat disregarded as the “other” Godolphin runner last time when Parlour Games, sent off 7-4 favourite, just didn’t do much. The third home in that race at Kempton was Laaheb, who was fourth beaten 3.5 lengths in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) and failed to do much after that in his season back in the UK.
Prince Bishop totally dominated that last race at Kempton. The pace was strong and Prince Bishop wasn’t that far off the early gallop, racing two wide much of the way. When it came time to lay down, Sylvestre DeSousa just niggled at the son of Dubawi and off they went, while the early pacesetter faded to last and the rest of those in contention were fully extended, Prince Bishop glided away. This definitely seems to be his game, and there could be even greater hopes ahead. His performances in Dubai from a season ago left something to be desired, but he could just be one of those horses that gets better with age and can improve his second season in the desert. If ready, the choice.
#4 SPRING OF FAME really caught our eye last year winning over Haatheq early in the Carnival, then showing a solid second behind Bold Silvano in the Maktoum Challenge – R2 (G3). After that race, we thought he was a Dubai World Cup chance, but a third behind Honour System at the end of the Carnival wasn’t enough to give him that nudge, and a horse like Prince Bishop got the call for the home team instead. He did his best running first up, and seems a completely different horse on all-weather as opposed to grass. His penchant for running well, in Dubai, when fresh, makes him quite likable.
#3 BRONZE CANNON won a similar event here last year, winning over #1 MR BROCK, but past history indicates he’ll come on for this run. Next time, or maybe two down.
#6 FANDITHA has a solid all-weather record, but this mare did not get a ton of respect from the handicapper when scoring those wins at Lingfield in March, going up three pounds in the ratings off two wins. She tried a listed race at Kempton and rally didn’t show anything, so it leads us to believe the wins at Lingfield were much weaker than the finish would suggest. However, the key to those races is that they were on her first appearance of a new campaign, and she emerges fresh for regular Carnival participant Mick Channon. A somewhat unknown quantity that could claim a share.
#10 CAPITAL ATTRACTION will find the waters deeper here than before, but has the aggressive Mirco Demuro on board along with the advantage of a keen weight break. We tipped him to win last time when relatively dismissed, but find that the added distance could contribute to some undoing here. Not as bullish this time.
There is plenty of pace in this event and #1 MR BROCK has loved his time in the UAE, so ignoring him for a share is foolhardy. The third behind Monterosso in the Dubai City of Gold sticks out as a legitimate performance on grass, and he’s managed two Carnival wins on the Tapeta from 2010. He’s an old warrior and game as they come but might need a race before dropping into a slightly easier spot.
1st – #2 PRINCE BISHOP, 2nd – #4 SPRING OF FAME, 3rd – #1 MR BROCK
Race 3 – $150,000 Swaidan Trading Company Peugeot Handicap (Rated 95+)
1,800 metres – Turf
Everyone in this field has issues. Now that is out of the way, let’s explain why we like #5 MORAN GRA. First off, he’s never been over this far on the grass, or shown much interest in it. Totally disregard his effort in the Maktoum Challenge last year, just draw a line. A son of Rahy, he has worked spectacularly on the turf course, under Ted Durcan, and has notoriously needed a run or two. In the sense that he is getting a small field here, we think this offers a great opportunity to get him while the picking is good. Another field of 16 with various threats would make him easier to go against.
More so, there is plenty of early pace in here that we think could cancel out several top contenders, including #2 EMERALD COMMANDER, #3 SEA LORD, and #7 WAR MONGER. #4 BANNA BOIRCHE is 0-from-16 on the grass and #8 ALRASM would seem to need much more ground on grass.
#1 VISCOUNT NELSON was a late pick-up for the DeKock team, leasing him from Coolmore in the hopes of getting some Carnival success. Per DeKock’s preseason assessment, this horse “has had more trouble than the Greek economy,” and “could be anything” even though he seems to have team excited now that he is sound. He’s got “wait for one” written all over him, so that is what we are doing.
1st – #5 MORAN GRA, 2nd – #6 MUTAHADEE, 3rd – #2 EMERALD COMMANDER
Race 4 – $100,000 Al Naboodah Construction Group Conditions
1,200 metres – Tapeta
This might be one of the toughest races of the Carnival so far, with so many different angles to consider. We could beat around the bush with details on all of these horses, so let’s cut to the chase.
#10 ALO PURA is our pick in this spot. She gets the weight break, along with #11 INVINCIBLE ASH, and is actually the record holder for 1,200 metres at Meydan. Her win last time at Jebel Ali was the fastest 1,200 of the season there, and she did that running up the hill, and geared down. It was a flawless performance against a horse in Mujaazef who had won three on the bounce. She also did her running almost a fifth-of-a-second faster than Kilt Rock’s fourth consecutive win at Jebel Ali, over the same trip, two weeks later. Given that the weather and timings of many of these meetings are the same, comparing times across days and even weeks, is a legitimate act.
Her best running often comes soon off the shelf, and her record setting win last year had her 1.5 lengths better than Force Freeze, who picked and chose which spots to run in at Meydan, picking that day as a legitimate spot.
Most importantly, we like Alo Pura here because most other people won’t, but she has as good a chance as any. Contrarians at heart.
I’m fairly certain trainer Steven Burridge thinks #1 CAPTAIN OBVIOUS is one of his best chances here, and definitely, his company lines are solid. His last all-weather performance was a clear prep to get him fit for the travel to Dubai, and before that, he definitely faced top company in Singapore. The eighth behind Better Than Ever, beaten five lengths, should be viewed as a badge of honour more than anything else. This gelding made his bones in Malaysia before heading across the straits to Singapore, and is a most-consider.
#5 INXILE won three consecutive after leaving Dubai last year with nothing more than a broken heart from a few close calls. His first up run was best, losing a squeaker to a closing Our Giant in a fast time. If Dandy Nicholls has him geared-up the same, he deserves a long look, as does #9 SILAAH, who was second here twice and is way better on all-weather than anything.
What about the Wizard in this spot? #6 REYNALDOTHEWIZARD was handy when beating Barbecue Eddie, a winner last week in a Carnival race, and he also defeated Russian Rock who was a next-out winner by 4.5 lengths and came back to a credible third behind Barbecue Eddie. He’s another that has run well when fresh and deserves as much of a shout as any in here, especially considering he exploded second off the layoff over 1,400 here last season. What happens Friday – he’s second off the layoff again.
#2 IVER BRIDGE LAD ran here five times last year and his best result was his last result, when second behind JJ The Jet Plane. It’s tough to suggest whether or not he needs to run into shape, but that race was on grass, and this one isn’t. He’s had success at Kempton, but seems a dodgy chance to support.
#3 ALAZEYAB was a local winner in 2010 at a big price when getting a class drop. Now, he’s been rested off a local win at the beginning of the season and his second in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) holds his best chance in here. There have been few bright spots to endorse him off the November win and seems a coin flip at best.
Then there is #11 INVINCIBLE ASH, who crushed our spirits on opening night when finding trouble down the straight. Her all-weather form locally isn’t awful, and we won’t be surprised if she pops a big one, but others rate better chances under these conditions.
1st – #10 ALO PURA, 2nd – #6 REYNALDOTHEWIZARD, 3rd – #1 CAPTAIN OBVIOUS
Race 5 – $200,000 Cape Verdi (G2) Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group
1,600 metres – Turf
Only eight to go in the Cape Verdi, and the powerful #7 MAHBOOBA is back after a devastating win against open company in the Al Rashidiya prep. It would be easy to think she’s could go in the main race itself, and we thought she might even find the trip too sharp. Needless to say, she comes back, drops 200 metres in trip, and is presumably no worse for wear. The thinking seems to be – let’s get a win in Group company, on grass, NOW, and she can do it easily against this field. Off that win, and getting her on level weights with others here, makes her a mandatory selection, and best tip of the day. She’ll be an overwhelming favourite in the on-course pick six competition.
It’s clear that #8 RHYTHM OF LIGHT can travel well, finishing a strong second in Istanbul behind a sizzling time over the Veliefendi turf. The company lines are strong and the yard has been boasting about the great form she is in via social media. That can’t hurt.
#1 FIRST CITY doesn’t win often, but she gets a call in many of her tries, and the finishes behind Antara, Lolly For Dolly, and Timepiece all stand out as enough to give her a chance for a minor placing behind the top choice.
1st – #7 MAHBOOBA, 2nd – #8 RHYTHM OF LIGHT, 3rd – #1 FIRST CITY
Race 6 – $120,000 SMKA – MK by Honeywell Handicap (Rated 100-110)
1,600 metres – Turf
A tough way to close the card out with a variety of options. #12 START RIGHT was our pick last time, but just got out run late in by stable companions that didn’t rate as high for us. It makes him tough to select here, going back to grass, and drawing widest.
That is the flag of Mauritus draped across the silks that will be carried by Johnny Geroudis for #2 DISA LEADER, one of our Carnival horses to watch, for trainer Mike De Kock. He’s a goodie alright, and is one of the most beloved horses to come out of the island nation of Mauritius, becoming their first local hope since Mr. Brock to run at the Carnival. He began his career in South Africa, but seven of his ten wins came on the island. The toughest thing here is understanding whether or not he runs into shape. Keep an eye out on the comments from DeKock in the run up to this race and you might get a better idea if he is spot on. He is quality, anyway you look at it, but this might be tough to expect the win right away.
It seems a fair certainty that #6 THE RECTIFIER is going to go on with the early pace and try to stay as long as possible, but he seems overmatched to see it out. #11 NAVAJO CHIEF often races with prominence and he needed one here last time before a couple strong efforts, including a win. He almost took the race from an impressive Win For Sure, and finished ahead of Raihana, Start Right, Barbecue Eddie, and #5 HUJAYLEA that day. The Lingfield race has the look of a pre-flight prep, so all things considered, it wasn’t terrible. He gets our narrow nod in this spot, despite the wide draw.
1st – #11 NAVAJO CHIEF, 2nd – #2 DISA LEADER, 3rd – #5 HUJAYLEA
2011-2012 UAE season-to-date: 165 selections – 40 first, 29 second, 17 third (24% win, 52% top three)