Race 7 – $5,000,000 Dubai Duty Free (G1), sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, 1,800 metres, Turf
Let’s make it clear – we believe 11 of 14 horses have legitimate chances of winning this race, and the other three aren’t far behind.
At no point last year did we ever respect #4 LITTLE MIKE’s ability to see out trips and handle making all the running, and he always did it. So let’s just say, unequivocally, he is a very good horse, can win this race, and in so doing, become the first American to ever win on grass at a Dubai World Cup meeting. He’s remarkably consistent. The cut back, return to grass, presence of Gary Stevens, and lack of any other confirmed need-the-lead type are all signs in his favour. He’s a monster chance to see out the running. Based on the Trakus sectional times in the U.S., if Little Mike can get consistent mid 23 internal fractions, he will be a massive chance. His biggest loss was on boggy going, toss that race. In his Shoemaker Mile and Canadian Turf defeats, he was pressed into suicidal mid-race 22-second sectionals – and he didn’t stay. All systems go for this guy.
If you want to make a case for any horse in this rich race, you can. One can argue that #10 THE APACHE settled better than almost any runner from the Mike de Kock yard in 2013. A first up winner (one of only 2 from 25 to try), he just missed in the Jebel Hatta when #5 SAJJHAA caught him. The son of Mogok will settle midpack and hope to run on, perhaps not as soon as he did. Christophe Soumillon likely learned from that last race, and he’s too good to let it happen again. Whether it is enough to win here remains to be seen, but The Apache gets our tip.
Are we abandoning #6 IGUGU? Maybe yes, maybe no. She’s very good, and we don’t believe she’s shown her best in running. After lightning record fractions first up, she floundered a bit second up and has had significant issues with her cycle, going in and out of season. She can absolutely, positively improve to win this race, and actually reminds us quite of Jay Peg, who won the 2008 Dubai Duty Free after a less than best Carnival with high expectations. It takes so much to get horses right off the quarantine, and like people, they all handle it different.
The aforementioned Sajjhaa reminds us of Sun Classique, who won the Cape Verdi and Balanchine and then went on to beat males in the 2008 Dubai Sheema Classic with an enterprising ride by Kevin Shea. Did she run a Duty Free winning race last time in the Jebel Hatta? Like Igugu, we would not be surprised by any result.
The European ante-post markets are much too keen on #14 TRADE STORM, who has rattled down the course from last in both of his starts with an explosive turn of foot. The early pace in the Zabeel Mile was a crawl, slowest ever over the trip at Meydan by almost two seconds, and Trade Storm was the only horse who lifted late, coming home with a final 400 in just more than 22 seconds. He’s such an exposed horse, we just have to question the competition and wonder if he caught softer fields and easier spots, and has impressed punters with the way he won as opposed to the competition he defeated. He is a wild underlay at anything less than 10-1.
#7 OCEAN PARK should not be ignored. His weight loss on travel concerned trainer Gary Hennessy a bit, but it was probably expected. He had a grueling but highly successful 2012. While disappointingly fourth in his first-up run in New Zealand, he was every bit as good as he needed to be second up and now goes third off the freshening. A Cox Plate winner, Ocean Park is one of the most accomplished runners in the race, and seems to have a strong steady progression, which should help him in the long stretch. There has also been form-franking all through his form lines. You can’t pick them all.
1st – #10 THE APACHE, 2nd – #4 LITTLE MIKE, 3rd – #5 SAJJHAA