Race 9 – $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup (G1), sponsored by Emirates Airline, 2,000 metres, All-weather
Let’s get a few thoughts out of the way. Here is our idea of the horses we think have at least a slight chance of winning #11 AFRICAN STORY, #12 ANIMAL KINGDOM, #3 DULLAHAN, #4 HUNTER’S LIGHT, #13 KASSIANO, #8 ROYAL DELTA, #1 TREASURE BEACH. By no means do they have an equal chance of winning, but we will be heartily surprised if the winner comes from anyone beyond these seven. All three Americans have massive chances to win the race. Affinity for the local surface at Meydan has been a key in two of the three runnings of the race – remember, Victoire Pisa hadn’t been over it and was off a break into this spot, but in the end, he was probably a horse of fate (soon after the Japanese tsunami), and he never did anything after that race.
This is the world’s richest horse race, and we do not intend to mince words – again, the horses listed above represent our opinion of the only horses who hold legitimate chances. The least likely of them is African Story, who just doesn’t seem possible to see out the 2,000 metre trip. Overall, he might run more forward given the stretch out and slower pace that in the 1,600 metre races he been winning, so we toss him. While he loves Meydan, seeing him defeat some of these other contenders, being asked to do something he’s never done before, seems a vicious proposition.
Treasure Beach is a fascinating play, especially in the exotic wagers, internationally. According to Trakus, he ran the fastest final 200 metres and second-fastest final 400 metres in the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) on Super Saturday, his first start off the layoff. We reiterate the meaningful data on trainer Mike de Kock – his horses have won 2 of 25 first up this season and 5 of 23 second up – all with meaningful improvement. Christophe Soumillon gets on him as Jamie Spencer has to ride #6 SIDE GLANCE, and the change can’t hurt him in any way. Spencer likely recognized that first-up wasn’t the time, and that this was his World Cup mount, so let himself get a bit of a shuffle turning for home and he still ran on well. Expect Soumillon to have him closer. Mike de Kock told us this week he is absolutely more right than he has been at any point in time this season, and while he’d like to have a little more time, there isn’t. While a placing chance is more likely, he does hold longshot chances in a race that has produced three big priced winners at Meydan. Ignore at your own peril.
Kassiano has been a Carnival revelation, and covered plenty of extra ground in his Carnival races and still just keeps fighting at the end. This is a class test, but so was last time and he still acquitted himself in good form. He reminds us so much of Allybar and a younger Monterosso – progressive Godolphin all-weather lovers who just kept finding. He’ll carry the colours of Sheikh Majid, but do not look at it as a negative. He settles mid-pack or farther back and will try to make one run, which is why the wide draw isn’t much of a concern. This son of Soldier Hollow scored the largest margin of victory ever on Meydan Tapeta when he won a handicap against a very weak field on February 28, then bounced back ten days later to run second in a Group 1. Still an outsider, Kassiano runs on from the tail if the pace is hot and fits the bill of past impressive runners in this race. A threat.
Two-time Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta has looked a picture of perfection each morning, but she did last year too, when we tipped her in this race. She bounced back in remarkable fettle, and her seasonable debut at Gulfstream Park was as easy as it looks on paper. To us, she is the controlling speed in the race, and how much she settles could dictate the end game. Jose Lezcano, essentially, had his britches ridden off by the rest of the world’s jockeys in this race last year, and it wouldn’t happen again as the switch to Smith was made. She seems just fine over the surface, but got shuffled about and around in last year’s race. Trainer Bill Mott is crystal clear – “if she didn’t handle the surface, we wouldn’t be back” – but she had a brutal trip and is deserving of another chance. If anyone goes wire-to-wire, it’s this one.
Does #7 PLANTEUR go with the top mare? He won all on the front end at Lingfield last time against an absolutely dreadful bunch, and trainer Marco Botti indicated they expect to make the running – if so, it could be a very hot tempo and possibly set the table some others. Sure, Planteur was third in this race last year, but he is just so tough to back after being life and death against a suspect bunch last time. When both Planteur and Royal Delta drew together for this race, the thought we had is that they could potentially hook up and go ever so slightly faster. What we know for sure about Royal Delta is that the only way she gets shuffled back is a bad start or later in the race if she goes too fast. If she runs her race, the mare is the best controlling speed in the race.
#5 CAPPONI comes off the shelf and everything we’ve heard for weeks is that he just isn’t the same horse – could he be keen fresh and prompt the gallop, perhaps to ensure Hunter’s Light gets a good run? It’s possible, and a scary proposition for anyone with natural speed, but we cannot take him or last year’s winner #10 MONTEROSSO seriously given their troubled preps, time off, and lack of the save fervor they showed last season. If either Monterosso or Capponi land in the top three, we would be absolutely stone shocked.
Animal Kingdom is a gorgeous equine specimen, but winless since last February – lightly raced, clearly a sensitive animal. But he is a Kentucky Derby winner, and the first to win beyond his 3-year-old season in a massively long time, and in his past, he was a two-time all-weather winner, including a handy race in the Spiral (G3) over Polytrack – his last start before Derby glory. He got an admittedly poor ride by Joel Rosario last time when he ran into the pace too soon and was asked for too much. In our opinion, if Rosario doesn’t make that move, he might have finished even farther behind than his 1 ¼ length defeat. In this race, the son of Leroidesanimaux must sit a patient stalking trip, and go on from there. While he has looked good in the morning, we are ever so slightly concerned that he may have just done too much work since he got here, as he was difficult to contain fresh off the plane and in his early days. He settled into a nice gallop by Tuesday, but you just do not know. Again, you can only pick one winner, and while he has every right to win this race, we will side against him. As this analyst is based on American shores, we’ll happily lose our tip if a Kentucky Derby winner pulls this one off like Silver Charm.
Hunter’s Light has been THE all-weather horse of the meet – cruising to win the second and third rounds of the Maktoum Challenge with style…and perfect trips. If he finds ANY trouble, it could spell the end of his chances, but he is one of the most likeliest winners of the top prize. His Anatolian Trophy at Veliefendi was explosive, trouncing last year’s Dubai World Cup fifth Zazou (who goes in the Godolphin Mile). While he ticks some boxes as a more-than-understandable contender, it cannot be stressed enough that some of his competition has not been the greatest. Sure, we tipped Surfer in the Godolphin Mile, but that horse was a maiden to start the season, and Prince Bishop would be lucky with a placing chance in the Sheema Classic. Others who ran in the Maktoum Challenge, like Little Mike, Treasure Beach, Haatheq, Jamr – were either overmatched or prepping for the next step. Is this a case of missing the wedding and catching the funeral? It could be, but we still expect a big run.
Dullahan requires some creativity. Grab your pens and follow me.
Draw a line through the Burj Nahaar – prep race, leg-stretcher, bad ride, not cranked-up
Draw a line through the Breeders’ Cup Turf – wrong surface, too long, steady pace, wide trip
Draw a line through the Jamaica Handicap – see above
Draw a line through the Haskell – speed-favoring surface, never a chance
Draw a line through the Belmont – bad ride, sandy track, wide, climbing, got the shuffle.
Gosh this is a much more interesting contender now.
At the end of the day, he could legitimately finish just about anywhere in this race, but here is our overriding thought. American champion trainer Dale Romans is in the form of his life, and knows much too well that you prepare a horse differently for $10 million than you do for $200,000, over a trip much too short, with a bad ride from an unfamiliar jock, a rough draw, a one-turn race, and three weeks out from the biggest prize in the sport. His appearance and behavior on course this week has Romans tickled, and Gary Stevens, probably the smartest rider in the room, knows what he has to do to win this race.
Dullahan will settle off the pace, get into a rhythm, be steered out of trouble, probably plotting a slightly wider course, and push him from 600 meters out, to make one steady progression. If he hits a wall, it could be tough, but those are the chances you take. He is the horse for us, and frankly, he’ll be the best price of the U.S. runners.
In case everyone forgot, Dale Romans trained the winner of this race in 2005. Underestimate the horse with some rough running lines at your own peril, but this guy couldn’t be better.
An American trifecta is well within the range of possibilities, and multi-race players should protect with all three U.S. horses, but we look to spice up the trifecta with an improving longshot.
1st – #3 DULLAHAN, 2nd – #4 HUNTER’S LIGHT, 3rd – # 1 TREASURE BEACH
Good luck and enjoy the 2013 Dubai World Cup!