A few items to note this week before the analysis. Geoffrey Riddle, writing for The National, noted that only one European-trained winner has graced the Carnival through the first three nights, and that came via Lily’s Angel in the first thoroughbred race of the stand. Every other winner is from a trainer with a yard based in the UAE.
Secondly, we did get some assistance from Australian Andrew Hawkins in interpreting the form from several of the new shooters from Down Under racing for Godolphin and friends this week. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewNJHawkins, or his website HERE.
CLICK HERE for the Trakus report, posted at AmWestEntertainment.com
Race 1: $150,000 DUBAL Billet Trophy Handicap (Rated 95+), 2,000 metres (about 10 furlongs), Turf
This is just the first in a series of races with plenty of question marks, which means plenty of options. Overall, there seems a predominance of Godolphin favourites to consider in these races, which could lead to some overlays in other spots. But it’s a challenging card and you will likely be well-rewarded for being correct and taking a few chances.
#6 MUSHREQ was crushed last time, absolutely crushed. A series of tough breaks for Mike de Kock runners last week, and this time around, he will surely be well-regarded off the break. He does get drawn on the rail, where he found his trouble last week, so Paul Hanagan might do best to obtain a clearer position when push comes to shove. After being bandied about for a good 200 metres, he did get out and lengthened well. He was moving more than three KPH (two MPH) faster than winner Masteroftherolls in the final 100 metres last week – when he got out, he motored home.
#4 ROYAL EMPIRE ran respectably on opening night, keying a Godolphin trifecta. Back on grass, the extra distance is a concern, and we’re likely to stay away, especially as an anticipated favourite.
#8 ALKIMOS finally ran a good race, getting that win he’s been in search of for a long time. We know he is in form, and should get another good setup in a race that seems to have plenty of early speed. The draw suits him, and we have every reason to believe he will be in the mix. Everything we hear about #5 ADROITLY is that he prefers give in the ground, and that isn’t expected here in the UAE. We’re waiting on him.
#9 ANAEROBIO and #10 TANFEETH both ran very well last time, with the latter having made two consecutive quality efforts. Both seem in with placing chances behind our top pick.
We aren’t sure what you get from #1 BANK OF BURDEN, but he has won four in a row. He wasn’t close on four local starts here in the past.
1st – #6 MUSHREQ, 2nd – #9 ANAEROBIO, 3rd – #4 ROYAL EMPIRE
Race 2: $110,000 DUBAL Potlines Trophy Handicap (Rated 95-105), 1,900 metres (about 9.5 furlongs), All-weather
Three of this field’s top runners emerge from the same race on opening night and four of the 13 in here came out of a handicap from the second night of the Carnival. Coming to a consensus pick here is proving very difficult.
The field #5 PLANTAGENET defeated here last season was not good, a handicap with runners rated 91-97, and potentially overrated. Plantagenet ran a monster race last time out. He was drawn in gate sixteen over this same trip, covering one of the wider trips in the field according to the Trakus data, running fourth beaten just 2.5 lengths.
Compared to #11 KASSIANO, Plantagenet covered five metres more, which equates to about two lengths of extra ground. #12 FARRIER had a brutal trip when saving ground and is likely to lose some in this effort drawn in 11, but that doesn’t seem a terrible option for this guy, who really did stay on when backed into last time. Just when Richard Mullen thought he was going to get a chance to come outside, Kassiano passed him and forced Mullen to yank even wider around the back of heels to get some clear run and then he stayed on a bit.
What is potentially worth noting from that last race is that Arthur’s Tale, who ran an even fifth, came back and was a similarly even sixth last week when Bay Willow stole the show with a front-running score.
#7 SANDAGIYR, who has a win over this all-weather surface at Meydan, ran on well in the final stages of a race here two weeks ago. He flashed home on the rail after having been drawn wide and settling out the back, his typical behavior. The fourth through sixth placers from that same race all come back in the form of #2 BANNA BOIRCHE, #3 CON ARTIST, and #6 NOT A GIVEN. The thing about that race is the winner, Capital Attraction, was basically ceded the pace and just kept on to make all. Elderly Paradise, who ran second in that race and galloped out well past Capital Attraction, came back to win last week in another dawdle-fest when allowed to go off on his own, that over 2,000 metres.
#1 MUSTAHEEL was a five-length winner on debut over the all-weather at Deauville and managed two more wins after that on grass. His getting over this surface really isn’t in question, but the long break and the wide draw do concern. He runs forward, and unless he clears them, it could be a long run for this Irish-bred by Lawman.
#10 KINGSDESIRE is an interesting prospect for Marco Botti, a winner on all-weather when making his racecourse debut, then getting more ground next out over grass to begin his career two-from-two. He won when first up, and then first off a layoff in 2012, which makes us think he can handle this. Of concern, the field that he beat in career debut on all-weather are a combined 2-for-34, with both wins coming from one horse, while the other four runners in the field are still maidens. Ugh.
This is a very tough race to prognosticate as you essentially go with a newer shooter or one of the seven horses that share two common races. Plantagenet and Sandagiyr, off the ground coverage and sectional timing data from Trakus, are the best of those, with Farrier the one with the most troubled trip last out. We might be thinking that Farrier has some distance limitations, that a mile might be best despite some length in that pedigree.
Brutal decisions to make – and we side with Plantagenet.
1st – #5 PLANTAGENET, 2nd – #7 SANDAGIYR, 3rd – #12 FARRIER
Race 3: $175,000 DUBAL Excellence Trophy Handicap (Rated 100+), 1,000 metres (about 5 furlongs), Turf
Another classic wide-open turf sprint at Meydan – good luck. We could talk a bit about every horse trying to solve the puzzle, but won’t.
#1 SHEA SHEA is a rare Mike de Kock grass sprinter, the first starter for him aimed solely over these trips since he had JJ The Jet Plane in 2009. There should be no doubt, the race goes through him. He has to tote 60 kilograms (132 pounds) and gives no less than 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) to the rest of the field. That seems significant. His goal is the Al Quoz Sprint, via the Meydan Sprint on Super Saturday. On paper, he’s the best horse in the field, but definitely should be ignored at a short price given the signs of a true prep.
They burned down the course on opening night when #6 TEMPLE MEADS ran second behind longshot winner #5 FITYAAN who was dragged into the race by the blazing tempo. Temple Meads hasn’t always broken from the stalls on level terms, but he did last time and we liked the fact Richard Mullen maintains the partnership. They get a 6.5 kilo break over the top weight, equating to almost 14 pounds of difference between he and Shea Shea.
Overall, this race feels like it has another surfeit of early speed, and it makes you wonder who might be in the best position to be drawn into the race. More so, almost all the grass sprint winners have come from the higher draws, for whatever that is worth. We’re going to side with #14 SHOLAAN, who breaks from stall 13. He’s very well-handicapped, gets the heady Tadhg O’Shea in the plate, and if he is a bit slow away, it could set the table for him to come running at the end. In a wide open affair, we take a bit of a stab provided the pace is as frenetic as it seems it will be.
1st – #14 SHOLAAN, 2nd – #1 SHEA SHEA, 3rd – #6 TEMPLE MEADS
Race 4: $120,000 DUBAL Casthouse Trophy Handicap (Rated 100-110), 1,400 metres (about 7 furlongs), All-weather
#12 PIED A TERRE won four of his first five starts, including a tally in the Autumn Stakes (G2) at Caulfield over this trip on grass. He was kept running in the shadows of Helmet, who went on to good things in Australia for Sheikh Mohammed and is now retired. What potentially sticks out most is that he ran a good second over a mile at Flemington behind eventual Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon, that race coming last March. His former trainer Peter Snowden indicated he always believed this guy ran best when fresh, and that’s surely what we get here. He wears the red cap (technically, third string) and doesn’t get either DeSousa or Barzalona, but rather Kieran Fallon – obviously more than competent, but potentially a tip of the hand from Godolphin. How he’ll go on the track is anyone’s guess. We’ve been told he can go close, or track midpack.
#9 VAN ELLIS was a winner when making all the running in his lone all-weather start and is generally known to go forward. He made 13 starts last season in a span of six months, winning on four occasions. After that long campaign, is he firing his best shot in here? He’s a difficult read, but a likely attendant to the pace.
#8 SMOOTH OPERATOR might not have a placing from two all-weather starts, but this guy was soaring along behind Ganas last week, his second start of the campaign. That run at Deauville looked like a leg-stretching prep before he got on the plane to Dubai and is in the perfectly competent hands of Ted Durcan. He actually ran the fastest second-400 metre split from last week’s 1,200-metre contest, finishing behind Reynaldothewizard. In a race that looks wide open, he has as good a shot as any, particularly if the pace is fiery. A wide draw will almost assuredly take him back off the speed, but the extra 200 metres should help.
We tabbed #1 SILVER OCEAN as a horse to watch in the Dubai Racing Comprehensive, and this is his local debut. He seemed a better horse this season having been back in Scandinavia but does get stuck with a bit of an outside draw. His third behind African Story last year puts him in this race’s frame.
#5 REROUTED gets easier company than what he faced in the Al Rashidiya Trial, and his only chance on the all-weather was no disgrace. The problem is that this guy just rarely gets his head in front, winless since September 2010. In that one race here last year, he was clearly the best of the rest from the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3), behind Hitchens and Krypton Factor. That 1,200 metres was a bit sharp for him, so 1,400 makes sense. He was a LONG last turning for home and ran a final 400 metres in 23.14 seconds, which was faster than the top two finishers by 1.09 and 1.31 seconds. That pretty much confirms he doesn’t mind running on the Tapeta, and gets Christophe Soumillon to stick with him after riding #13 ARIETE ARROLLADOR last time. They might need to really get on with things up front to bring him into the race unless Soumillon can keep him closer.
Speaking of Ariete Arrollador, he too is going to need to come from off the pace in a race where there might not be much of it.
Overall, it does not feel like there is much pace to work with here, but we lack a really strong opinion on any of the runners. Many of these races have been left to the front-runners to do their own thing and they’ve hung around – horses like Capital Attraction, Reynaldothewizard, etc. For once, we’d love to see some Godolphin team tactics employed, not just for their own benefit, but for a truly run race. This is the wild west for punters, and think you have to side with someone going forward.
1st – #12 PIED A TERRE, 2nd – #1 SILVER OCEAN, 3rd – #5 REROUTED
Race 5: $200,000 Al Rashidiya (G2), 1,800 metres (about 9 furlongs), Turf
#1 SHARESTAN was wildly impressive in the Al Rashidiya Trial (Listed), winning well clear by four lengths over #9 SO BEAUTIFUL. While the initial final time was reported as a course record, there was a clear malfunction of the track timing via the race video, and the time was later amended to be almost two seconds slower. Silvestre De Sousa, who in our opinion has been riding lights-out so far this meeting, offered this 5-year-old nothing more than hands and heels when winning his local debt. Also rans from the Trial, which included fourth home Sham Sheer, Naseem Alyasmeen, Energia Dust, Theo Danon, and Al Shemali are a combined 0-from-6 with no placings since this race. They were well behind Sharestan, so perhaps it doesn’t make much difference considering the ease of his win. Still, a repeat performance puts Sharestan back in winner’s enclosure.
#9 SO BEAUTIFUL always felt like the one who would need the Trial most, and that seemed fairly clear after the effort. It was a tough race for the former French-based galloper. At the end of the day, there wasn’t much pace in the Trial, and it surely dulled some of his late kick, but he was going best at the end, so an improvement is not out of the question.
#5 CITY STYLE loves racing in Dubai. This gelding has won at three different Carnivals dating to 2009 at Nad Al Sheba, and ran third in last year’s Dubai Duty Free (G1). He emerged out of handicap company, and was a good second behind Musir in this race a year ago, franked when going on to defeat Rerouted and then run second in the Jebel Hatta. The best combined form of his life came from the beginning of the 2011 season through the end of last year’s Carnival, and was listless otherwise in two starts in the UK. Two of his three seasons in Dubai, he won first up, but in the recency department, Sharestan has the jump.
#3 AESOP’S FABLES has just one start beyond 1,600 metres, coming in the Prix Guillaume D’Ornano (G2) at Deauville in August, where he was handily beaten by stablemate Saint Baudolino, who we expect to see at the Carnival later. He has a running-style similar to Sharestan, liking to go from a stalking position, and makes his 4-year-old debut here. Saint Baudolino basically trounced this son of Distorted Humor in that Deauville race – let there be no mistake. Aesop’s Fables won a tight photograph and was a length away from being sixth. He’s a Group 1 winner, taking the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly before his Deauville second, beating a field that is a combined 1-for-15 with five placings since. Four of those placings came from the last place finisher, Arnold Lane, eighth at Meydan on opening night of the Carnival, and mostly in handicap company. We just do not like this guy in here, at all. He has to prove it to us.
#6 THE APACHE has been off since the 2012 J&B Met (G1), won by Igugu. Mike de Kock’s lone Carnival win came via Soft Falling Rain in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial, but they have shown marked improvement for a run, and this guy is likely to need it with greater goals in mind later in the campaign.
#2 ALBAASIL might be using this race as a prep for the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) over a mile in mid-February. He can easily be a second-season improver in the UAE, and recorded two very close seconds before failing in the paceless Jebel Hatta (G1) on Super Saturday. Off since then, he might be best over the mile. We’re waiting on him.
#7 DO IT ALL shocked in the Zabeel Mile (G2) last season but is much more miss than hit. He’s been downgraded from the Godolphin squad and we just almost have to play completely against the chances he shocks again.
1st – #1 SHARESTAN, 2nd – #9 SO BEAUTIFUL, 3rd – #6 THE APACHE
Race 6: $175,000 DUBAL Trophy Handicap (Rated 100+), 1,400 metres (about 7 furlongs), Turf
If you look solely based on what they did in their last race, this is a brutally difficult event.
#4 TIME PRISONER was a winner in his seasonal debut at Meydan last year, and that fact alone gets him the status as the morning line favourite on the North American tote. His three races at Meydan last year were fine, and he overcame a wide draw in his lone win, including at this trip. It should be noted that two speedballs set it up for Time Prisoner to come into the race from the catbird stalking position, so perhaps it was a bit more of a perfect script for the gray. Regardless, he’s in the mix here.
How about #3 KAVANAGH here? From the entire Mike de Kock stable to start yet (other than Soft Falling Rain), this one showed the most early prominence and stayed on all the way to run fifth behind Reynaldothewizard last week. It came from a rail draw he gets again, but 1,400 metres on the grass is exactly what this guy wants, four-from-seven at the distance and 6-of-19 on grass. There should be speed in here for him to chase as he pleases. Probably a toss-up between the top two.
Another who should appreciate the added ground is #14 BENJI’S EMPIRE, who is significantly more likable at today’s distance, 400 metres more than his opening night local leg-stretcher. #9 RED DUBAWI deserves a chance to improve off his first race in three months last time, and over a shorter trip that might be more to his liking amongst this company.
#7 KENNY POWERS is only a maiden winner, but he did cover plenty of extra ground last time, going seven metres more than winner Le Drakkar, which was the same trip as next-out winner Tamaathul. Both Disa Leader and Don’t Call Me were in that race last time, both covered some extra ground, and both came back to run well. #8 JAASOOS and #16 JUSTINEO were in that field as well, plus also-ran Amanee came back to run a bang-up second in the Cape Verdi (G2) last week. Off the back of that race, a slight Kenny Powers improvement is well within the range of possibilities.
We’re siding with Kavanagh back doing what he does best to duke it out with Time Prisoner, with wide open possibilities around them.
1st – #3 KAVANAGH, 2nd – #4 TIME PRISONER, 3rd – #7 KENNY POWERS
’12-’13 UAE Season-to-Date – 179 picks – 44 first, 30 second, 26 third (24% win, 56% top 3)