Oh what a night! The fifth meeting of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival is upon us, and a magnificent seven-race card is on offer.
Race 1 – $55,000 Maktoum Challenge R2 for purebred Arabians, Empowered by IPIC (G1), 2,200 metres – Tapeta
#5 ALBAR LOTOIS may have won this a year ago, but we have to stick with #4 VERSAC PY, who nearly won the Kahayla Classic, and has been struggling to find a race to get going this season. Trainer Erwan Charpy finally found the turf race for him at Abu Dhabi, which was nothing more than a leg-stretcher. He just missed in this last year and has never been anything but second on the Tapeta. It’s Versac for us.
#1 RABBAH DE CARRERE gets the distance test in this, another who often sits mid-pack or off the pace. He didn’t see out 2,000 metres in France when on soft going, and is only a two-time winner. He has a reputation to match, and has to prove it to us.
1st – #4 VERSAC PY, 2nd – #5 ALBAR LOTOIS, 3rd – #1 RABBAH DE CARRERE
Race 2 – $110,000 IPIC Trophy Handicap (Rated 95-105), 1,400 metres – Tapeta
If you had yet to realize you were following the Dubai World Cup Carnival, surely this race will remind you. What a head-scratcher. Pace abounds with #6 EASTERN RULES, #1 SILVER OCEAN, potentially #4 MUSTAHEEL, and close attendance from #5 RUSSIAN ROCK. Both Godolphin runners #7 MY FREEDOM and #10 DRAGON FALLS should not be far behind either. If #12 ALRAIHJAN breaks well with new rider William Buick aboard, look out as well. We fancied him quite last time but missed the kick and it was all over. Still, he showed he can get over the surface well enough, running the second-most ground in the field.
So take all of those who at least should prompt each other, and #11 ALNASHMY definitely rounds back into the equation. He was arguably best last time out when slaloming through horses like a skier next week in Sochi, just missing. Drawn inside, he should save ground but will need some luck out of it as you figure several might be backing-up.
Only once in the career of Eastern Rules has he backed-up this quick – it was after a win, and he turned the trick again. That was in much lesser company on the all-weather in Ireland, so the quick comeback is encouraging. The plentiful pace, however, is not.
How about #7 MY FREEDOM? We chased him on opening night and got jostled about. He’s still in search of a clean run around Meydan, and it’s yet to happen. He’s drawn in three and could run into trouble yet again, but the value is likely better this time. He was ahead of Jamesie at the finish last time, and he at least came back to win.
The dam of #10 DRAGON FALLS is a full brother to champion Tiznow and $2 million earner Budroyale. She did not do much in her career, and her progeny have been underperformers. Still, Dragon Falls was a winner in his only effort on an all-weather surface. For what it’s worth, the third, fourth, fifth, and seventh placers in that race have all come back to win at some point, with the third home in that race recording two wins in lesser company. We did not see the video of that race, but it is at least encouraging that he did it well.
#2 TAMARKUZ was a hot play last week when beaten by Zahee, and now gets top weighting with this handicap limited to 105-rated horses. He never seemed entirely comfortably, but if given a chance to settle off the pace, could get a big run into the race. It’s tough to completely discount him off of one effort.
Watch out for #15 MARAHEB if he draws into the field. His last race was solid enough to be competitive here, and we recommend including him in any plays should he get in off the reserve list.
It’s tough to have a legitimately strong opinion in here. We are going back to the well on My Freedom, but think Marahab is a danger if getting a run, and will adjust our plays if he does.
1st – #7 MY FREEDOM, 2nd – #2 TAMARKUZ, 3rd – #10 DRAGON FALLS
Race 3 – $75,000 Meydan Classic Trial, Sponsored by Cepsa, an IPIC Empowered Company 1,400 metres – Turf
#4 FIGURE OF SPEECH ran better than most would expect, and better than his sixth-placing in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial would suggest. He was drawn very wide there, and is wide yet again, but shouldn’t have as much work to do in this field. If he can save any ground under Ahmad Ajtebi and tip out, using the long stretch to work out a decent run home, he’s right in the mix. #1 JOURNEYMAN was wide too, and should come on for that run, his third career start, and first since April 2013. He’s less exposed of the two, which probably just about evens out their trip differential from last time too. Both figure in here, with Figure of Speech a likely better price.
The connections of #5 HE’S NO SAINT won this last year with Elleval, bursting from out of the clouds to win. This guy races much closer and is well drawn to ensure an easy go to a contending position. We have to draw a line through the all-weather try last time when ridden off the lead. If he corrals his Irish grass form, he’s a chance.
#9 PRETEND broke from gate 13 and got over to the rail in a very heady ride from Silvestre De Sousa winning his maiden effort in November. It’s always strange when these types have spent their career on all-weather and never been on grass. But he went to the front and was just pushed away in a hand ride when well-backed at 4-5 in a field of 14. Very rarely does anyone bottom-out the field from the front in a turf race at Meydan unless really backing down the speed. Of course he can win, but he seems ripe to take a stand against, especially with the pace setup on paper seeming strong.
#1 JOURNEYMAN is not a straightforward horse, according to trainer Mike de Kock, and he plugged along after a somewhat slow start in the Guineas Trial.
It’s very difficult to get excited about #11 AUTUMN LILY. She packed-it-in after being close to a temperate pace on all-weather. Her form has been yo-yo, so perhaps she is ripe to rebound given that cycle, and she does get a sex allowance into 53 kilograms. She is the winningest runner in the field, which might count for something, but you have to get creative to support her chances.
It’s worth noting that #10 SALVADORI is out of Rachelle, which makes him a half to Amadeus Wolf, a three time winner at two, including a tidy score in the Middle Park Stakes. More or less, his greatest successes came with youth, and Amadeus Wolf was a winner on debut, on grass. He does hold an Investec Derby entry, so someone thinks highly of him. Several other siblings won on debut or soon after. This field does leave enough questions to think that he is not an impossible chance.
We’re going to take a chance that Figure of Speech can get towed into the speed yet again and maybe save a bit more ground. He checked in the backstretch of that last effort, something Ajtebi’s mounts occasionally do, but the flow should be enough to get him in the clear. Just like the male version of the Guineas Trial, our opinion is not that strong here, and as such, we go for a value play with some data to back it up.
1st – #4 FIGURE OF SPEECH, 2nd – #10 SALVADORI, 3rd – #9 PRETEND
Race 4 – $250,000 UAE 1,000 Guineas (Listed), Sponsored by Nova, an IPIC Empowered Company 1,600 metres – Tapeta
Trial winner #8 WEDDING RING should get some more pace to run at in this spot. Last time, the two Guineas Trials were run in consecutive races, and the fillies race was slower at every point of call than the boys. Take the overall time on the surface, and it doesn’t seem to suggest much about those fillies. Conversely, a slow pace did little for the front-runners, and Wedding Ring charged home over the top to win from #7 MAGROOMA and #10 LETTERSFROMAMERICA, who should go forward yet again. The Russian shipper #11 SIGN OF LUCKY is another who knows nothing but going forward, leading through every call in her five-race history, four of which we were able to see. Impressive, sure, but the competition was questionable.
Wedding Ring closed with a final 200-metre kick in 11.48 seconds, which is worth noting as it was as fast as Russian Soul’s final 200 later in the card in the Dubawi Stakes. Wedding Ring’s closing kick came in a race that was longer than Russian Soul’s, but both races were slower than par through the first 800 metres. It’s far from a perfect comparison, but Wedding Ring outclassed the fillies, bar Magrooma, she faced in the trial, and sits another likely prospect.
#3 FEEDYAH was wildly impressive on debut on all-weather, and then was incredibly professional taking out a conditions event at Ascot, asked to run through a very narrow opening. She was pre-entered for the trial, but not declared, and now has a fine draw here. She was racing as Godolphin in the UK, but now carries the colours of Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. If she freaks on all-weather here like she did in her maiden win, this girl is a live upset chance.
Wedding Ring beat #1 IHTIMAL, who enters with lofty expectations from the yard. Like some others, she’ll have to do it off the shelf, but has the best class lines, winning the May Hill, and there is no shame finishing behind Chriselliam and Rizeena in the Fillies Mile (G1) at the end of the season. Progeny of Shamardal have been golden on all-weather surfaces, so the only reason to think she can’t handle this is the rest, and having never raced on it. The rail could also pose some tricky propositions. We’ll side with the proven commodity.
1st – #8 WEDDING RING, 2nd – #7 MAGROOMA, 3rd – #3 FEEDYAH
Race 5 – $150,000 Nova Stakes Handicap (Rated 95+), 2,810 metres – Turf
#1 STAR EMPIRE won this race a year ago and seems likely to do the same in a spot that lacks any other start power. The wide trip is never a problem for him, and he’s drawn in 11 of 15. There is little doubting that last race was a pure prep for him, and the only reason he was all that close at the end was a function of the frenetic pace that could nothing but draw him and others into it.
Beyond Star Empire, our top pick, it’s really wide open. Six of the 15 runners in here emerge from the same race won by #3 CERTERACH, handsomely treated in the weights off the last win. #4 JUTLAND gets a bit of a weight-break in here as well as #13 EXCELLENT RESULT and #11 HANDSOME MAN. Godolphin’s #5 TENENBAUM was a close fourth in a similar race last year off the layoff. Excellent Result is the one who gets the most attention from us. He proved he can handle himself in this mix and ran on from a long way back, down some 21 lengths through the first 800 metres to finish beaten just two.
#15 JEDI missed the break last time, and that didn’t help him at all. He’s an obvious longshot who occasionally hangs around for a slice, but with an inside draw and no other clear front-runner, he goes forward from this spot to set the tempo.
1st – #1 STAR EMPIRE, 2nd – #13 EXCELLENT RESULT, 3rd – #3 CERTERACH
Race 6 – $250,000 Maktoum Challenge R2, Empowered by IPIC (G2), 1,900 metres – Tapeta
What a race. The first round, over a mile, is not as clearly a prep for the Dubai World Cup as this race has become, and boy is it a dandy. We could write and speak endlessly about the various prospects in here, but we won’t. So let’s try and keep this simple with just how we think the race goes.
First, the pace should be true, if not quick zippy, with #6 EMPIRE STORM having blazed away in the first round of the Maktoum Challenge, #14 MUTAJARE knows almost no way but to go forward, and the outside draw should force that hand even more. #7 PRINCE BISHOP could attend the pace as well, although he is far from a guarantee to end up in that spot. He made the running in this race a year ago and held for third.
Much will likely be made of the fact that Godolphin’s top two jockeys avoid #8 HUNTER’S LIGHT, as Silvestre De Sousa rides #12 AFRICAN STORY, a Godolphin Mile winner, and Mickael Barzalona on #13 ARTIGIANO, just a one-time winner, but always near the finish. It was somewhat surprising that African Story went for the Dubai World Cup last year, with Godolphin claiming they thought he was best over a longer trip, flying in the face of the form guide. Still, he ran a very respectable fifth, beaten just seven lengths by Animal Kingdom, and was running on at the end of the race when many weren’t. He won his first career start and each subsequent seasonal reappearance, including a score last season in the Burj Nahaar (G3) on Super Saturday. No matter what anyone says, the distance still feels like it’s a concern, but he is as massive a chance as he looks.
Hunter’s Light was superb off the shelf last year, with two stellar races on the Tapeta, winning the last two legs of the Maktoum Challenge before a dull seventh in the World Cup. He crushed opposition here in those first few runs, and we truly have no reason to think he can’t get the job done here, especially sitting a tactical trip behind the speed, drawn best of the Godolphin runners. It is a bit frustrating to see they tried the turf campaign with him to no avail. He was badly hampered in the Arlington Million when traveling well and was essentially the pacemaker for Farhh at the end of the season. The best explanation for his bad Dubai World Cup run is that his first two of the season were so good that some regression seemed likely. He is proven over the trip, off the layoff, and on this surface. He just has to be the pick.
It’s worth noting that Artigiano is incredibly well-bred to run on a surface other than grass, and he gets his first opportunity in this race. Several factors obviously go against him, but if they work out a decent trip, a step forward is not impossible off the long break, especially as the first two in front of him last time have proven to come back and frank the form.
You would expect #1 ZAHEE improves for his first run, although he gets a big class test. The rail draw probably does not please connections, but he will likely be ridden from off the pace and hope for some luck. The way this barn has gone with horses who stayed in the UAE over the offseason has been nothing short of spectacular, and he is one of them. On his absolute best, he is in with a chance.
Connections of #15 SURFER are surely gutted with the draw, as this race had been the plan sometime out. He had a good prep locally to clear the cobwebs, although nothing of interest has emerged from the race. Second in this race last year off a wide draw, a placing chance seems more likely than a win given his starting spot.
#9 HEAVY METAL is a real wildcard. He is a ball of energy in a compact frame, and this race seems a good test for him as connections seek to learn whether or not they aim for the Dubai World Cup or one of the turf races on the big night. That last was a complete prep. You can’t back him in here with any significant confidence level, but the price could be right to take a flyer.
1st – #8 HUNTER’S LIGHT, 2nd – #15 SURFER, 2nd – #9 HEAVY METAL
Race 7 – $120,000 Cepsa Mile Handicap (Rated 100-110), 1,600 metres – Turf
#10 EL ESTRUENDOSO improved well last time and just missed when Gabrial won. This is an easier spot and he’s a deserving favourite, drawn inside again. Sit the trip and pounce over the 1,600 metres which seems about right given the way he has run lately.
#2 EDU QUERIDO looked home in his last race when ridden by former Gloria De Campeao partner Tiago Pereira in Brazil. He tracked the pace, was probably a bit too close, before Joe Owen caught him in the shadow of the wire. How the form holds is tough to compare, but he should show prominence in the first half of the field and looks an intriguing prospect.
Will things ship right for #1 DUX SCHOLAR? He was our pick last time and just has seemed flat no matter what in two starts this season. This is class relief, and as such, he has top weighting. Another “last pick” for us was #9 DISA LEADER, who will get a bit of our money again just because he is in the best fitness since he arrived in Dubai, and was game in defeat last out when others came over the top to win. He’s received a terrible draw, but a patient ride could get him in the mix.
#12 MONT RAS gets back on the grass after two all-weather tries locally. Seven of his eight career wins have come on the grass, and he is one of the few who will likely go forward here. His pace attendance is a danger, and while we don’t think he can see out the mile, a placing shot is within reach.
If El Estruendoso doesn’t win this, it’s really wide open behind him. He has proven to be in good form, is third off the layoff, and gets a trip where he’d likely have been a winner last time.
1st – #10 EL ESTRUENDOSO, 2nd – #1 DUX SCHOLAR, 3rd – #12 MONT RAS
2013-14 UAE season-to-date: 205 selections – 51 first, 23 second, 17 third (24.9% win)