Below is our analysis for the seventh night of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, led by Certify’s return in the Balanchine, looking to remain undefeated against yet another small field of rivals.
Race 1 – $175,000 District One Handicap (Rated 100+) – 1,400 metres – Turf
As might be the theme for some races on Thursday, there are just a few horses that are impossible to ignore, even at their short prices. #1 ANAEROBIO is one of them. He’s in the best form of his life, and they are top-weight in a small field. What is fascinating though is that it is fairly clear Christophe Soumillon has chosen to ride #2 ZAHEE, whose fifth in the Maktoum Challenge Round 2 was quite decent. Patrick Cosgrave is no slouch on Anaerobio, and he won over this same condition last season. The competition Zahee beat two starts back is less than what Anaerobio faced last time. We’ll side with the favourite.
The Tapeta experiment in Dubai clearly didn’t meet well with #7 INTRANSIGENT, who did have three wins on other surfaces. He’s back on grass where he’s just 1-from-15, but that win was decent in September. Eight of nine lifetime wins from #4 SOMMERABEND are on grass, and he’s kept decent company. You also cannot ignore the flying form of Mick Halford’s Irish yard, with #6 EASTERN RULES wheeling back on grass.
1st – #1 ANAEROBIO, 2nd – #4 SOMMERABEND, 3rd – #2 ZAHEE
Race 2 – $110,000 Meydan Sobha Handicap (Rated 95-105) – 1,600 metres – Tapeta
Just six pounds separates this field, and it features two horses who covered loads of extra ground last time out. #3 STRING THEORY and #16 INTRIGO went 15 and 19 metres more than winner Ottoman Empire in their most recent starts, both of which were much less than their margins of defeat. Both are sufficient over the 1,600-metre trip and seem well within the range of likely winners, but with added edges if they can have more ground-conserving trips this time. String Theory is drawn in gate 14, but Intrigo is in 9 – that could matter.
Longacres Mile (G3) winner #10 TAYLOR SAID finally makes his Godolphin debut, a private purchase soon after a massive six-race streak. He’s a winner on the all-weather at Golden Gate, but in lesser company. Many in this field are in form, this is a very tough ask first-up, but it is encouraging he still carries the blue.
#7 QATOOMAH’s win on January 4 was one of the more impressive you will find, albeit setup by a very strong pace. Barzalona rode on that occasion, and Buick gets the mount now. But she is stuck onto gate 16. That might be one thing that keeps us off her. #2 DISA LEADER has a decent draw and remains in top form. He won’t have to be spent as much to save the ground, but should still get the classic Geroudis ride. We have him as another player in the mix.
Given that the pace feels solid here, we’re siding with Intrigo. Still, we think there could be about eight or nine horses within two lengths at the finish.
1st – #16 INTRIGO, 2nd – #3 STRING THEORY, 3rd – #2 DISA LEADER
Race 3 – $175,000 Meydan Sobha Phase II Handicap (Rated 100+) – 1,000 metres – Turf
#1 CATCALL is a very clear top-weight in this spot, and has three of his five wins on firmer going. The Al Quoz Sprint (G1) is a likely goal, and this just a starting point for his season. He’ll get a new rider and has had some back habits of tardy gate breaks. He might be worth opposing at a short price.
Now, if you ever wanted a greater example of how tough it can be to accurately project these turf sprints, try supporting any horse to emerge from Alsaaeqah’s win last time. Seven horses come back having been unable to get in front of two 40-1 chances who made a mockery of the tote on that occasion.
Fawzi Nass scored a local training success last week, his first of the season, and we are going to give #5 HOTOTO a chance to get the job done. He nearly beat #4 AHTOUG on opening night of the Carnival and has been out since then, likely in an effort to keep him more fresh to peak on the big night. Now in just his second start in a year, it seems right to give him a shot. He improved substantially for his second run last year when racing in a Qatari sprint.
1st – #5 HOTOTO, 2nd – #1 CATCALL, 3rd – #4 AHTOUG
Race 4 – $150,000 District One Phase 1 Handicap (Rated 95+) – 2,000 metres – Tapeta
Don’t let this race fool you because it is just a rated handicap – there could be Dubai World Cup starters in this bunch. #1 CAT O’MOUNTAIN soared up the handicap after his demolition at Meydan on January 16. The sixth placer from that race, Saxo Jack, made a premature move to the lead and was swallowed by Cat O’Mountain. He came back to win, while the second (Haafaguinea) was second again behind the Saxo Jack next-up win. Third-placer Energia Davos was beaten just 1 ½ lengths by Sanshaawes last week. This form has held-up, now he’ll have to do over a shorter trip, off a wide draw, and against a more competitive field. Top-to-bottom, though, this race is much better than the one he beat last time. All but one runner in here (#14 SWEET LIGHTNING) has finished within four lengths, at Meydan, of the winner (or been a winner on their own) at some point since January began. There are very few pushovers.
It’s worth noting that Johnny Geroudis rides #5 ALEXANDRA PALACE at home, but had to ride Disa Leader when they were in the same race on January 23. Now he gets the mount back, he’s well drawn, and they test the opportunity for extra ground, which seemed well within range given the way he was coming at the end of his last. Again, though, this is a tougher spot than the last win. Both Capital Attraction and Disa Leader, third and fourth behind Alexandra Palace, came back to run well, while ninth-placer Mont Ras was a winner next out. #3 SOLAR DEITY ran close to the hot pace and stayed-on well from that race and is yet another of many into consideration.
Kieren Fallon may have gone to the front too soon on Prince Bishop in the Maktoum Challenge, and maybe he did it with #4 STEELER in the Al Rashidiya. He’ll go third off the extended layoff, and over 2,000 metres for the first time, but he should show prominence in a race that doesn’t have much of it, bar #2 MUTAJARE (potentially), and that is a tactical advantage. He looked to be running on well when he tried it in the Maktoum Challenge – Round 1 (G2), and catches another competitive field where his value is likely to be significant. What does he need to do to win? Perhaps slot in for a cozy stalking trip, stay forward, and advance third-up in the form cycle. He’s worth the chance.
#7 ELLEVAL has diddled in quality company from two grass starts and goes back to the Tapeta, where he was a fast closing second in the UAE Derby last season. The form, overall from that race, has not been superb, but he’s caught some very good company in the past, and was in all sorts of trouble last week on the grass when trapped on the rail, having been planted there from a wide draw. It might be best to keep him out in the clear and try to make one run.
#8 SAMURAI SWORD was actually one of the few to run-on from off the pace in the Maktoum Challenge – Round 2 (G2) and while he didn’t have an impact on the result, he passed some very good horses in the stretch, his third solid closing effort of the season. This is a step down in company, he’s well-drawn, back into the handicaps and well-weighted for it, and could absolutely claim a share at massive odds. Don’t completely ignore him.
#17 START RIGHT covered what was essentially the widest trip of the race last week when doing his best running late against Sanshaawes and #13 STORM BELT. He’s well drawn on the inside this week and does get a big break in the weights against some others. He’s typically slow away and needs some luck, and only has one win on the all-weather, but he seems likely to be ignored a bit.
1st – #4 STEELER, 2nd – #1 CAT O’MOUNTAIN, 3rd – #5 ALEXANDRA PALACE
Race 5 – $200,000 Balanchine sponsored by District One (G2) – 1,800 metres – Turf
We could write a missive on why we think #2 CERTIFY is unbeatable, but that would waste your time. Her margin of victory was not massive in the Cape Verdi, but it was all about the way she did it. We would be shocked if this undefeated filly lost given the way she ran last time. Find the second and third horses for juice in the exotics.
#3 L’AMOUR DE MA VIE ran the race of her life last time out when second, fully extended against Certify. She seems a prime candidate to bounce off that run. #1 PEARL OF AFRICA was probably doing her best running late last time, and could move forward.
1st – #2 CERTIFY, 2nd – #1 PEARL OF AFRICA, 3rd – #4 FLOTILLA
Race 6 – $200,000 Dubai Millennium Stakes sponsored by District One (Listed), 2000 metres – Turf
As impossible as it is to look away from Certify in the Balanchine, we find ourselves in the same predicament here with #2 MUJAARIB. We’ll be the first to admit we didn’t like his chances first-up, but he proved us (and most others) wrong when he landed the Al Rashidiya (G2) on his local debut. He did it well, loafed on the lead and allowed Mushreq to come back on him. Now, the obvious jockey change to the first rider for the owner, and you hope you get as good a ride as he got last time. Pace is here in the presence of #4 REBEL SONG, along with likely attendees #5 TASADAY, #11 QUICK WIT, and #12 ROBERT THE PAINTER. If Mujaarib works into the clear from an inside draw, while settling off the pace, he’s the likeliest winner of the race…and an easier spot than his Al Rashidiya win.
#1 DASTARHON may have been nearest at the finish of the Al Rashidiya, but he was only the co-third-fastest in the final 400 metres of that race. He covered a trip just as wide as Mujaarib and has really not been out of training at all. Granted, he’s just a one-time winner, but his efficacy over the course last time is suggestion to us he is at least in top form.
If #7 EMPOLI can make it to the gate, his back class is enough to get in the frame here. He was a scratching last week from a longer race when he refused to load, and the only way he’s entered here is having passed a gate test for local officials. Another mere one-time winner, he needs to step-up.
1st – #2 MUJAARIB, 2nd – #1 DASTARHON, 3rd – #5 TASADAY
2013-14 UAE season-to-date: 236 races – 57 first, 27 second, 19 third (24% win)