It is our pleasure to offer full-card analysis for a phenomenal Super Saturday meeting at Meydan. Eight races, all preps for the big day looming on the last Saturday in March.
CLICK HERE to open the US-style past performances, courtesy of AmWest Entertainment (link live when available)
Race 1 – $55,000 Maktoum Challenge R3 for purebred Arabians (G1) – 2,200 metres, Tapeta
We get the defending champion from last year’s Dubai Kahayla Classic in #2 AL MAMUN MONLAU, but he typically needs some pace to run at, and there doesn’t appear to be too much of it. #7 RAAZIQ does have the ability to go close, and with another decent draw, he seems likely to be willing to sit and dictate the tempo. This is obviously a surface test, but tactically, it seems a good time to go against Al Mamun Monlau.
#5 VERSAC PY is a favourite of ours, always a trier with 14 placings from 18 UAE starts. He loves this trip and distance, and is impossible to ignore.
1st – #7 RAAZIQ, 2nd – #5 VERSAC PY, 3rd – #2 AL MAMUN MONLAU
Race 2 – $250,000 Al Bastakiya Sponsored by Emirates Skywards (Listed) – 1,900 metres – Tapeta
#8 EMIRATES FLYER is likely to be quite the money-taker in this spot. He was beaten 4 ¼ lengths by Long John, but was another 3 ½ lengths clear of #3 ASMAR from the UAE 2,000 Guineas (G3). No one was going to beat Long John as it turned out, but Emirates Flyer seemed to answer any questions about distance limitations or quality from the 2,000 Guineas trial when he won.
#9 FULL COMBAT should’ve improved last time but didn’t, and you would expect they come back this time with a chance. It could’ve been the blinkers, which seemingly stifled him in running. Experiment over, the team removes the blinkers and will let Full Combat do his thing
We are guessing #7 LETTERFROMAMERICA goes on and tries to slow them down as much as possible. She has the lightweight in this field, which can only help her, and there is more stamina in her pedigree than it might seem. Her half-brother London Bridge won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon last year over 14 furlongs.
#1 HE’S NO SAINT has run forward, but was taken back last time by Fergal Lynch given the presence of a hot tempo and it worked out well. He is proficient on the all-weather surface at Dundalk, and the rail draw should suit him fine given Lynch’s riding style.
Asmar is the intriguing horse. He might get ignored by the fact that he is a maiden taking on a more accomplished group. A son of Cape Cross, he is out of Zaneton, making him a half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Zagora, a mare who obviously relished more ground than what Asmar has been contesting. He had trouble breaking in his first two starts, but that seemed to be solved, to some degree, last time. Now getting an extra 300 metres, he seems poised to potentially run his best race.
It seems a four-horse race to us, and bettors considering plays in the exacta and trifectas need to recognize we find any of these four plausibly in the mix – Emirates Flyer, Asmar, Full Combat, and He’s No Saint. With the impressive Long John and perhaps Ihtimal going for the UAE Derby, any other horse aiming for those races recognizes that this is a very winnable spot. Full Combat deserves another chance given that the blinkers are coming off and he was running on well at Emirates Flyer in the Trial. This is the time to get value on Full Combat, so it’s worth the chance, in our estimation.
1st – #9 FULL COMBAT, 2nd – #8 EMIRATES FLYER, 3rd – #1 HE’S NO SAINT, 4th – #3 ASMAR
Race 3 – $175,000 Meydan Sprint Sponsored by Arabian Adventures (G3) – 1,000 metres – Turf
#6 SHEA SHEA may have won this race last year, and may have won the Al Quoz Sprint, lowering the course mark he set in this spot – but his first run in nine months off his South African ship was a five-length seventh behind Medicean Man. He could absolutely bolt-home and win this as the favourite, but we cannot possibly suggest you bet him. Trainer Mike de Kock has been ridiculously adamant that the goal is to run here, then the Al Quoz Sprint, then onto the King’s Stand. Which races would he be more primed for – the $175,000 Meydan Sprint or the prestigious Group Ones to come. You cannot be totally surprised if he wins here, but if there was ever a time to more confidently play against him, it’s this.
#15 SOLE POWER was a fast closing second to Shea Shea in this race last year, his first of the season, remaining in very good form throughout the year. This is likely the least-prestigious race of the year planned for him now, as well, but his success when fresh (he ran second in this race first-up the last two seasons), is enough to think he can win. Adding to it all, the standside ground is anecdotally believed to be best, another thing in his favour with a high draw.
#14 AHTOUG has been knocking on the door in his last two, having beaten #7 HOTOTO in their seasonal debuts. There should be some pace to catch here, and Ahtoug’s style has been to run from off of it. It’s tough to suggest that #12 ALSAAEQAH can’t run a similar race to last time, when she debuted with a boilover win in her first start on grass. Now drawn outside, she can get a tow into the race as well.
1st – #15 SOLE POWER, 2nd – #6 SHEA SHEA, 3rd – #14 AHTOUG, 4th – #12 ALSAAEQAH
Race 4 – $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored by Emirates Skywards (G3) – 1,200 metres – Tapeta
This is, without doubt, the most competitive renewal of this race. You have the last two Dubai Golden Shaheen winners, the Golden Shaheen second, a Godolphin Mile winner, this season’s Al Shindagha and Dubawi Stakes winners, and several new shooters.
#14 SOFT FALLING RAIN makes his return to the races in this spot. Don’t forget he was a winner first-up last year in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial, then went on to take the main event, followed by an all-out effort in the Godolphin Mile. His wide draw could help make this race seem longer, which is within his range as a miler, but like some others, the main goal is beyond this. At the end of the day, this race really can’t hurt him, a good chance. No result would be all that surprising, but we have to look elsewhere.
#10 REYNALDOTHEWIZARD was reported to be well undercooked in his training when making his seasonal reappearance, and the plan was always to get a run, wait for Super Saturday, and have the Golden Shaheen title defending run be his third-up performance. That said, he was duller than some may have expected in the Dubawi. Connections want him to run on World Cup night the way he ran in this race last year – a four-length drubbing of #7 KRYPTON FACTOR. He deserves more consideration, but we won’t have him on top.
#9 JAMESIE and #11 RUSSIAN SOUL have been in tip-top order this season, with the latter getting a much-deserved win in Dubai. #12 UNITED COLOR had excuses in his last race and will almost assuredly be better off with the wide draw, a winning combination for him in the Dubawi Stakes earlier this year.
#2 COMPLICATE really impressed us last time. Making his second start in the UAE, he broke on top, was wrangled back and actually eleventh of 14 when they had 400 metres to run. He tipped outside and ran on incredibly well. He covered 7 metres more than the winner last time, a distance equating to 2 ½ lengths, more than his 1 ¼ margin of defeat. This guy can get over the track, and should not be ignored in any spot. With a smoother trip, helped by his draw inside, and not a ton of crazy early zip in the race, we give him a slight edge at a good price.
It’s been three starts and three wins in races off grass for #5 RICH TAPESTRY, and he’s done them each in slightly different manners. He was well-backed in his Hong Kong debut on the Sha Tin surface, settled last, and ran on strongly to win in handicap company, then did it again, but from a stalking position. He had a win on all-weather at Dundalk early in his career too. This guy has knocked heads with good ones, and it should be noted he was only about a length away from second in the Hong Kong Sprint last year when beaten 6 ½ by Lord Kanaloa, in what was the most impressive international grass sprint win we’ve ever witnessed. He’s another with claims, but gets a new test, goes left-handed, and has aims for bigger prizes.
1st – #2 COMPLICATE, 2nd – #10 REYNALDOTHEWIZARD, 3rd – #14 SOFT FALLING RAIN, 4th – #11 RUSSIAN SOUL
Race 5 – $200,000 Burj Nahaar Sponsored by Emirates Holidays (G3) – 1,600 metres – Tapeta
There have been 49 races on the Tapeta over 1,600 metres or shorter this season, two of which have been won by horses that made all the running. One of them was Touch Gold in a 60-70 rated handicap on January 18 with an apprentice claiming three kilograms. The other, was #11 VARIETY CLUB’s win in the Firebreak Stakes, besting last year’s Godolphin Mile second #10 HAATHEQ. The Firebreak win for Variety Club was as impressive visually as it was by the clock, a course-record bar only the start being hand-triggered. From that race, fourth place finisher #5 CAPITAL ATTRACTION game back to win, and he was beaten more than five lengths.
Don’t ignore the fact that there are some decent speed types in this field who could make it difficult on Variety Club. Including Capital Attraction, #15 RUTLAND BOY will likely be keen to get involved from the start, while a few others have shown prominence on occasion (those being #2 MAINSAIL, #8 EMPIRE STORM, #9 EASTERN RULES, and #12 SHURUQ).
Haatheq rarely puts in a bum run, and was clearly the best of the rest in the Firebreak, while #16 BRENDAN BRACKAN’s first-up run was credible enough to think he can run back into the placings back on the Tapeta.
1st – #11 VARIETY CLUB, 2nd – #10 HAATHEQ, 3rd – #16 BRENDAN BRACKAN, 4th – #5 CAPITAL ATTRACTION
Race 6 – $250,000 Dubai City of Gold Sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo (G2) – 2,410 metres – Turf
This is quite a well-balanced field. Who is going to lead in here? There are quite a few in this field who race forward of mid-division, but none of them really like to cut the pace. #10 PENGLAI PAVILION, off a decent fifth in the Arc, is one of the few who want to go on with it. Jockey Mickael Barzalona, however, does not often like to be right on point, so he might be looking around for someone else to see it out.
#3 EMPOLI seems ripe to move forward after a highly credible local debut. On the stretch-out back to 2,410, he should be in touch with an inside draw and get himself in the mix from the outset.
#6 MUJAARIB will get plenty of attention as all the de Kock runners do. He was under a scrub from about 1,100 metres out last time and really ignored the jockey’s plea until the final 300, when he closed well to be closest at the finish. He literally only seems to do what he has to, and if he settles too far back and the pace is as pedestrian as it appears on paper, it could be too much.
#8 SONGCRAFT has done it from the front as well, and could easily be in the mix again, having bested #15 MEANDRE a few weeks back. Meandre has had two runs to get to this point, and finally gets on level weights, which can’t hurt him much here. He is well worth considering. #11 RALSTON ROAD ran on very well last time too. #16 BATTLE OF MARENGO is marooned wide, but back on grass, probably to his liking.
It’s encouraging we see #9 HEAVY METAL back in a condition that seems to suit him, and he can surely step forward in a longer race on grass. The Vodacom Durban July winner was over a trip perhaps too short for him two back, then tried the Tapeta in the Maktoum Challenge to no avail. If he’s right, he’s in the mix. It’s took him three races to find his best last season and get going, and now is over the longest trip of his life.
#1 MODEL PUPIL was keen early and probably should’ve been given his head a bit more. His sixth placing last week is better than it looks and while a real outsider to get a win, he seems a long shot chance to grab a slice of the action now with Ryan Moore aboard. It’s worth noting his jockey lost the whip last week before turning into the stretch.
This race is a true cluster of competition, and no strong opinion has emerged in this analysis, or if we wrote more about other horses.
1st – #3 EMPOLI, 2nd – #10 PENGLAI PAVILION, 3rd – #15 MEANDRE, 4th – #6 MUJAARIB
Race 7 – $400,000 Maktoum Challenge R3 Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) – 2,000 metres – Tapeta
While with varying degrees of likelihood, here are the horses we think can win this race: #1 PRINCE BISHOP, #4 ZAMBUCCA, #5 ELLEVAL, #8 AFRICAN STORY, #13 SANSHAAWES.
Prince Bishop and African Story ran 1-2 in the last prep, with the latter going better than the former over the final 200 metres. Jockey Kieren Fallon said he thought he might’ve gone too soon, and didn’t exactly breed confidence. That was the best performance of Prince Bishop’s career, can he back that up with another one here? A rail draw should be to his favour.
African Story, however, closed well and now emerges as the horse you’d prefer from that pairing over a longer trip. That was his first race in 11 months and the pattern suggests they will have him in fine fettle for winning chance.
Sanshaawes has consecutive wins over 2,000 metres on two different surfaces, and was gutsy in his tally last week. The only way he gets an invite to a big race on the big night is to get that official Emirates Racing Authority rating up, and at 109, he seems just shy of the needed numbers. He has to perform big here to do it. He’s a course and distance winner, and of our perceived win candidates, only he, Elleval, and Prince Bishop can claim that (#3 OTTOMAN EMPIRE is as well). Sanshaawes is an in-form horse, doing everything right regardless of the surface. He’s been a revelation to have come to hand as well as he has, and it’s served connections well. A massive danger.
Speaking of the David Marnane trainee, this is a chance for them to get a win and secure a spot in the Dubai World Cup, a phenomenal accomplishment if they can manage it. He hasn’t had many tries on the Tapeta in Dubai, but he just keeps coming. While a winner over 2,000 metres on February 20 in good company, his efforts over 1,900 metres saw him closest when at the finish. Everything seems right with this guy, and gets another good draw. All systems go.
Zambucca was cut down in his first-up run and then a good third in the Maktoum Challenge, running on from mid-pack. He stands eligible to improve and has shown he can get over the surface. The stable pick, though, is #14 SURFER, flung out in the widest draw yet again, seemingly a major gut punch to his chances.
#9 CAT O’MOUNTAIN was subject to an interminably wide trip last time after many talked about him in the Dubai World Cup fray. He deserves another chance, and gets it here. Others entice more, though. #11 LIMARIO has a quality win over Qatar’s big winner Dubday, and now is given a Tapeta experiment to see how things go. He’s capable of a big one.
#7 ALEXANDRA PALACE has had some wide trips and is a winner over the course. He was simply not good enough last time over longer and needs plenty to go his way. #10 JOSHUA TREE’s lone start on an all-weather track was here in 2012, which he used as the first of two preps before he ran a second in the Dubai Gold Cup. We can’t think this is anything more than a leg-stretcher. #6 SIDE GLANCE would seem to be using this as a prep as well, perhaps for the Dubai World Cup, also possibly for the Dubai Sheema Classic. He was a decent, but well-beaten fourth in last year’s World Cup following a prep run in the Jebel Hatta.
There are only two Group 1 winners in this field – Joshua Tree and Side Glance, and we don’t like either. Essentially, a new “top-race” contender joins the field here, yielding a new Group 1 winner to the rostrum. We’d like to suggest we are getting creative, but find it difficult to escape African Story’s stretch-running move last time out. Elleval has completely claims, and so does Sanshaawes, who really needs a big run to propel him forward. Whatever you do in multi-race plays, include #5, 8, 13 on top.
1st – #8 AFRICAN STORY, 2nd – #5 ELLEVAL, 3rd – #13 SANSHAAWES, 4th – #1 PRINCE BISHOP
Race 8 – $300,000 Jebel Hatta Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) – 1,800 metres – Turf
You can rightly argue that #2 VERCINGETORIX was not fully cranked last time (how could he have been) when gutting out a win over course and distance in his first start since June 2013. He really just does exactly what he needs to, whether it was the handicap last time or a Group 1 from his start prior. He’s unbeaten, but the waters get deeper. There should be no doubt that he could lay over this bunch, and rightly improves second-up. We will side against him, though, almost exclusively due to the expected tempo.
We aren’t exactly sure what happens to #14 MARS with the blinkers on, but combine that with a return to grass and there should be an improvement. He was never going to catch Variety Club last time, so if you consider it a leg-stretcher, the opportunity to improve is there.
If you liked Penglai Pavilion in the Dubai City of Gold, you have to think #3 VANCOUVERITE, with firm turf wins to his credit, is in the mix here. Overall, it’s a class test for him as well, but he belongs in the conversation.
It seems like the pace should be pretty solid in here, and that should play into the hands of #8 TRADE STORM, back into the fray after a good second last week in the Al Fahidi Fort (G2) when trainer David Simcock proclaimed him to be in need of another run. With a bigger field and a more prominent pace setup, he gets our slight nod.
1st – #8 TRADE STORM, 2nd – #14 MARS, 3rd – #2 VERCINGETORIX, 4th – #3 VANCOUVERITE