Each season we’ve offered the Dubai Racing Comprehensive, we’ve offered a few horses to particularly follow for the Carnival. Plans change, injuries happen, and some horses simply don’t make it back to the races. But on some occasions, this feature has found a few winners well in advance of their success.
Here is a six-pack for your consideration – horses that caught our attention, and likely escaped some others, in advance of the 2015 season.
ENERGIA EL GIGANTE (Rated 110)
Trainer: Niels Petersen
This gelding made two starts with no impact at the 2013 Carnival. Then he got on the dirt in Sweden, where he is unbeaten in five tries, including a listed win in the Songline Classic (Listed) at Taby, demolishing the field by more than 11 lengths. The mark of 110 could be tough to sustain in handicap company, where he’d likely be a top-weight, and the stakes races could be too challenging as well, but there might be a spot in the #1 box for him at some point. Watch the Songline victory below.
Petersen has come closer to striking in the UAE in the last year, with 27 starts last season. He managed a second from Beat Baby at astronomical odds, along with two thirds and three fourth-placings. The dirt could be the trick.
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
As with all Godolphin runners, information is always short and you should never believe a horse is going to appear until they actually do. That said, we believe this winner of four from five career starts, over three different dirt tracks, is due to appear in Dubai. Formerly with Kiaran McLaughlin in America, Pazolini has obviously had some issues in the past. He didn’t debut until August of his 3-year-old season and was an uninvolved seventh, when racing without Lasix. The son of Bernardini is unbeaten thus far since McLaughlin medicated him, but those starts came in March, May, June, and then a handy win at Aqueduct in November.
It’s always a question of “if” with some of these types, but Pazolini has clearly had time to mature, and his last race in America caught the eye. He’s a sprinter, and could be aimed at that string of races for the home team. IF he stays healthy, and can handle racing without the Lasix that certainly didn’t hurt in the U.S., he’s one to watch.
Trainer: Jeremy Noseda
With three wins from three starts on the all-weather, Sloane Avenue is a compelling prospect for this year’s Carnival. His two runs on grass were listless. So, the question is – will he go on the dirt? By a prominent dirt sire in Candy Ride out of a mare by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy, all signs in the pedigree would suggest he can get the surface. Sloane Avenue’s dam is Apt, a one-time starter who dropped his half-brother, Grade 3 dirt winner Carve.
Noseda pointed this guy towards Dubai for some time, and is due to start out in the first leg of the Maktoum Challenge on opening night of the Carnival. If the dirt goes well, he could hang around and be in some of the big races, or he could head back for the all-weather championships in the UK.
SPEED HAWK (Rated 102)
Trainer: Robert Cowell
By Henny Hughes, a Grade 1 winning dirt sprinter, out of a dirt stakes-placed mare by Halo, here is one of the more dirt-intensive pedigrees you could find running in the UK last season. A three-time winner, Speed Hawk is an incredibly intriguing prospect for this year’s Carnival given the surface switch. With a versatile running style, showing an ability to either go forward or settle off the pace, Speed Hawk likely has what it takes to win, and is rated 102, enough to enable some weight breaks on the higher end of the handicap scale.
All that said, he’s never touched the dirt for a live race, winning twice on grass and once on all-weather. In 2014, Speed Hawk ran second behind Group-level winners G Force and Extortionist before their more prominent scores. Trainer Robert Cowell is back to the UAE after an absence last season. He managed two wins over his previous two Carnivals (2012, 2013) from 17 total starts.
Trainer: Aden Given
Second behind Blaze to Win in Turkey’s most prestigious race, the Gazi Derby (G1), Suzi Gold went more than one better when winning Cumhurbaşkanlığı (The Presidency Cup) at Ankara, Turkey’s top open weight-for-age race. The 4-year-old filly is the second highest-rated Thoroughbred based there and will come to Dubai with high hopes. Turkey was represented by Pan River at the 2010 Carnival, where he won a turf handicap before running second in the Dubai City of Gold and a respectable seventh in the Dubai Duty Free, beaten less than five lengths by The Fugue.
A winner of eight races from sixteen lifetime starts, she had a full 2014 but will come into the new season with at least three months of rest. Off a slightly similar schedule last year, she won three on the bounce to start 2014. Watch her win in the Presidency Cup below.
Suzi Gold was tried in the Istanbul Trophy (G3) at Veliefendi when beaten by Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) and Burj Nahaar (G3) winner Shuruq but we aren’t holding that against her. The race was over 1,600 meters and came after four consecutive runs at 2,100 meters or longer, and she bounced back from that to win the Presidency Cup.
VOLATILE (Rated 100)
Trainer: Jessica Long
Could he be Sweden’s first real Carnival star? Check out his debut race, from Jagersro in September, an on-the-bridle demolition over the dirt track there.
That was impressive. A month later, the son of Strategic Prince was sent to Newmarket for the Cornwallis Stakes (G3) where he raced on the lead and faded late to third, losing by less than two lengths on soft ground – easily excusable. When it comes to the dirt at Meydan, a horse that can show some speed, even if not leading, seems to be in one’s favor. It’s near impossible to tell what Volatile beat on debut, but the way he did it, and a respectable effort since on ground that does not seem to suit, makes him one you can’t help but follow for in the 3-year-old races at the 2015 Carnival.