The dirt is in and the all-weather is out, but the grass course remains as it was, many of the same trainers and jockeys are back, and the international commingled tote could produce new records with a more American-friendly surface. Let’s take a look back at some of the statistics from the 2014 stand.
From the human side of the ledger, Godolphin still ruled the 2014 Carnival. Saeed bin Suroor led all trainers with 17 wins while Silvestre De Sousa led the jockey premiership with 12 wins. DeSousa is no longer retained by Godolphin, but rather is first jockey for local trainer Musabah Al Muhairi. James Doyle and William Buick hold that title for the boys in blue in 2015, and somewhat amazingly, managed just three wins and three placings over the course of the entire 2014 Carnival. Buick was suspended for eight days after a ride in Japan and is scheduled to miss the opening night of the Carnival.
Christophe Soumillon, second in the premiership last year, is back as the first jockey for Mike de Kock’s yard, and often rides many for one of his top owners, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
If we were to look back at some of the more disappointing performances, Paul Hanagan, the first choice jockey for owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, had just one win from 48 rides at the Carnival, though he recorded five seconds and five thirds. After suffering a broken collarbone at Wolverhampton on November 6, Hanagan is due back for the term and hoping to go better than last year’s run.
On the side of the trainers, the true visitors (outside the first three) were led by Irishmen Mick Halford and David Marnane, both of whom managed to get over the two-win plateau that many find incredibly rewarding. Halford is due back with a big string for the season, but Marnane is likely to have just three horses for the Carnival.
The commingled international tote, performance of favorites
A host of nations commingle wagers on the Carnival into one single pool. America, France, South Africa, and Germany are amongst the countries that split the tote action. Looking back on what the punters yielded, the average winner returned nearly 7.5-1, while the average exacta (first two finishers, in order) returned more than 93-1.
Favorites on the international commingled tote won 26% of races at the stand, and landed in the first three placings 46% of the time. The average favorite was sent postward at just less than 2-1.
Take note of the performance of horses who were sent postward at evens or shorter (odds-on). 14 horses went off at those low prices, but only five of them were victorious. The public thought very highly of some horses and were quite wrong when the results came home. Just 8% of all races were won by horses at evens or shorter. And perhaps even crazier, there were more races when these short-priced favorites ran out of the top three than when they won.
Below are the post position statistics for turf races at the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, including the World Cup meeting. On the surface, it might not seem as if there is anything wildly compelling here. We think it is at least worth noting that 16 of 23 races at the “middle distances” on grass were won by horses drawn in the first six barriers, nearly 70% of all races.
With the presence of the dirt at Meydan, a less-favorable option for some European shippers, we expect the turf races at the Carnival to regularly oversubscribe. For most rail settings, the safety limit on the course is at least 14, and there are several more turf races scheduled this season compared to last year.
As for the running style of winners on the turf course, Al Quoz Sprint winner Amber Sky holds the mark as being the only last Carnival to make all the running on the grass course and win.
Relive the 2014 Al Quoz Sprint below.
While there were just eight sprints at the Carnival, a total of 30 races were conducted over trips that traversed at least one turn. Front-runners need not apply, although 13 of the 30 races were won by horses that were close to the early pace.
A significant outlier
When in racing, occasionally a statistic is uncovered that seems odd, nearly unexplainable, and quite frustrating in an environment where much is explained by past performance, current performance, an analysis of trends and data, and some good old intuition.
Charlie Appleby trainees made 71 starts in the UAE during the 2013-2014 season, recording six wins. All of those winners came during the Carnival, and with horses making their first local start of the season. Taking the full string into account, Appleby runners were 6-39 first-up last season, and then a combined 0-32 in all subsequent starts. The same group of horses that recorded a 15% strike rate went winless after that. What seemingly adds to the mystery is that horses based at the same location where Appleby trains, Godolphin’s Marmoom Stables in the desert south of Dubai’s main center, experienced something very similar the year before.
Mahmood Al Zarooni, training from the same base, had nine winners from 41 first-up starters during the 2012-2013 season. Those horses yielded just one win from 38 subsequent starts that season in the UAE (an odds-on favorite winning a nondescript turf handicap). So, over the last two full UAE seasons, horses based at Marmoom were 15-for-80 in their first start of the campaign and subsequently 1-for-70. In other words, they went from a strike rate of 18.7% first-up to 1.4% in all other starts.
Surely, there were a few near-misses in the bunch. AHTOUG was beaten a head, a neck, and a neck in his third, fourth, and fifth starts of last season, finishing behind Medicean Man in a competitive turf sprint handicap, Shea Shea in the Meydan Sprint (video below), and Amber Sky in the Al Quoz Sprint. A cumulative length would’ve seen one horse single-handedly destroy this otherwise disturbing statistic.
Four of Appleby’s nine second-placings last year also came in first-up runs. As for the other five, three were recorded by one horse (Ahtoug), while two others each recorded a second in subsequent runs (FEEDYAH, beaten ten lengths by Ihtimal in the UAE 1,000 Guineas when second-up; DRAGON FALLS, beaten 1.5 lengths by Free Wheeling in a handicap on March 1, his third-up run).
Those who approach the Carnival need to be, at the least, aware of the statistic, especially if having a flutter on the races. Three horses went off very short on the international commingled tote after impressive early wins, including Certify (1-5 favorite finished fourth in the Balanchine), Cat O’Mountain (3-5 favorite finished tenth in a handicap), and Long John (8-5 co-favorite finished sixth in the UAE Derby).
No matter what Appleby has at the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival, we feel confident that this statistic will pass in time, but it is too glaring to ignore, especially considering the interest in Godolphin horses at the Carnival.