The highlight of the ten night stand is upon us as Super Saturday brings us eight stakes races, all preps for the rich events on Dubai World Cup night.
Remember, first post is 4:00pm UAE time, which is 12:00pm UK and 7:00am US-Eastern.
We will also be having a live online chat during the full Super Saturday card thanks to AmWest Entertainment. Pat Cummings will be joined by Joe Kristufek, Michael Adolphson, Mackenzie Kirker-Head, Jim Gilchrist, and Calum Law to discuss the races as the card progresses. You are invited to join the fray and add comments as well in what should be a fun discussion. CLICK HERE to view the chat on Saturday, or to register for an email reminder to be sent before the chat.
CLICK HERE for free US-style past performances, courtesy of AmWest Entertainment (available on Thursday)
Race 1 – $55,000 Maktoum Challenge – Round 3 for purebred Arabians (G1) – 2,000m – dirt
We will take a shot back on #11 RAAZIQ, who probably got to the front too soon at Meydan two back, or at least kicked for home too soon. Harry Bentley is on now and his patience could make the difference. Still, it looks like it could be difficult to turn back # 5 RICHLORE after that strong win in the second round. #1 AF LAFEH might prefer the shorter trips, which could make this more challenging, but he does get over the surface, which is more than we know about some in here.
1st – #11 RAAZIQ, 2nd – #5 RICHLORE, 3rd – #1 AF LAFEH
Race 2 – $250,000 Al Bastakiya (Listed), sponsored by Emirates Skywards – 1,900m – dirt
A small group has assembled for this spot so we expect a tactical race any way you look at it. It’s worth noting only four horses were declared at the first stage after which they re-opened the race. At that point, #4 TASHBEEH, #6 QUARTERBACK, and #7 HIGH BLADE were entered. Take that for what it is worth, but we ignore all ofthem.
While we are familiar with the “majority” of this group, the new face is #2 SIR FEVER, and a wildly interesting one at that. Here’s what you need to determine – is Sir Fever as good as his unbeaten record in Uruguay leads you to believe? Is he the next Invasor or a bust in waiting? On the surface, he looks REALLY good. He’s faced some small fields in the past, beating four rivals in the Gran Premio Nacional (G1) over 2,500 meters, a race that was mostly a carousel with very little changing of positions. The same thing could happen here. Of course, he won it by nine lengths.
Sir Fever races forward, expect the same here drawn in two. Charlie Appleby’s team reportedly went to Uruguay after the private purchase, hoping to get him acclimated to their routine. Appleby has only had two horses win for him this season in the UAE, Safety Check and Ahtoug, both on grass. On the dirt, his runners are winless, with just one second and two thirds from 25 starters to try the surface this season. That said, Sir Fever is far and away the most accomplished horse they’ve had try it. He’s going to be a monumentally short price, and it could be worth leaning against him.
#3 MUBTAAHIJ was a handy winner of the Guineas Trial then headed and re-rallied in the UAE 2,000 Guineas when beaten a zonk by Maftool, who skips this spot. The extra 300 meters is a legitimate query, but he sure looked like he was going to keep on going, and probably prefer a steadier early pace to unleash his run. We liked him before, and still like him now. This is a day to get value on him thanks to the presence of Sir Fever, yes, even value in a four-horse field.
#1 AJWAD made the running in the Guineas Trial then missed the break and just stayed-on for third in the main event. In this type of race that seems likely, again, to be fairly tactical, he could move forward with a better trip.
Sir Fever winning this race by ten lengths would be no surprise based solely on his past performances. But we really think Mubtaahij is a good horse. He’s in form, locally-based, seems likely to appreciate the extra ground, and he does get a 4.5 kilogram (10 pounds) pull in the weights. We’ll take a shot.
1st – #3 MUBTAAHIJ, 2nd – #2 SIR FEVER, 3rd – #1 AJWAD
Race 3 – $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal (G3) sponsored by Emirates Skywards – 1,200m – dirt
#2 KRYPTON FACTOR was very impressive in his dirt debut and seems to have things back on the straight and narrow after a listless run at the Carnival last year. That’s meaningful to us – horses that show an affinity for the surface straight away typically get over it in subsequent starts, and this Fawzi Nass runner surely displayed that when second after racing from a tracking position, just caught by Reynaldothewizard last time. In fact, he was coming back on Reynaldo after being passed. He’s clearly healthy, and that counts for a load.
#8 COOL COWBOY is one of two compelling new prospects in here. Here’s what he does – go forward, hope to make all. He is pure unadulterated speed and hopes to see it out. He would get Lasix this time, but he is unbeaten over the trip and loves dirt. The goal is the Dubai Golden Shaheen, so are we getting him on his best? Tough call.
#4 FARMAH is the other fresh face, and she has typically gone forward. His one win on all-weather at Cagnes-Sur-Mer was more of a stalking trip, though she has cut the pace on grass. By Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Speightstown, her chances of taking to the dirt are certainly there.
As has been the case on several occasions this season, #7 UNITED COLOR is one of the few who is likely to sit off the pace and could get drawn into the speed. He gets a curious addition of blinkers, but just has not been up to his past form this year, and that still concerns. He’s not without chance if they burn and he takes to the headgear.
#9 SPEED HAWK has been best in two starts on dirt in the UAE and made a nice run from off the pace in the Al Shindagha. Will that be enough to get over the top here? Like United Color, he could get drawn into the pace.
We are siding with Krypton Factor who impressed first-up last time.
1st – #2 KRYPTON FACTOR, 2nd – #8 COOL COWBOY, 3rd – #9 SPEED HAWK
Race 4 – $175,000 Meydan Sprint (G3) sponsored by Arabian Adventures – 1,000m – turf
As most of these top class turf sprints go, this is an absolutely wide open race and we find we could go on and on about two-thirds of this field and still have some angle uncovered.
#8 SOLE POWER is as good as they come, and was fourth beaten less than two behind Shea Shea in this last year before being beaten two lengths by Amber Sky in the Al Quoz Sprint. Back in 2013, he was 2 ½ lengths behind Shea Shea again. He’s the real deal, especially during the UK season, but you must question race fitness with the big spots ahead.
You can’t knock the improvement we saw last time from #1 CASPIAN PRINCE, who made all the running and now has to do it from an inside draw in a bigger field, which might not be the best spot. He came across the course, and actually cut off #11 BANAADEER in the process, a horse who made a big step forward in his second-up run and should be even more fit. He impressed us last time with his finish and now gets what is perceived to be a more advantageous draw.
#3 VIA AFRICA makes her local debut, and that is what is actually going to keep us off of her, as the yard has clearly shown us that these types need a race or two to get to top fitness. She’s good, no doubt, never out of the first three, and has done plenty off the shelf. We are going to wait.
#13 LANCELOT DU LAC was off a beat slow, a killer over the minimum trip. He stayed on and made some sort of run, but it was never going to be enough. If he breaks on the level this time and runs back to his solid second against Ahtoug, where he may have hit the front too soon, he’s a legitimate chance to win.
We are going to take a shot with #14 MOVIESTA, who loves firmer going and gets it here. He is another well drawn here and has knocked heads with the best with regularity. His first up run last year came against an in-form Sole Power, and was only beaten 1 ¾ lengths. Why not?
1st – #14 MOVIESTA, 2nd – #15 AHTOUG, 3rd – #8 SOLE POWER
Race 5 – $200,000 Burj Nahaar (G3) sponsored by Emirates Holidays – 1,600m – dirt
#1 TAMARKUZ has been the best dirt miler in the UAE this season, winning the Firebreak by four lengths last time, preceded by a demolition in a handicap over #12 HAATHEQ. On both occasions, with different jockeys, he was bustled well from the gate after having shown a penchant for dilly-dallying around at the start. If those are all behind him, it’s time to catch him again.
#6 GOLD CITY was a distant second behind Tamarkuz in the Firebreak, and also ran a good fourth to Surfer. He runs well without making much impression and would seem to need much to go wrong to best the favorite.
It’s difficult to be as good as #10 LAYL has been on the dirt – perfectly positioned with a rail draw, he earned his second win of the season, and it really could have been his third, when trying Carnival company for the first time last out. That local race where he Jeeraan beat him has shaped up well, as that rival came back to win again last week. Doug Watson added the blinkers to bring focus, and it worked last out.
1st – #1 TAMARKUZ, 2nd – #6 GOLD CITY, 3rd – #10 LAYL
Race 6 – $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (G2) sponsored by Emirates Skycargo – 2,410m – turf
This is, far and away, the weakest of the Super Saturday prep races, which is fairly amusing considering the Dubai Sheema Classic is likely going to be one of the strongest races on World Cup night. That race is expected to feature the likes of Main Sequence (USA), Flintshire (UK), Designs On Rome (Hong Kong), One And Only (Japan), Harp Star (Japan) and others.
#8 SKY HUNTER is a new face in this group and is the top-rated horse in the field. What surprises, however, is that 115 rating was earned against horses like Sennockian Star, who was a complete non-factor in four starts at the 2015 Carnival. Sky Hunter was disqualified after that effort following a positive test for a banned substance, but the quality of just being first past the post wasn’t much to write home about. His massive win in a Group 3 over this trip to end the 2014 season was impressive visually, but again, the competition wasn’t going to inspire much
What Sky Hunter could do is go forward and try to make all the running. He normally jumps well and this field doesn’t exactly have a load of early speed. If he does that, he’s a massive threat.
#4 SHEIKHZAYEDROAD was only beaten two lengths in this race least year before he ran in the Dubai Gold Cup and was beaten less than five on that occasion. He managed consecutive group-level wins, in the UK and Canada, but caught less than stellar fields in both spots. He intrigues off of his solid first-up win here last year, albeit when drawn into a ridiculous runaway leader’s early pace, and the overall field quality suggests he is a legitimate contender.
Can #5 TRUE STORY get 2,400? He disappointed against a classier foe in Vercingetorix last out, but was impressive first-up in the Singspiel. This seems the test to see where he stands over the longer trip, with Godolphin trying him here than the Jebel Hatta where he’d have to face his stable companion, Hunter’s Light, and Vercingetorix. It’s an experiment, and we don’t like playing games.
#6 MICKDAAM has clearly had issues, but ran on like a happy horse last time when behind Famous Kid. There was no significant pace in that race and he was the only one to really get involved, beaten just a length, and galloped out past the first three. Meanwhile, he kept wanting to lay in on Star Empire through the stretch run and only got level when he was clear of that rival. Still, it was a wildly encouraging effort, and if he can pair-up that effort, he has a shot.
***Our analysis was updated after #5 SONGCRAFT was declared a non-runner on Friday.
1st – #4 SHEIKHZAYEDROAD, 2nd – #8 SKY HUNTER, 3rd – #1 COOPTADO
Race 7 – $400,000 Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) sponsored by Emirates Airline – 2,000m – dirt
#4 PRINCE BISHOP won this a year ago and was doing plenty of running from off the pace when second to #5 FRANKYFOURFINGERS in the second round of the Maktoum Challenge. Can Franky really see out the 2,000 meters? If that last race was 1,920 meters, Prince Bishop wins. According to the Trakus data, Prince Bishop ran the final 400 in 24.85 seconds while Frankyfourfingers did it in 25.92. Franky might find it too much this time.
While Frankyfourfingers is likely pace, we’d expect #9 HENRY CLAY to go on with it as well, especially maybe as a pace setter for stable companion #2 STORM BELT, who could be coming into this race in the best shape of the local runners. He is a two-time winner on the dirt this season, and arguably had some rough trips in his first two Carnival starts. It’s tough to knock a horse, in this spot, that has been successful over the track like he has. The level weights now are an equalizer, but we don’t think this guy is out of the equation on a step-up in class that might not be as big as it seems.
This is the tenth race of the season for #6 TOOLAIN, having run six times in Saudi Arabia and now three in the UAE. He encountered a bit of a pinch last time out while Storm Belt had a completely unimpeded outside run. With a course and distance win under his belt, he takes a legitimate step-up to the next level. That third behind Ron The Greek in Saudi still stands out (even though pretty much everyone missed it before).
#8 LONG RIVER has only known dirt, but he just wasn’t successful near enough in the U.S. to warrant inclusion in this spot. The form guide notes that he is getting first-time blinkers, but that was normal equipment for him in America. He still needs to step forward. Three of his four lifetime wins came at Aqueduct and well, this isn’t Aqueduct.
1st – #4 PRINCE BISHOP, 2nd – #2 STORM BELT, 3rd – #6 TOOLAIN
Race 8 – $300,000 Jebel Hatta (G1) sponsored by Emirates Airline – 1,800m – turf
A fairly interesting renewal of this race which features four different winners over the course from this season. Trainer Mike de Kock will saddle six of the eleven runners.
#2 VERCINGETORIX won this race last year with some controversy, but legitimately, nothing was going to beat him. He returned an easy winner of the Al Rashidiya on January 29 and there is no reason to think he will step back. We didn’t think he was likely to be keyed up for that race, and he probably wasn’t, but it made no difference, soundly defeating True Story. Bouncing back on level weights again, he’s an unoriginal but easy on-top selection.
#1 HUNTER’S LIGHT seemingly has a new lease on life with consecutive wins over 2,000 meters of the Meydan turf, including his score in the Dubai Millennium last time, besting Umgiyo. On class, he still has something to find relative to Vercingetorix, and is likely to be a bit of an underlay off the two wins.
We get the seasonal return of #10 TRADE STORM, a Group 1 winner in Canada last season, and third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. His six-length defeat in Hong Kong was more than respectable in a race that really didn’t have much early zip behind the monster that is Able Friend. He has run well here before and was fourth in this spot a year ago, but normally needs plenty of early zip. He seems just a cut below, especially first-up.
#9 ELLEVAL has been knocking on the door, but no one is ever home, it seems. Ignoring his needed first-up run, he has been second, third and third, beaten barely more than length in all of them, and has found some trouble from time to time. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of speed here, but he one of the sounder horses in the field and could be running on for a piece of Group 1 glory.
That last run from #3 FLYING THE FLAG leaves us to think he’s in with a shot to keep coming too, impressed by what we saw. Johnny Geroudis flies back to Dubai for the ride.
1st – #2 VERCINGETORIX, 2nd – #1 HUNTER’S LIGHT, 3rd – #9 ELLEVAL