The end of the Dubai International Racing Carnival is approaching its conclusion but not before a slew of stakes races round us out in the final two nights. Click below to reveal the entire analysis:
RACE 1 – Meydan Business Park Trophy, 1200 meters (6F), turf
This group didn’t make it into the main body for the Al Quoz Sprint (G3) but get a go here to round out their DIRC runs for the year.
#5 LEANDROS (7-2) has had a great Dubai campaign for Ger Lyons considering he hasn’t won a race. In three starts, this son of Invisible Spirit has been beaten by a combined four lengths. What is the reward for this consistency? How about the widest draw and an apprentice getting his first mount at Nad Al Sheba. Could be a rough combination and its one that keeps me away from him in the top spot.
#7 NOTA BENE (6-1) improved second up last time when in that blanket photo finish won by Judd Street (who goes in the Al Quoz Sprint later in the card), after having an eventful trip. Drawn on the rail and with a return ride by Richard Hughes, let’s give him the nod.
#10 MISS GORICA (6-1) has been a model of consistency: in four Carnival starts, she’s finished first, third, fifth, and seventh. Despite a steady backpedal, she was closer last week and ran another decent race. The public might start giving up on her, but she showed she’s really enjoyed this trip. It is worth noting she’ll get in at the lightest impost (55 kgs) of her five starts this meeting.
#3 GRANTLEY ADAMS (3-1) was just caught on the wire by Balthazaar’s Gift last week after we noted he had just two wins from his previous 29 starts. He’s had a full Dubai season campaign but the drop back to 1200 meters is encouraging. This son of Dansili would have won last week had the race been over that trip. I think he can get a piece.
1st – #7 NOTA BENE, 2nd – #3 GRANTLEY ADAMS, 3rd – #5 LEANDROS
RACE 2 – Signature Mall Trophy, 1600 meters (8F), turf
Dittos here as this field was entered for the Zabeel Mile (G3) but failed to have the credentials to qualify. On a general note, I think just about every horse in this race can win. A totally wide open affair – beware.
First off, there is relatively little speed in this race, so #12 WISE DENNIS (4-1) deserves a second look. He pops out of the gate well almost every time and has been closer to the winning post after each start this Carnival. The visor is going on Thursday and that shouldn’t hurt. I certainly question his winning chance, but if there is going to be a field where he can bring them all the way, this is the one.
#7 FLEETING SHADOW (8-1) had every chance to get home first when making his return to the turf on January 29. It’s difficult for him to get a better trip than he did that day, so if this trip is any worse, I wonder if he’ll get home better. Tough choice but I’m inclined to not back him.
#9 KACHGAI (6-1) had a monster effort, and a perfect trip, last time when shocking the well-respected Russian Sage. That was quite impressive but it seems a strong imagination is required to have him re-up that form again.
#4 CALMING INFLUENCE (2-1) has settled for two seconds this Carnival but continues to just run level in the last 150 meters or so, which concerns me when you ask him for more distance on Thursday. Seconditis continues.
The pick is #2 BERMUDA RYE (10-1). This Cape Cross colt seemed a bit short when making his first start in over 100 days last week and is backing right up. That race was over 1300 meters and he just didn’t seem to appear comfortable going when Ahmed Ajtebi asked. I’ll give him plenty of chance here now, second off the conditioning layoff, to land the spoils over a more suitable distance.
1st – #2 BERMUDA RYE, 2nd – #4 CALMING INFLUENCE, 3rd – #12 WISE DENNIS
RACE 3 – Meydan Hotel Trophy, 1800 meters (9F), dirt
You shouldn’t expect to see too many of these horses contending on Dubai World Cup night, so many are getting their last chance at the Carnival in this affair, drawing an oversubscribed field of 17.
#1 JALIL (6-1) is top-rated, mostly after his multiple Carnival successes from 2008. In case you don’t remember, he was a $9.7 million yearling sold at the Keeneland September sale and has just failed to ever live up to his billing. He was given a chance to catch a few quality races in America last fall but those plans were scrapped after a poor effort in an listed stakes race at Suffolk Downs, what was a prep for that track’s top race, the Massachusetts Handicap. He succeeded with aplomb last year when racing off the shelf, reeling off three consecutive Carnival wins. Jalil failed to bounce back from those efforts and was downgraded from Godolphin as a result. If he was in better form, I’d expect to see him in next week’s Maktoum Challenge, not here.
There is some dirt pedigree that is worth considering on #10 MR. BROCK (8-1). While his sire, Fort Wood, won a G1 on turf, Mr. Brock’s dam-sire, Badger Land was quite successful in America. While his most notable running line was a fifth in the 1986 Kentucky Derby, Badger Land managed to score victories that year in the Flamingo (G1) and Everglades Stakes (G2), while taking home a second in the Florida Derby (G1) and a fourth in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Mr Brock has had one race that was not on grass and he recorded a second, but my sleuthing skills are loathe to find when and where that was – I’m guessing at Vaal in South Africa. He races third off the layoff for Mike De Kock and really has shown some ability despite the fourth place finishes. The dam-side pedigree is there to suggest he could get over the track with success and is cutting back in distance sharply. Drawn out in 15, Mr. Brock is likely to sit a wide trip or be forced to take back off the pace, never a wise decision at Nad Al Sheba. Kevin Shea gets this one again and I think a square price is likely to loom. Tough call where to put him.
#8 SHOPTON LANE (15-1) was a disappointment when debuting on January 29 while Doug Watson’s other trainee, mucho-longshot Fares, was victorious. This former American-based runner loves to run on the front end and he was nowhere close to that when somewhat slow into stride that day. It might be a sign that Fernando Jara lands on #14 ROMAN’S RUN instead of Shopton Lane. I would not count out an improvement.
#3 ART OF WAR (3-1) has steadily improved over the course of the Carnival, finally getting that blowout victory I had predicted from him earlier. It wasn’t even close but the field size was much smaller and he was able to canter away from the field after getting a marvelous trip that most horses would relish. It probably won’t be that easy Thursday.
#4 FAMILIAR TERRITORY (4-1) is always near the finish on the main track and I think he will be once again on Thursday. A prime draw in three, some pace to run at but not require him to be too far back, hot connections, a distance cutback, and third off the layoff…all good signs. That last race, when beaten more than eight lengths by Art of War, was sullied by a wide run throughout the entire trip.
1st – #4 FAMILIAR TERRITORY, 2nd – #10 MR. BROCK, 3rd – #8 SHOPTON LANE
RACE 4 – $175,000 Dubai Racing Club Gold Cup, 3200 meters (16F), turf
This is the first running of a new race that will give stayers a very viable early-year target in Dubai, and might even gradually move up the gradings to part of a monster day of racing on Dubai World Cup night.
#1 VERACITY (3-1) was nipped, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, by his stablemate Friston Forest in the local prep for this event. No surprises really as Veracity loves the longer distances and believe it or not, 2750 meters was too short last time out. Friston Forest must have encountered a training setback as he was not entered here, but it makes Veracity an even more-likely winner. He’ll get a slight weight break over that last win, so if he needed some more help…there it is.
#6 MOURILYAN (7-2) was a strong third behind the top Godolphin pair in the DRC Gold Cup prep. He’s done his best running the Emirates but is asked for an extra 450 meters on Thursday and he’ll have to really prove that he can get the trip.
#2 BASALTICO (8-1) suddenly needs to be taken with some added seriousness coming from the same connections of My Central, winner of last Friday’s feature at boxcar odds. Herman Brown has two horses racing for Scuderia Siba, the prominent Italian operation of Emilio Balzarini, and he freely admitted he had never even met the owners of My Central. Brown is just 2-for-52 at the meeting with Strategic News an 8-1 winner earlier in the Carnival, marking his only other score. Basaltico was only about five lengths behind Friston Forest and Veracity. Can lightning strike twice? Let’s look at his breeding.
Basaltico is by Shantou, an American-bred European champion. Named top 3-year-old European stayer in 1996, he landed one of the most prestigious races in the UK, taking the St. Leger at Doncaster which is run over 14.5 furlongs. It appears as though his dam, Sfilza, was unraced, but the dam-sire, Indian Ridge, has been rather prolific. Indian Ridge can claim top performers such as Ridgewood Pearl, Linngari, and Relaxed Gesture, amongst several other G1 winners, many of whom have easily gotten 2400 meters. Overall, the breeding suggests its possible for Basaltico to get the distance. He showed improvement in his second start from the Italian ship-in, how will it go this time? A chance to upset, but a piece of the underprize is more likely.
1st – #1 VERACITY, 2nd – #2 BASALTICO, 3rd – #6 MOURILYAN
RACE 5 – $200,000 Al Quoz Sprint (G3), 1200 meters (6F), turf
Note that #1 PEACE ROYALE is a scratch and #11 SO WILL I has drawn into the main body of the field.
#2 J J THE JET PLANE (4-1) makes his second Dubai start and shifts back to the grass after a failed dirt experiment a few weeks ago. The connections of this top South African (almost exclusively turf) sprinter were overwhelmingly confident going into that race which gives us every reason to conclude he didn’t like the conditions for the trip. Take a look at those South African running lines and you know I don’t need to type much more. He is a short-priced pick with an excuse. If I’m wrong again, so be it.
I’ve been off the #7 HATTA FORT (3-1) train all Carnival after repeated disappointments in America. It’s getting tough to deny he is in the best form of his life and probably stands a good chance in here. If JJ The Jet Plane runs up to his best, as he would be expected to do, I think Hatta Fort could face a sterner challenge that in his previous two runs.
This might be where #10 INSTANT RECALL fails to re-up on his case of seconditis. The wide draw for the sprint distance means he will have to be hard sent from the outside to get to the front. It will put him in a duel with JJ The Jet Plane and that should be his undoing. For the first time this Carnival, I think he is off the board.
#5 JUDD STREET (5-1) put in a smashing run last week to best Instant Recall in what was this gelding’s second start back. He backs up right into this spot, so he must be cracking away quite well. A piece of the pie is likely again.
1st – #2 J J THE JET PLANE, 2nd – #7 HATTA FORT, 3rd – #5 JUDD STREET
RACE 6 – $250,000 UAE Oaks, 1800 meters (9F), dirt
This has all the makings of a fabulous renewal, albeit one with a short field. All eight entrants are coming back from the UAE 1000 Guineas, where #1 SO SHINY (9-5) put on a fabulous show making her local debut for the newly-prolific Saudi connections. There is no shortage of angles to play out of this race and last week’s result from the Balanchine (G3), where 49-1 shot My Central, ran down the field to take the spoils, doesn’t make this any easier. In that race, seven of the nine runners were coming out of the Cape Verdi (G3) where the top two finishers, Deem and Front House, appeared a strong chance to confirm their form. Not quite. On to the Oaks…
So Shiny carried her head high, ran on the lead, and just generally seemed to eat up every second of the race. Making her first start since May 2008, this daughter of Indygo Shiner went right to the front and drew away in the lane to score a handy three-length win. She galloped out and looked as though she loathed Mick Kinane’s even attempting to slow her up. I’m ridiculously uncertain of what we will see from her this time out. Her stablemate, Deem, was equally impressive first up in Dubai but regressed when given a slightly headscratching ride. If she puts in a race similar to what we saw three weeks ago, she’ll be tough. Is that enough to pick her here?
#3 EARTH LIVING (5-2) was the only filly to make up ground in the 1000 Guineas after racing wide the entire way. She had to alter course ever so slightly in the stretch, but I still don’t think she was ever going to get to So Shiny that day. Thursday could be a different story. The final margin in the Guineas was just three lengths and she lost much of that on the final turn. A major question revolves around whether she can get the extra 200 meters. Earth Living is by Yonaguska and as late as a week ago, she was his fifth highest-earner of all progeny. Of course, Yonaguska never won past seven furlongs and that was in his 2-year-old season. Her dam-sire, Tabasco Cat, had absolutely no trouble getting routes and Earth Living was far from seeming to struggle last time.
#5 PURPLE SAGE (4-1) was just nipped by Earth Living and ended up third in the Guineas. She was pushed hard from the gate to get up in the mix and repeatedly niggled at to remain up front. Off a low rating, she had the look of a filly that was taken home by the track. Of course, it makes you wonder…if Purple Sage was taken home, was So Shiny as well?
#2 DEVOTEE (6-1) just never did anything and was diagnosed with a cardiac arrythmia after the race. She’s passed vet inspection to be entered here but you just don’t know what you are going to get after failing at 1-2 last time. I have to wait for her to get over the course before I could use her in the top three.
#4 SOS BRILLANTE (8-1) was a perfect candidate to suffer from the bounce after a big win on the Carnival’s opening night. She could certainly bounce back in form and would give her a shot.
1st – #1 SO SHINY, 2nd – #4 SOS BRILLANTE, 3rd – #3 EARTH LIVING
RACE 7 – $200,000 Zabeel Mile (G3), 1600 meters (8F), turf
What a set of angles to try and pick a winner in this race, much better than the 2008 version. What do you do with #5 ARCHIPENKO (5-2)?
After just missing in the 2008 Dubai Duty Free, he won the QE II Cup at Sha Tin and the Plymouth Gin Summer Mile at Ascot before being a tough trip second in the Arlington Million. The question is clear – will he be primed for a winning effort here? Why would he be?
It is difficult to deny that #4 KING OF ROME (4-1) is in need of more ground than the 1600 meters he’ll be traversing on Thursday. That being the case, the two wins on his most recent ledger are over 2000 meters and the company he faced that day is even less than what he has today. Don’t take a short price on this one.
#3 KALAHARI GOLD (7-2) has a bit of a buzz around him, landing four of five lifetime starts during an abbreviated 3-year-old campaign. Most looking at the form might not be able to judge those previous efforts, but there isn’t much to write home about. The company Kalahari Gold kept was quite weak and you have to be able to imagine that he can run up to the caliber of graded stakes company and get this trip in his first 4-year-old season start. A tough and tall task to ask.
By far, the best performance from 2008 on the sheets of #9 TAM LIN (4-1) was not a win, but rather his second to Kip Deville in the Poker Handicap (G3) at Belmont. Tam Lin was almost three lengths behind and got a nine-pound advantage that day. Now, he’ll carry the biggest impost since he days in England and catches a quality field.
So – I’ve not just some holes in the four shortest prices. Of the four above, I surely believe that Archipenko is the best and would be most likely to win of all. Can I squeeze some value somewhere?
#2 VERTIGINEUX (8-1) put in a great effort in his Dubai debut after racing wide and being carried out of the course of 50 meters or so with about 350 to run. Jockey Phillipe Sogorb really picked him up and set him down, all while longshot and fellow French runner Kachgai saved all the ground and snuck through on the rail. Vertigineux defeats the well-respected Russian Sage instead of Kachgai if he can do it with a much better trip. He has a race under his belt and an improved draw. He landed two Group 3 events in France last year when forgotten at odds of 37-1 and 49-1. I don’t think he’ll be that high, but he’s going to drift up and offers the best value with a chance. In fact, I really like him!
1st – #2 VERTIGINEUX, 2nd – #5 ARCHIPENKO, 3rd – #10 BIARRITZ
RACE 8 – Meydan Gateway Towers Trophy, 2000 meters (10F), turf
Last week, #3 PRESVIS was identified by jockey Ryan Moore as one of the best training mounts he has been on and was looking forward to getting him back to a race. After winning with him on January 22, this Sakhee gelding should manage this trip again, even with a slightly wide draw.
#6 BARBARICUS (4-1) should be hot to trot third off a 60-day layoff. An extended rail could help him stay on a bit more and I think we will see him improve, but that doesn’t mean he is a strong win candidate.
#7 EDDIE JOCK really threw in a clunker last week and from his past form, you can tell that is something that has happened before. I think he stands a decent chance to bounce back with a solid showing.
1st – #3 PRESVIS, 2nd – #7 EDDIE JOCK, 3rd – #6 BARBARICUS
Meet-to-date statistics: 62 top selections – 9 wins, 11 seconds, 11 thirds (15% win, 50% in-the-money)