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RACE 1 – Dubal Ingot – 1600 meters (8F), dirt
Two former American-based dirt runners make their Dubai debuts for local connections in this handicap.
Co-top-rated #1 FATEH FIELD has dirt pedigree, by Distorted Humor out of a Foolish Pleasure mare and fired well off the shelf on the first night of the Carnival while second to Silver Mist in a 1500 meters turf affair. This is his first go on the main track and its after Frankie Dettori got everything out of him in his last start.
#2 SHOPTON LANE has one major positive factor going for him – SPEED. He hasn’t succeeded at the highest levels in American reacing, but he really doesn’t face a ton of overwhelming competition here – something similar to what he would have faced at Monmouth Park last year. There isn’t a ton of early pace here – so combine that and a decent draw, Fernando Jara getting get this son of Quiet American out well, and a transition to no raceday medication plus added weight…ok, maybe its asking a lot, but I’m going to take the chance.
#4 TASTEYVILLE is best on the wet tracks and I will avoid him here. His greatest successes have come in the off-going and he really doesn’t take much to the dryer tracks. He’ll get that for sure on Thursday night in Dubai.
#5 ART OF WAR stands to improve following a lackluster effort in the Maktoum Challenge R1 (G3). He was a multi-surface performer in South Africa and Mike deKock has him placed in a better spot this time. I think Shopton Lane is faster but this one could offer the top challenge.
When will they get to the bottom of #11 AAMAAQ? He ran second last week behind headscratching winner Glen Nevis in what was another solid performance in a revitalized season for the son of Danehill. Now, that race from last week was, in my estimation, a weak bunch. To see Glen Nevis win after having been ridden hard for almost all 1700 meters was amazing. Aamaaq had a more patient trip and struck the lead in mid-stretch, only to be passed by the 18-1 Glen Nevis. That being said, he could get it done here. I’ll side for finishing the top-three.
Be aware of #8 GRAND HOMBRE. He has back class, having won the Pennsylvania Derby before being purchased by Godolphin and finishing fourth in the 2004 Dubai World Cup behind Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia D’Oro. Interestingly, that race in the Pennsylvania Derby was his last win, way back in September of 2003. For a 9-year-old, he is making only his 12th lifetime start and had a handy three year layoff before returning in February 2008. His last race on dirt, a handicap at Nad al Sheba on January 1, 2009, wasn’t terrible and the winner that day, Brave Tin Soldier, came back to finish a good second in a 100+ rated handicap on January 15.
1st – #2 SHOPTON LANE, 2nd – #5 ART OF WAR, 3rd – #11 AAMAAQ
RACE 2 – Dubal Trophy – 1500 meters (7.5F), turf
#4 POINTING NORTH makes his long-await Dubai debut after some stellar performances in his native South Africa, holding a perfect four-for-four record. Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Zabeel Racing International swooped in and purchased the son of Joshua Dancer after a win in the South Africa Cape Guineas at Kenilworth in January 2008. He’s been in the barn since that run and pointed to mature for the 2009 Carnival. Jockey Richard Mullen proclaimed him “a really exciting ride” and his past form is certainly good enough to do quite well in this spot.
Satish Seemar trains this one for Zabeel, and that should offer some concern as Seemar (champion trainer in the UAE from 1997/98, 1999/00, and 2000/01) just isn’t firing as well lately. He scored with 3% of starters in 2007/08 UAE racing and is 6% so far this year (5 for 91), with three of those wins coming at Nad al Sheba, all during the Winter Racing Challenge.
#2 BRAVE TIN SOLDIER is just 2-for-14 lifetime but has fired his best shots of late, having won a dirt handicap on January 1st and tossing in a decent second going 1777 meters on turf back on DIRC Night 1. This is his fourth race off the shelf and for a horse who likes to race prominently and led in the stretch during both of his recent runs, he should appreciate the cutback in distance and should be in the mix.
#9 MOJITO ROYALE is overwhelmingly interesting to me and a must-use on everything. He is one of the few flat starters for trainer Eoin Doyle whose barn is primarily filled with jumpers, having the most successes with hurdles and chases. This one has back form on the grass, as a son of Val Royal should, and has two wins from four starts on good or good-to-firm courses, with a third and fourth marking his other starts. His most recent goes have been over the standard track at Dundalk and he’s run into some tight spots, but I think he should LOVE a return to the grass and gets Mick Kinane aboard, which can’t hurt him. I see this one offering a very solid price, the cheekpiece he’ll wear should help, and the weight he’ll carry is also favorable. Am I going to take him on top? Hard sell…sure.
#16 YAMAL provides the biggest head-scratcher in here. American audiences always fail to be aware of these “outside” runners and save the Kentucky Derby, it’s tough to back a horse that most Americans think will break from the #16 “hole.” Of course, Yamal has drawn in stall 6 and I am a bit surprised at his low rating. He beat Swop two starts back at Goodwood in a Heritage Handicap, which is encouraging considering he dwelt at the start and defeated 19 others. Swop was favored in the last race a week ago at Nad al Sheba. In 10 lifetime starts, Yamal has been first past the post five times with two other placings. This will be a jump in company as he’s never even seen UK Class 1 company, let alone a listed stakes or group stakes race.
1st – #9 MOJITO ROYALE, 2nd – #16 YAMAL, 3rd – #2 BRAVE TIN SOLDIER
RACE 3 – Dubal Power Dash – 1000 meters (5F), dirt
#1 LEAGUE CHAMPION did not finish this race last year, for what its worth, when returning from a layoff. He is in better form having just raced, and won, at Jebel Ali on January 23 over 1200 meters, checking in 3.25 lengths the best in a field of 13. He also ran THE DAY BEFORE in the Al Shindagha Sprint, finishing fourth, well behind Big City Man. Hard to figure he can be competitive here and you know some folks will end up not realizing the dates on the past performance line, so his price figures to be lower than what he probably deserves.
#2 STRIKE UP THE BAND’s win on the August 9th at Ascot was his first victory since July 26, 2005. He had, by my count, 26 starts between those wins. Three of his four lifetime wins were in his first six career starts. His efforts on non-grass surfaces have left much to be desired. I’ll pass on both of the top-rated choices.
#3 SARISSA gets back on dirt where she has had the most success, but that isn’t saying much. It’s been a while since she’s finished on top. She was second in this race last year, behind #12 NEW FREEDOM. Sarissa broke from the two post that day while New Freedom was in stall 15 – today, they have drawn next to each other in 3 and 4. Tough call.
#4 CHARLIES ISLAND is hit or miss. Half of his 12 lifetime starts, he’s won, the other half have been unplaced. He’s most recent misses have come against strong company in South Africa, and his tenth to J J the Jet Plane is telling in that he is expected to be one of the most exciting starters later in the Carnival. Herman Brown is 0-for-13 in his Dubai runs this season, with a best finish being a third. He might break out of the funk on Thursday, but I don’t think its in this race.
#10 WINGBEAT stands a decent hance making his fourth lifetime start and first on the main track after two wins against lesser company in England. His breeding by Elusive Quality out of a Maria’s Mon mare says he’ll like any surface and a draw out in the 15 spot is just fine. It’s your guess as to how he’ll go and at what price you will use him. With the top rated horses having some serious issues, his lack of poor performances make him more attractive than some others that I think are worth considering.
#12 NEW FREEDOM is now with Musabah al Muhairi and while recent form isn’t that encouraging, he won this race last year by over 6 lengths. His draw might be somewhat troublesome as inside stalls tend to be less favorable in this straight runs. That being said, he loves Nad al Sheba and has run incredibly well in some better company, fifth beaten seven in the Dubai Golden Shaheen last season. Knowing what they have, this could be part of a campaign to get him as primed as possible for a return engagement.
#14 CHANGE ALLEY makes his second start in a week after racing fourth behind #1 League Champion on Friday at Jebel Ali. He loves to be in the mix and has a grand draw from 14. I’m concerned with his lifetime mark of one win in just 13 starts, a maiden win at Jebel Ali in December.
1st – #10 WINGBEAT, 2nd – #3 SARISSA, 3rd – #12 NEW FREEDOM
RACE 4 – Dubal Billet 2000 – 2000 meters (10F), dirt
#2 IRISH MAYHEM had a rough go his last start, a nine furlong turf try, his first start since September. This son of Woodman never picked it up and he seems like a much happier animal on the main track with two wins at Great Leighs that were very pleasant. I expect some approvement tonight and the addition of Frankie Dettori is encouraging at least. This is a rather rag-tag bunch, so Irish Mayhem is the pick. (NOTE: Dettori is now off all mounts on Thursday)
#5 BENNIE BLUE is a Carnival veteran and races fourth off-the-layoff. He rarely fails to get involved, save that performance two back. That race has proven to be a fluke on paper, with a result that just hasn’t made much sense in hindsight. The connections are too good to let this one step back too much. The Mike deKock trainee gets a weight break and stands a solid choice to be there at the end.
#9 EMIRATES LINE, #11 DUBAI TWILIGHT, and #13 CLASP have decent performances and placings when racing in the Winter Racing Challenge at Nad al Sheba this year, but appear a bit overmatched. Beware those running lines against only local company.
1st – #2 IRISH MAYHEM, 2nd – #5 BENNIE BLUE, 3rd – #3 DYNAMIC SAINT
RACE 5 – Dubal Potline Trophy – 2400 meters (12F), turf
#1 SANBUCH galloped out past everyone when going 2400 meters last week, flying home to be fourth beaten a length. I really felt as though he is best suited for more ground but catches an easier field here. Of note is that he will be partnered with the local jockey, Ahmad Ajtebi, who rode the winner in Sanbuch’s race, Gravitas. He’s had a stellar Carnival and Ajtebi is the first locally-produced rider to earn journeyman status, having lost the apprenticeship during the Winter Racing Challenge. Can he do it over the 2400 meters? That’s the question.
#5 BON SPIEL (pictured below) offers an interesting proposition here. Trained by Luca Cumani, who won with Presvis last week, this son of Dubai World Cup winner Singspiel returns to the turf in the 2000 meters event. What you might not realize is that he finished in front of a horse named Big Robert two starts back at Great Plains going 2000 meters over the all-weather. Big Robert had a solid Dubai debut last week when he finished a troubled-trip third behind Gravitas and Captain Webb. He has the look of a horse that loves any ground, given his back class, but needs a decent ride as his last two efforts seemed somewhat compromised by some jockey indecision.
#8 YOUNG MICK catches a weight-break and has had success on almost all surfaces, breaking his maiden on the all-weather surfaces at Wolverhampton and running quite a streak there before going back to grass and succeeding in 2006. It took him some time to find his best running in 2008 and he ran at Lingfield on January 3rd, a long-looking last. The win at Leicester was against a rather poor bunch and he was favored that day. Since then, there have been seven starts from the five horses in that race and only one of those starts yielded a placing.
#10 AGE OF REASON gets a weight break after his first run at the Carnival two weeks ago which was a sporting 4.25 length defeat. The UAE homebred was better when running over the good-to-firm going at Goodwood. He stand a solid chance.
1st – #1 SANBUCH, 2nd – #5 BON SPIEL, 3rd – #10 AGE OF REASON
RACE 6 – $200,000 Al Rashidiya (G3) – 1777 meters (abt 9F), turf
This is a smashing renewal of the Al Rashidiya where I truly believe that all ten of the entries have a chance to land the prize.
#1 ORACLE WEST is top-rated in the Al Rashidiya, making his first start since a 13th place finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic. Starting back here probably makes more sense than the handicap he appeared in last year at the Carnival. He won that affair over today’s distance but was penalized in the weights a year ago. Thursday, Oracle West is at level weights and is the one to beat, and he would get Herman Brown off the snide. Tough field to do it, though.
#2 TRAFFIC GUARD will draw a bunch of attention from the European punters, and rightfully so. He was beaten less than a length by Derby winner New Approach in the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes when 50-1. A month later, he came back to finish fifth behind New Approach again, this time in the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes at Newmarket; he was 20-1 that day, but 13 lengths back from the winner. Only one horse came out of the Irish Champion to win, and that was New Approach. Two others finished in the money in their starts following that race. Hardly a major endorsement. For a horse that hasn’t seen the winner’s enclosure in as long as he has, at the price he is likely to be…I’ll pass on the top spot for certain.
#3 KIRKLEES is always prominent and offers a strong chance here for homestanding Godolphin. This son of Jade Robbery comes off a November 1st layoff where he was beaten by #8 WITH INTEREST. Kirklees has only been unplaced once in ten lifetime runs, that was the Champagne Stakes (G2) at York as a juvenile. Two starts later, he landed the Italian Grand Criterium (G1). This is his third start off a 387 day layoff and will be a fresh challenge.
#6 THIRD SET, #7 HUNTING TOWER, and #9 SILVER MIST come off wins in the 2009 Carnival. All three were extremely impressive in their wins, with Hunting Tower’s performance off the shelf blowing deKock away. DeKock really thought he would need some more distance, but Hunting Tower drew away after finding some tight spots in the stretch. All three horses have back class and deserve long consideration. Note that deKock’s top jock Kevin Shea sides with Silver Mist…has to be a sign of the stable’s thought process.
Silver Mist was ridden only by hand in his Dubai debut but just held off an all-out Fateh Field, who really hasn’t done much in his career. Mike deKock said he was expecting this one to win, and Shea rode him as such. I just wonder if the hand ride was deceptively easy and whether or not Shea was going to get more out of the horse if he hit him. Hard to tell.
#10 ROYAL VINTAGE (pictured below) heads back to the grass but just doesn’t seem to be the same horse he was last year at the Carnival. Mike deKock said he didn’t take to the English climate well, but his performance in the Maktoum Challenge R1 (G3) did not give me a great impression that he is back in shape.
1st – #1 ORACLE WEST, #3 KIRKLEES, #8 WITH INTEREST
RACE 7 – Dubal Casthouse Handicap – 1600 meters (8F), turf
What to do with #2 WISE DENNIS? I just don’t know if he is the same horse he was last year, marked with two Carnival wins and a just miss in his first start of the ’08 edition. That included a win over eventual Dubai Duty Free winner Jay Peg. His races on various courses in the UK this summer were horrendous and the company he faced was average. Hearthstead Maison flopped when top-rated in his Dubai debut this year and he was well ahead of Wise Dennis in a listed race at Newbury. Coming into the 2008 Carnival, Wise Dennis was second to Ventura in a Polytrack stakes race at Kempton Park – all she did was go in to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint this year. A riddle wrapped in an enigma. I’m passing and am willing to lose if he fires a big one.
#4 AKUA’BA was expected to be one of the top choices in Jim Bolger’s barn last year but failed to live up to expectations. This 5-year-old mare gets in ligher than her European efforts from last year and deserves consideration.
#7 RIVER TIBER landed this race last year but has unlikely drawn the 16th barrier stall, which could offer some problems for his repeating. His best runs have come from off the layoff, although this is one of the longer ones on his form cycle. Overall, he seems like an all-or-nothing prospect and I’m mixed on his chances.
#12 PERFECT SEASON goes for Herman Brown after a sixth in last Thursday’s finale, beaten 7.25 lengths by Alexandros. Assuming he needed that one, I expect some improvement from this son of Jallad whose back form in South Africa is solid: he was beaten just 2.5 lengths by top South African miler Imbongi, who is expected at the DIRC later this season. He gets a big weight break on Thursday and the barrier draw is favorable. Expect him to be in the mix on the improve. A Herman Brown late double?
#16 FURNACE faced 28 others at Ascot in September and bested all under then apprentice Hayley Turner. Mubarek bin Shayfa, his current trainer, has been hot locally and deserves a look here as he stretches back to a mile.
#11 BANKNOTE races in the colors of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and marks the first time the Queen sends out a runner in Dubai. That is exciting – but I think the odds are against a win here.
1st – #12 PERFECT SEASON, 2nd – #4 AKUA’BA, 3rd – #16 FURNACE
2009 Meet-to-Date statistics: 16 top selections – 2 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third (12% winners, 32% in-the-money)