RACE 8 – $5,000,000 Dubai World Cup (G1), sponsored by Emirates Airline – 2,000 meters, Tapeta
THE TOP CONTENDERS
Five starters for this year’s big race, now the world’s richest by a few million dollars, came out of the Maktoum Challenge – R3 (G2). #3 RED DESIRE stamped herself a premier contender on the world stage with a flashy, albeit close, victory in the race, passing the entire field in her first start since November. She is the best contender Japan has had in the race the last few years and stands a monumental chance to have the Japanese national anthem played following the $10 million race. Her breeding is phenomenal and after her Maktoum Challenge win, I spent more time researching the breeding which is sneakily strong (Sunday Silence is obvious, but Manhattan Café, not as much). Red Desire has never been worse than 1.5 lengths behind at the finish, and that was in the Japan Cup (G1), behind Vodka. She’s beaten the boys, in Dubai, over the trip. Top contender? Absolutely.
#4 GIO PONTI is incredibly consistent, with nine wins and five seconds from 17 lifetime starts. Had Zenyatta not been so “unbelievable,” he would have taken the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). There is little doubt in mind that trainer Christophe Clement loved the prep race he got from Gio Ponti, a hard fought turf test with, arguably, the next best horse in that particular race (Karelian). He has done plenty of traveling around the United States and will be asked to do something unique amongst more recent Dubai World Cup winners – win directly on the ship, without Lasix, for the first time. Invasor, Curlin, and Well Armed all had races over Nad Al Sheba and had the experience of racing without Lasix in their past. This is a brand new experience for the gifted Gio Ponti. A tough call, but we lean against..
LOCAL PREPPERS WITH A BIG CHANCE
#1 ALLYBAR has been the beneficiary of two great Ahmed Ajtebi rides and the victim of a third trip that wasn’t so fortunate. Ajtebi stayed on the rail and was closing like a shot before some incredibly tight quarters forced him to check several times, opening the door for Red Desire to come over the top.
#5 GLORIA DE CAMPEAO has been a stalwart for the last three Carnivals and almost pulled off another round of the Maktoum Challenge when second behind Red Desire. He is just as game as they come and was a well-beaten second in this race last year. The son of Impression is once again the likely pacesetter, a tactic that propelled him on opening night of the Carnival. He is, by default, the benefactor of others finding trouble. Had Presvis not been so hampered in Singapore last year, Gloria De Campeao would have been second. If Forgotten Voice hadn’t found stretch trouble in the first round of this year’s Maktoum Challenge – second again. So – in the end, he’s game and always around, and is capable of winning, maybe even holding a pace advantage over this bunch. Still, he has to get many things to go his way and it all just makes him very difficult to pick on top.
Mike De Kock has never trained a Dubai World Cup winner and #7 LIZARD’S DESIRE stands a grand chance. Lump him into Allybar’s category when considering the Maktoum Challenge performance, confirming, however, that he can run a big race against top company. DeKock has gotten the most out of the son of Lizard Island, who is running the best races of his life. Expect him mid-division and in a good position to launch a bid.
#9 CROWDED HOUSE is based in the UK, but has spent the season in Dubai. Jockey Jamie Spencer was outgunned by Ajtebi on Allybar in the second round of the Maktoum Challenge and Spencer was awarded a boot while American John Velazquez gets the mount. He has been incredibly hot in the international ante-post pools and you have to expect he will settle back and make a big late run.
LATE EUROPEAN SHIPPERS
In the more recent era of the Dubai World Cup, the shippers from Europe making their first start of the year have not run their best races – that involves both the turf and dirt races. #11 TWICE OVER and #6 VISION D’ETAT have won some top quality races in 2009, but both are much more logically pointed to races later in the season. Are they as “in form” as some of the others mentioned above? It is very difficult to say that given the lack of recent races.
#2 GITANO HERNANDO has been in more recent form, getting a trial in at Lingfield over a relatively soft lot. His past performances are strong, regardless, with a late ship-in win at Santa Anita in the Goodwood (G1) and has been pointed to this spot for months. The connections report all systems ahead and they will soon enough determine if their long wait for this race was worth it. He seems poised to run a big one.
BAFFERT BACK IN THE BIG ONE
Bob Baffert, trainer of Dubai World Cup winners Silver Charm and Captain Steve, is back in the big race with #10 RICHARD’S KID, the 2009 Pacific Classic (G1) and 2010 San Antonio (G2) winner, recently purchased by Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Zabeel Racing International. He stormed home to take the San Antonio, showing a late turn of foot we haven’t seen since that win at Del Mar. His best races have come against weaker competition and would require an improvement to get the witty Baffert back to the trophy stand.
#14 AMOR DE POBRE drew into this race when Take The Points shifted to the Dubai Duty Free, and is grateful for the change. He is a Chilean G1 winner and landed a big win in Saudi taking one there. All reports I’ve received from the King’s Cup confirmed that Amor De Pobre got into a crazy speed duel in that 12-furlong race, allowing big longshot Wind Flow a dream run from off the pace. This is the toughest competition he’s faced in his career and while a placing isn’t out of the question, the win is unlikely.
#8 FURTHEST LAND was on his best in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), a last second winner who has failed to find that form since. Asking him to go an extra two furlongs, in the toughest spot in his career, is a tall task for the horse owned by 2005 Dubai World Cup winner, Roses In May.
#13 MR. BROCK makes the fifth start of the season and is truly never better at this point than in the past. His wins are against much lighter company and needs to find more to get the prize for his Mauritian owners.
#12 MASTERY is an English classic winner, taking the English St. Leger when surprising Godolphin stablemate Kite Wood He has remained in the barn all Carnival and is appearing here…why? Giving Dettori a mount? Untested since a nose second in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, Godolphin is sending their class colt into the deep end of the pool and would be a shocking winner to us.
I have truly wavered back and forth on this pick, and in the end, I land with the Japanese filly, Red Desire. Gio Ponti has more question marks that others don’t.
1st – #3 RED DESIRE, 2nd #5 GLORIA DE CAMPEAO, 3rd – #14 AMOR DE POBRE, 4th - #2 GITANO HERNANDO
RACE 7 – $5,000,000 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), sponsored by Guangsha Group – 2,400 meters, turf
America’s #9 PRESIOUS PASSION is indeed a one-trick pony – go to the front, get brave, keep going, hope to hang on. He almost did it in the biggest race of his life when second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), behind the champion Conduit. That race totally legitimized him on the world stage and in my opinion, represents the absolute best hope of the Americans to take a G1 turf race in Dubai…in years (the best previous finish was a second from The Tin Man in this race some years back). Presious Passion goes right to the front, will certify a strong early gallop, and sits a big target at the head of that LONG turf straight. I have to side with the closers here.
#15 CAMPANOLOGIST ran a monster race for Godolphin when winning the Dubai City Of Gold (G2), his first start since October 2009, a year in which he managed just one win, and that in a G3 at Windsor (over the Duty Free’s Bankable, for what it’s worth). What is obvious to me is that he prefers the ground to be on the firmer side of good, which will suit him in this year’s event. His record is just too inconsistent to pick on top, and granted, that was exactly the same logic I used to avoid him in his previous win. Not for me.
If there a horse who ran a race deserving enough to have defeated Sea The Stars, it was #16 CAVALRYMAN, one of the prominent runners in the 2009 Arc De Triomphe (G1), losing by only two lengths while being the only one staying on. Back on turf, he should come on for that last run and I suspect we see him near the frame.
How good could #10 BUENA VISTA be? Good enough to be one of the top choices here. She is a winner over the trip, and twice defeating Red Desire, whom I fancy in the big race. On its own merit, she deserves strong consideration. She is the real stick in the side of Red Desire, who is skipping the Sheema Classic, in part, because Buena Vista is racing here. What does that say for respect? She has looked great all week.
TOUGH TO DEBUT EUROPEAN SHIPPERS
I want to like #13 SPANISH MOON considering his strong performance last year, and there are many who do. He flies in the face of recent success in this race if he were to win. Long layoff, many more targets in Europe and beyond – he will be well-backed, but not by me.
#7 YOUMZAIN is back for another go and you have to love the grit he shows year after year. This “let’s debut for the season in the Dubai Sheema Classic” seems all too familiar, no? With nothing wrong in the past, he hasn’t done it – should we think this year is any different? A placing at best.
#1 JUKEBOX JURY was game at Woodbine last year but is another with a long campaign ahead and wants a chance to grab a piece. A tough task first up for him, as well as #14 DAR RE MI. These are more than qualified race horses but I just question their ability to be in peak fitness this early in the campaign.
NOT WITHOUT A CHANCE
#12 MOURILYAN might find the 2,400 meters trip short of his best, but there is no denying he comes flying at the end as his 2009 Melbourne Cup (G1) performance would dictate. It was a thing of beauty, but he fell just short of the big prize. He was third behind Halicarnassus in his lone 2010 Carnival start after that Mick Channon trainee slowed them down up front. He stands a better chance he simply because of the pacesetter.
The waters get deeper for #4 PAN RIVER, a Carnival winner over some decent foes and the product of some heady Selim Kaya rides. The pride of Turkey is in with a shot but you have to wonder if we saw his best when the stakes were a bit lighter, and the connections take a shot knowing they can get in the field. Just my thoughts…
All things considered, the filly #11 DEEM ran a great race last year, splitting the field six lengths behind Eastern Anthem. This is her surface, her distance, and the breeding that caught my eye when she made her local debut last year – well, it’s still the same…couldn’t be better. She is a threat to sit a good trip here and shock them in the end.
Of all the “trainerspeak” that exists in this sport, the one whose opinion I value the most when I hear it is Mike De Kock. In my years of following Dubai racing, De Kock is more honest and forthright about his horses and their chances. He made it brutally clear that #8 GOLDEN SWORD would need his first race of the season, and would improve for the second run. He did. Following that event, De Kock went on more, reporting that he was incredibly excited to get a chance to go in the Sheema Classic with this son of High Chapparal. He runs relatively prominent and could get first jump on Presious Passion if – and that is a question mark – Presious Passion comes back to the field.
#3 ANMAR is too lightly raced and faces a talented cast. Until #5 QUIJANO proves to me he still has it, he is unplayable in this spot. #2 EASTERN ANTHEM won this race last year, if you remember, but is making his first go after a long layoff and absolutely no discussion from Godolphin. All signs point to no.
#6 POMPEYANO has slowly improved over the course of the campaign and it has been an arduous one for the Irish-bred gelding. Anything close to the frame would be a surprise.
Truly, I will believe almost any result in the race, it is the most wide open affair of the night, in my opinion. The presence of Presious Passion is a massive wild card and adds a unique flair to the event. While he is so incredibly game, and needs a firm turf, the ship and trip and lack of Lasix, as is the case with all the American turfers here, makes me think he won’t run the same races we’ve seen in the US. The wide open nature of the race leads me to go with a longer shot who is as likely a winner as several – DEEM.
1st – #11 DEEM, 2nd – #8 GOLDEN SWORD, 3rd – #10 BUENA VISTA, 4th – #16 CAVALRYMAN