Race 1 – Galway Hurling Team Cup Maiden, sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld – 1,600 metres – Tapeta
A fabulously interesting maiden race to get the night going, we turn to the Trakus data to guide us, as six runners shared the track in the same maiden event on December 20 here at Meydan. You can access the Trakus data from the Dubai Racing Club website HERE. Drop the “Race Summary” tab to the “Finish” point of call to get the metre-differentials for each horse in a race.
#5 HAZAZ covered 19 metres more than stable companion Maali last time out when finishing sixth, beaten ten lengths. Converting metres to lengths, that suggests Hazaz actually traveled the equivalent of seven lengths more than the winner – enough to suggest the final margin was hardly as substantive as it looks. Ridden by the capable apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei last time, he was drawn in gate 13 going 1,900 metres, the distance with the most run to the turn. Al Mazrooei, overall, did what he could to make lemonade out of lemons, but it wasn’t easy, forcing to send Hazaz forward and sustain a move to get towards the front and remain there, saving some ground around the far turn. Overall, it didn’t work, but we expect improvement, and on the cutback to 1,600.
#2 BLUE SEA is drawn just outside of Hazaz and might not get as good a trip as he had last time when drawn in gate four. Regardless, he didn’t miss by much. Hazaz covered 15 metres more than Blue Sea in that December 20 race, the equivalent of almost six lengths.
#6 JOURNALISTIC gets the wide draw in 16 and wasn’t far behind Need to Know, long awaited to break his maiden last week at Jebel Ali. That was a fast race and everything we know of the breeding suggests he’ll prefer longer. He also covered plenty of extra ground over the 1900-metre trip a fortnight ago, going 11m more than the winner, while Hazaz covered 8m more than this son of Street Sense.
#16 NABAH gets a slight eight break and has been close a few times in the past. She was third and just missed after stablemate Al Naouwee led from start to finish her last March. She needed one to get her season going in February when well beaten behind Farrier, and that could be the case again. A threat.
1st – #5 HAZAZ (NAP), 2nd – #2 BLUE SEA, 3rd – #16 NABAH
Race 2 – Donegal Football Team Cup Handicap, sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld (Rated 65-85) – 1,200 metres – Tapeta
Ganas isn’t in this race, right?
Clearly one of the most progressive sprinters in the region, Ganas went from interesting to Carnival-worthy in three starts, winning on the front end in each of them. He isn’t in this one, but form from his races is in the mix.
#3 INNOCUOUS is drawn outside and will likely get stuck a bid wide yet again. He covered eight metres more than Ganas last time, losing by 2 ¼ lengths. The extra ground traveled equates to roughly three lengths – so that is encouraging. A 60 kilogram-impost and the draw hurt, but he has enough tactical speed for us to think he can get the job done. Plus, Ganas did come back and win again off that effort.
#2 FOREVERTHEOPTIMIST seemed in over his head last week at Jebel Ali and was done no favours racing against Surfer here two back. He has every right to be in the mix against lighter company.
1st – #3 INNOCUOUS, 2nd – #2 FOREVERTHEOPTIMIST, 3rd – #9 GRAND DUCHY
Race 3- Al Basti Cup Handicap, sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld (Rated 80+) – 2,800 metres – Tapeta
You could try and get creative here, but it just seems a one-way street when pushed.
This race last season was won by #1 AVERROES, and it would be difficult to go elsewhere, even with the big swing in weights to the rest of the compact field. He’s the best horse in the race and is treated as such by the handicapper. If there is a threat, maybe it’s in the form of #7 TMAAM, who had a decent second on grass at this trip in June when second. #3 ALMIQDAAD has had a long road back and was well-fancied last time off the long layoff. He hasn’t been this short in the weights in his racing career, and if Hanagan can pull that, maybe he improves getting on Tapeta and with a feather impost.
1st – #1 AVERROES, 2nd – #7 TMAAM, 3rd – #3 ALMIQDAAD
Race 4 – Baileys Cup Handicap, sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld (Rated 60-75 NH 4YO & sh 3yo+, NH 3YO 75-90) – 1,400 metres – Tapeta
#1 AL RAZI’s win over Ganas to start the season sticks out as a legitimate one considering Ganas has gone on to three consecutive front-running scores. Furnace won last out after getting everything to go his way on the front-end, and there is more pace here than in that race. The three kilos off his back in the form of apprentice Marc Monaghan help, as does another plum draw.
The same can be said for #2 COUNT PARIS, who just missed getting Furnace last time. He’s had a great season in the UAE and everything seems to line up for him again.
The question is really what happens with #13 RELATED and #14 DESERT OF DREAMS. Both are well handicapped in this spot as younger horses, both higher-rated given the conditions of the race, and both like racing on the front end. They are going, and the question is how fast they go and how much the slight weight break helps. If they burn up front, it might set it up for Count Paris to get enough to catch them.
1st – #2 COUNT PARIS, 2nd – #1 AL RAZI, 3rd – #14 DESERT OF DREAMS
Race 5 – Hartog Trophy Handicap, sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld (Rated 70-85) – 1,600 metres – Tapeta
This race is a fascinating puzzle.
#1 DUBAI ICONIC has a quality win over Interpret, who of course came back to impress in a maiden win two starts later at Jebel Ali, and then was hardly disgraced beaten 2 ¾ lengths by Trojan Nights here at the end of November. That race has since produced two more winners – third Layali Al Andalus and seventh placer Tiz Now Tiz Then. The winner from that race, Trojan Nights, won two starts later at Jebel Ali, with a dull effort on grass at Abu Dhabi sandwiched between efforts.
This Satish Seemar trainee is drawn in 13 and caught a wide run last out. The winner, Trojan Nights followed him and was under a ride from a long way out, just getting up to nab Innocuous in the closing stages (who we of course tip above in race two). Adding even more detail – the second, third, and fourth place finishers behind Dubai Iconic’s maiden win have all come back to win since, recording margins of 10.5, 2.5, and 6 lengths in those wins. The time off might have been good for the son of Candy Ride, allowing him to grow and learn after his late racecourse debut.
#2 HADBA put things together last season with consecutive wins after just failing. She is back now and loves to close from off the pace. We question whether the 1,600 metres is enough for her to stretch fully.
#15 MARK TO MARKET gets five kilos from a less-experienced field, and we do love seeing Tadhg O’Shea on him. He closed like a shot over 1400 last time and gets a little more distance and a little less weight to tote here. He covered seven metres more than Furnace did last out, and lost only a half-length (7m = about 2 ¾ lengths) and had a tardy beginning. There is really plenty of interest in him here. Stable companion #11 STORM BELT, the fourth behind Dubai Iconic’s maiden win, was very impressive when winning from a wide draw (not to his advantage) at Sharjah in November. It seemed he loved the dirt, something his breeding suggested he would despite a clearly troubled run at Jebel Ali last January.
We suppose the questions are whether or not the pace is a strong one (few want the lead, but many love sitting just off it) and does Dubai Iconic want 1,600 metres. We think the answer is probably yes to both, but the draw from Dubai Iconic just makes us think he’ll have to be really good to get the job done.
Tough decisions to make. On the confidence scale, consider our selections here to be on the low end of that barometer.
1st – #15 MARK TO MARKET, 2nd – #1 DUBAI ICONIC, 3rd – #2 HADBA
Race 6 – Bluefrog Trophy Handicap, sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld (Rated 60-80) – 2,000 metres – Tapeta
A complete cluster.
Five horses from the December 15 win of #3 BIN SHAMARDAL come to reoppose him here, and he has only a second and third in six lifetime all-weather starts, the second which came in similar conditions at Meydan last season. All things considered, at 59.5 kilos, he’s well-handicapped. Three of his four wins have come at 2,000 metres but that overall mark on Tapeta, including his December run here, just doesn’t get us that excited.
Where did that run come from with #2 EARL OF CARRICK last time? Second season in the UAE, second off the shelf? Wide, slow away, and explosive. Can anyone back him with confidence now? He covered 11 metres more than winner Maali, losing by less than a length (11m = about 4 ¼ lengths). Head-scratcher.
Then there is #4 MIDNIGHT MOON, who is a half-brother to Fa’Iz who runs in the maiden race to start the card. Combined, these two brothers are 0-for-24, out of the Dubai Millennium mare Carisolo, a winner of one out of six lifetime starts. What is encouraging is his rat Meydan last out on December 20 in the same race Earl of Carrick surprised us above. This son of Singspiel had the fastest final 400 and 200-metre segments, checking in at 24.47 and 12.12 seconds respectively. That final 200 was 0.34 seconds faster than the next fastest finisher in winner Maali, and 0.43 faster than Earl of Carrick or first race starter Blue Sea, who checked in 0.57 seconds slower. He had a PERFECT ride from Carlos Sanchez that day, and now goes back to Jesus Rosales over a slightly longer trip and a wider draw. If you get creative, this guy has every right to be in the mix considering those runs behind Surfer and Dubai Iconic.
We are going to guess that #8 KARMA CHAMELEON does not like the dirt. He does get over the Tapeta just fine, as exhibited in his November 22 effort when Wayne Smith learned you just need to keep after this gelding by Haafhd. Drawn inside will allow for some first-turn ground saving, but expect him to come running late, where some luck might be in order.
It’s worth noting that #1 COLOURFUL SCORE is probably the least successful offspring of the great Serena’s Song. She was first or second in 29 of 38 lifetime starts, an American hall-of-famer, and earner of more than $3 million who dropped five stakes winners. This gelding is a full-brother to three of them, which includes Grand Reward, who was a Grade 2 winner in American and a decent stallion. Could he pop up third back and getting on the Tapeta? Doubtful, but would be fun if he did.
We’ve also been on the wrong side of #7 EKTIBAAS, still waiting for that first UAE success. He’s a victim of bad trips time and time again, and one day is going to surprise us…could it be Thursday? We’ll take the chance it isn’t.
Oh yeah, and what about #5 MOANNAA, whose only start on an all-weather track was respectable in 2011 at Kempton, and now goes third off the seasonal break. Don’t forget #11 SKYCRUISER who gets a much better draw this time.
The ultimate question – who is going to the lead? We have a sense that maybe Royston Ffrench will send #15 FLORENTINE RULER to the front – 0-for-16 in the UAE. He’s led before the mid-division tactics over this trip at Sharjah didn’t work last time. #6 COEUR LOYAL could also go forward, but he is drawn in 13. Do these wide draws from possible pacesetters suggest they will push out and go or try to sit back and save a bit of ground. Tough decisions – otherwise, the pace really might be a dawdle.
Races like this drive you mad, and if you were having a punt, we’d suggest focusing on the first four races as opposed to the last two. While we are excited to see how it goes, it just seems so wide open.
1st – #4 MIDNIGHT MOON, 2nd – #1 KARMA CHAMELEON, 3rd – #2 EARL OF CARRICK
UAE 2012-2013 statistics: 119 selections – 32 first, 21 second, 18 third
Top selections – 27% win, 60% top three