A phenomenal night is planned for Meydan, celebrating the end of 2014 and the introduction to 2015. After Wednesday’s six races, a massive concert comes from the flagship course, featuring Pharrell Williams, Busta Rhymes, Charli XCX, and more. But first…the competition. Here are our thoughts on the card.
Race 1 – AED 100,000 EGA Billet Trophy Maiden – 1,600m, dirt
There sure are no easy things in this maiden event, in which half the field has never landed a blow in the first three, and you have a pair of likely fancied runners who run decent races time and time again and seem to have no interest in getting their heads home first. #8 SOOTH AL SSALAM and #12 YEAR OF GLORY will get plenty of attention – take note Richie Mullen is riding the latter of the two after having been on both in the past.
It is meaningful that Sooth Al Ssalam is getting a shorter trip for the first time this season. Year of Glory could have a pace edge on this group as he is the only horse who is confirmed to go forward
#13 MUBTAAHIJ is the first runner of the season for champion South African trainer Mike de Kock, and a half to multiple group-level stakes winner Lily of the Valley. His sire, Dubawi, has produced quite a few solid performers on all-weather, including Maktoum Challenge winners and a Dubai World Cup victor (Prince Bishop, Hunter’s Light, and the big one in Monterosso), but so few have tried the dirt. Dubawi is by dirt World Cup winner in Dubai Millennium out of a strong American family of dirt runners. He gets in with a massive weight break, but needs to be sent forward by Dane O’Neill.
1st – #12 YEAR OF GLORY, 2nd – #13 MUBTAAHIJ, 3rd – #8 SOOTH AL SSALAM
Race 2 – AED 105,000 EGA Potlines Trophy Handicap (Rated 65-80) – 1,400m, dirt
Both #2 CROSS GRAIN and #5 STATE LAW are maiden winners of this course, this season, and both covered a wide journey last time when drawn in gates 15 and 14, respectively. Cross Grain hit the front, and then in a flash, it was over as Filfil swallowed the field. State Law stayed on the best of this pair and once again has a bit of a weight break over Cross Grain.
#7 KAHRUMAN was in that same race last time and finished fourth, beaten more than three, and came back at Jebel Ali when folding under top weight. There is no argument that he is a legitimate chance here for Erwan Charpy. The thing about him, though, is that he covered seven metres less than State Law and nine less than Cross Grain when last they met, distances that equate to roughly three lengths. The first two get the tab on top of this guy.
Apprentice Cam Hardie can ride at 51.5 kilos and he will be asked to do that on #14 LIGHT BURSTwhich gives this longshot a monumental advantage over the rest of the field. He’s absolutely bred for the dirt but has not shown much on it in three starts this season, or one earlier in the year at Jebel Ali. It makes him tough to support, especially combined with the wide draw, but seems a potentially big advantage.
1st – #5 STATE LAW, 2nd – #2 CROSS GRAIN, 3rd – #7 KAHRUMAN
Race 3 – AED 120,000 EGA Casthouse Trophy Handicap (Rated 75-90) – 1,600m, dirt
#1 MUHTARAM started the season off a mark of 72 and is now racing off 87. The horse he beat last time, Shihab, came back to win at Al Ain on December 19 in this class. What we notice in the field, however, is that there seems to be plenty of interest in going forward – including Muhtaram, then #5 TANSEEB, occasionally #6 DREAM TUNE, #8 MONTMORENCY, and maybe with #9 ONE MAN BAND and #11 YASEER.
Who is best aided by that? #4 FILFIL put in a stellar run, and it’s worth noting that many he beat last time run in the race before this.
One Man Band had a phenomenal maiden win at Meydan on December 4 when missing the start from a wide draw, rushing up and pulling away from the competition. Who did he beat? How about Silver Galaxy, who has now won two races since by a combined 14 ¼ lengths, and was elevated to a Carnival-eligible 97 rating. Amazing to think that these two faced each in a Meydan maiden just four weeks ago. After this race you should get a better line on all of them though, we side with Filfil.
Marc Monaghan might not be able to claim his full 2.5 kilos, but if he can, there is an interesting contender in #12 MORE ASPEN. If she runs back to her race over 1,400 from November 6, she is a chance in this group.
1st – #4 FILFIL, 2nd – #1 MUHTARAM, 3rd – #9 ONE MAN BAND
Race 4 – AED 140,000 EGA Excellence Trophy Handicap (Rated 85-100) – 1,400m, dirt
Quite a few interesting runners in this race, the feature on the New Year’s Eve card. Here’s the bottom line on this race – you need to get creative in your analysis if you are going to pick against either #7 MARCHING TIME or #8 NOT A GIVEN. Both have run exceptionally well in three starts this season without a win. Saeed Al Mazrouei can pull the low weight, which will bring Not A Given down to 52.5 kilos, likely to be the lowest in the field, which provides an added edge to get over the top.
Marching Time’s run against Shaishee was boosted to some degree when Ennobled Friend came back to run so well in the Dubai Creek Mile two weeks ago, even if that run may have been slightly aided by a course playing kinder to speed.
#10 DOUBLE DEALER is off a long break, but has shown interest in going forward, and #5 ATLANTIC BRAVE likes to be close to the pace.
Don’t forget about the dirt pedigree on #6 JOURNEYMAN, who showed little in the UAE last season. Trippi was a dirt lover in America, winning the Riva Ridge (G2), Tom Fool (G2) and Vosburgh (G1) at Belmont, all in 2000,
As we said, you have to get a bit creative to pick against two horses who haven’t been out of the placings in six tries this year. So what about #2 BANNOCK? He is winless in 20 starts dating to 2011 when he got home three times in grass sprints. He always likes to race in close attendance to the pace. His dam, Laoub, won the inaugural edition of the UAE Oaks on dirt in her second career start at Nad Al Sheba and there is plenty of back dirt in the pedigree of sire Bertolini.
With little else to go on in terms of speed, if Bannock takes to the dirt, and gets over whatever has clearly been hampering his chances to get to the races, he could be a big priced winner here.
1st – #2 BANNOCK, 2nd – #7 MARCHING TIME, 3rd – #8 NOT A GIVEN
Race 5 – AED 125,000 EGA Al Taweelah Trophy Handicap (Rated 80-95) – 1,200m, dirt
Both #11 SATWA STORY and #10 AJRAAM have had respectable campaigns so far this season, the former with a nice win at Meydan followed by a respectable second to the progressive Faulkner. Satwa Story really only beat one horse that has done anything since when Sowaylm ran second again, but showed a smooth affinity for the track.
Ajraam was closer to the forgotten Idler last out compared to his second-up run against The Taj, but hasn’t exactly landed in a brutally tough field. He’s clearly going in the right direction but might be the distance might be a bit short for him given how he’s run lately.
#5 LEHAAF was well-regarded on several occasions at the Carnival last year but never landed a blow. He gets a more sandy dirt for his debut on the local surface and has been based here over the offseason. We have to wait and see how he goes before really supporting him.
#13 TIGERS IN RED is bred to absolutely love the dirt and his dam produced UAE 2,000 Guineas and Al Bastakiya placer Snowboarder, who was also fourth in the 2013 UAE Derby.
The horse that does interest a bit is #4 ZARAEE, who gets Dane O’Neill’s first choice (for now, Paul Hanagan is back soon). He had what seemed a clear leg-stretcher at Jebel Ali last time and did not disappoint entirely on the dirt. He showed some speed and faded up the hill, which is no indictment – he’s in good company there. Given that run to swing into fitness, his propensity to race with the pace, and a field that doesn’t leave us shaking in our boots, good enough to tip.
1st – #4 ZARAEE, 2nd – #11 SATWA STORY, 3rd – #10 AJRAAM
Race 6 – AED 110,000 EGA JABAL Ali Trophy Handicap (Rated 70-85) – 2,200m, dirt
This has the look of a very tactical race, and is the first over 2,200 metres on the new surface.
#1 DIWAAN has been great this season, with Doug Watson seemingly figuring out whatever was ailing him last season. Now that he’s right, no one has been stopping him, and he comes in top weighted off a dominant score. That last win could’ve been more than seven, and with extra distance, he’s a legitimate favorite.
#12 LAMUSAWAMA isn’t entirely impossible. He’s been competitive over this trip in the past on all-weather and wasn’t entirely disgraced in two starts in the UAE this season, over distances much shorter than he wants. He could be staying-on at the end and can land a blow at a nice price.
#4 MIZBAH wants to go on with things and the win over Street Act on October 31 was soon franked. He now gets a nice weight break over his last run, but more distance to cover, and is drawn wide. We expect he will go on with or near the pace, and he has shown consistency in three starts this season that has been lacking since his earliest days in training. Encouraging.
1st – #4 MIZBAH, 2nd – #1 DIWAAN, 3rd – #12 LAMUSAWAMA
|December 31 – Meydan Selections|
|Pat Cummings||Mackenzie Kirker-Head|
|1||12||Year of Glory||1||6||Prepared|
|2||5||State Law||2||2||Cross Grain|
|5||4||Zaraee||5||13||Tigers in Red|
|135 races – 28-35-19 (20.7% win, 60.7% top3)||134 races – 26-17-20 (19.4% win, 47% top 3)|