We are still six weeks out from the big week in Dubai leading to the world’s richest race. Let’s grab the crystal ball and look into the future at the potential field of 14 to face starter Shane Ryan for $10 million over ten furlongs. Our prediction of the field is based on recent performances, ratings, and expected invitations from the Dubai Racing Club. Horses are ranked in order of preference by DubaiRaceNight.com
#1. BOLD SILVANO (Rated 120)
After a sparkling win last Thursday’s Maktoum Challenge – R2 (G3), he flies to the top of the list for trainer Mike De Kock, who might have his most confident starter going into the world’s richest race, one that has eluded the South African with so much success in the UAE. This performance, analyzed below by Dubai Racing Channel hosts Brett Williams and Jason Ford, is quite possibly one of the most impressive in the history of the Carnival at Meydan. The favorite for now.
#2. GIO PONTI (Rated 125)
A future hall of famer in America, this colt goes over anything and had fabulous fourth in the race last year. He didn’t travel well last year but came on as the week went along and was the best finisher of any shipper in the big race. The connections have kept him in training with this race in mind and he is back on the worktab after a two-month freshening following a second behind Goldikova in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). He is likely to prep over grass at Gulfstream or Tampa Bay Downs in a tactic similar to last year and is guaranteed a spot in the gate if he goes.
#3. BUENA VISTA (Rated 118)
The pride of Japan, this mare has been pointed to this spot since November when suffering a controversial disqualification in the Japan Cup (G1). The distance is no problem, but the surface is a question. Still, she was second in the 2010 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) and you know she can handle the ship.
#4. AL SHEMALI (Rated 119)
Returned from a May layoff with a decent fourth behind Bold Silvano and should progress from there. I don’t think his connections are interested in winning the Dubai Duty Free (G1) again after landing that race as a monster longshot last year, but is a progressive type who goes over every surface. Also a guaranteed starter if they choose this spot.
#5. SNOW FAIRY (Rated 119)
Winner of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (G1) in a most impressive fashion, she has been mentioned as an on-again, off-again Dubai World Cup contender, but jockey Ryan Moore has the utmost confidence in her abilities. Trainer Ed Dunlap is confident she will get over the Tapeta having a synthetic win early in her career, and with two late season wins in Asia, shipping seems no issue. The first female winner of the Dubai World Cup? Off last season’s performances, a live chance.
#6. GIANT OAK (no rating)
Won Saturday’s Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park in his first start since being promoted to the win in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill in November. The Donn has been a major Dubai World Cup stepping stone in the past, and this son of Giant’s Causeway has all-weather experience in his past. He is full-bodied and could be rounding into form at the right time in his career. Whether or not trainer Chris Block decides to send his 5-year-old entire is a question, but the Dubai Racing Club would guarantee him a spot off that win.
#7. MENDIP (Rated 117)
Third in the 2010 UAE Derby (G2), he returned to the races with a stellar performance in the Maktoum Challenge – R1 (G3). The third place finisher in that event, Win For Sure, a roughie, came back to win on the turf going seven furlongs. If healthy, he will line up without much question, and is one of only two non-G1 winners in our top 14.
#8. GITANO HERNANDO (Rated 118)
A bit difficult to believe that Gitano Hernando, the winner of just one Group 1 contest is rated on level with Buena Vista, but that is the case. He needed a run in the Maktoum Challenge last week and with that, suffered from serious ground loss coming around the bend. With a campaign in Dubai, intended to get to the big race, he is a significant challenger this year as opposed to last.
#9. VICTOIRE PISA (no rating)
Winner of the Arima Kinen (G1) in Japan over Buena Vista, he ran forwardly and took off before his female counterpart, barely outlasting the hard charging mare. A new 4-year-old, he was the winner of the Japanese 2,000 Guineas and is all but guaranteed a spot in the gate.
#10. TWICE OVER (Rated 123)
Last year’s Dubai World Cup tenth, he was beaten just three lengths without a prep race. If he is to be a serious contender, a local leg-stretcher is probably necessary for this Henry Cecil charge. Cecil noted his desire to win the race, so waiting to see if he gets a go in the third round of the Maktoum Challenge on Super Thursday (3 March) will be a telling sign if he is primed.
#11. TWIRLING CANDY (no rating)
Trainer John Sadler called this colt the best in America after winning Saturday’s Strub Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita, a race that lacked the quality of the Donn, but if he had run at Gulfstream, could have turned the tables on those runners too. In his first win on an all-weather over a route of ground, the son of Candy Ride pushed his career mark to six wins from seven starts. Sadler isn’t known for shipping his horses to tough spots, often choosing to remain firmly rooted in his California base. It might be tough to keep his colt back in the barn, though. A start in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) is possible as well, but is another who couldn’t be denied a spot in the gate. Twirling Candy started his career with two very impressive performances over an all-weather surface.
#12. CAPE BLANCO (Rated 119)
A rare Ballydoyle nomination could add intrigue to this event as the 2010 Irish Derby (G1) champion has not made a start since a lacklustre Arc effort. His 5-length win in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) was heartily franked by Twice Over who came back to win the English edition while Rip Van Winkle just missed in the QE II Stakes. More so, former stable companion Beethoven is now two-for-two in Qatar. He has yet to touch an all-weather surface when the money was on the line.
#13. MUSIR (Rated 117)
Unraced since the UAE Derby (G2) win from 2010, he loves the Tapeta but did nothing in training in Australia and the barn has been relatively quiet about him. Would need a flashy return to be a consideration for Mike De Kock, especially knowing he has the top horse in Bold Silvano for the same ownership. The past talent cannot be ignored even if we have yet to see him back.
#14. MORNING LINE (no rating)
Winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), the son of Tiznow was recently purchased by Zabeel Racing International with the intent on being a Dubai World Cup runner. He landed in a hot pace in Saturday’s Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park and hung valiently for second. This colt does not give in easily and will be a threatening menace third off the layoff if he goes in the big race. A winner over 1,800 metres, many think he is most effective over some shorter distances but the pedigree is strong enough to get the 2,000. The second of our non-G1 winners to sneak into the field.
#15. INTERACTION (Rated 112)
Expect his all-weather rating to increase after showing decent foot in the Maktoum Challenge – R2, and is a multiple Group 1 winner in Argentina. Now for French connections and 2010 Dubai World Cup winning trainer Pascal Bary, he sits on the sideline as of this printing but a second-up start in the third round of the Maktoum Challenge could advance his chances of making the field.
#16 A decent horse that wins the King’s Cup in Saudi Arabia (no rating)
The Saudis have had some decent runners in this event, Premium Tap earning them a second in 2007 behind Invasor. The King’s Cup is fast approaching and if a quality winner emerges, unlike last year’s ridiculous longshot Wind Flow, you would expect to see that horse get a shot for the big money.
#17. SPRING OF FAME (Rated 112)
Won a slow handicap early in the Carnival and came back with a decent second to Bold Silvano. He has had two starts off the layoff and might get a third or train up hoping to catch one of the last spots in the field.
#18. WIN FOR SURE (Rated 113)
Third in the Maktoum Challenge – R1 and a recent winner at Meydan over turf. Needs help but was progressive when running into Mendip’s pace and holds a longshot chance for a local berth. A group-placed runner in Germany against decent competition.
#19. RICHARD’S KID (Rated 119)
Has been in Dubai without a peep from the camp all winter. When Zabeel purchased Morning Line, it gave us the impression things were not going well with Richard’s Kid. Still, off his Pacific Classic wins and a loss of only 2.25 lengths in last year’s race, if healthy, he’s in. But until we hear a squawk from the camp, he’s outside for now.
#20. CROWDED HOUSE (Rated 115)
Winless since the 2008 Racing Post Trophy (G1) as a juvenile, he was seventh in the Maktoum Challenge – R2 last week, and was ninth in last year’s Dubai World Cup. He made ten starts last season and likely needed the leg-stretcher but still has to show he can compete against the top class. His best performance was a second to Richard’s Kid in the 2010 Pacific Classic (G1).
#21. FLY DOWN (no rating)
Owned by King Abdullah and Sons of Saudi Arabia, his best performance was a third behind Blame and Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Managed fifth in the Donn Handicap this weekend and his biggest issue is a lack of placement in the top spots, which might make it hard to get a spot in the field.
#22. REDDING COLLIERY (no rating)
After success in America with Kiaran McLaughlin, this colt could be back in Dubai after growing as a 3-year-0ld against Regal Ransom and Desert Party. He has reportedly been sent to the UAE for a possible start to prep for the Dubai World Cup, but lacks a Group One win, holding the Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) win over the aforementioned Giant Oak as his top success.
#23. XIN XU LIN (no rating)
Winner of South America’s top race, the Carlos Pelligrini (G1), this former Brazilian colt has been purchased by Godolphin and is now with Mahmood Al Zarooni, with possible considerations for the turf or Tapeta races on Dubai World Cup night. Has to step up and win something on Super Thursday to get a spot in the field.
#24. AGGIE ENGINEER (no rating)
Progressing well in California but hasn’t hit Twirling Candy. He would absolutely need a Santa Anita Handicap (G1) win to gain a spot and bump someone from our top 14.
#25. FIRST DUDE (no rating)
Awful ride in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park hurt his chances but is winless since a maiden victory despite earnings of nearly $1 million. Plugs along and gets beat, he doesn’t seem likely to make the trip.
#26. MR BROCK (Rated 115)
Got the final spot in the field last year and ran like it. His 2011 performances have been a cut below what he did locally in 2010.
#27. DAKOTA PHONE (no rating)
The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner has been listless since that shock effort. If he goes in a race at Meydan, it should be the Godolphin Mile (G2).