Surely you have heard that Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, America’s reigning Horse of the Year, is headed to the Dubai World Cup. But what about his likely challengers? It’s still early, and much can change, but here is our projection of the 2015 Dubai World Cup field.
Getting to the Dubai World Cup requires connections to nominate a horse, and then the Dubai Racing Club to offer an invitation. We are not always privy to which horses receive invitations and when. Really, it all depends on whether or not the connections announce it. But one thing is absolute – the Dubai World Cup is not a race where anyone can enter and just show-up. It’s a highly coordinated invitational.
How likely is the projection below going to reflect the actual race? There are always some changes and adjustments, but last year, we had 13 of the actual field of 16 correctly projected at this same stage. Take that however you will. As of now, and without any insight from the Dubai Racing Club, we see a likely field of ten or eleven. The field limit is 16.
Horses below are listed in order of their current odds available from Coral.
1 – CALIFORNIA CHROME
Trainer: Art Sherman
Coral price: 7-2
He’s probably the most popular and well-known horse in America after last year’s rags-to-riches story that had plenty of ups-and-downs. Relive his Kentucky Derby victory below.
Last time out, California Chrome was second behind Shared Belief in the San Antonio Invitational (G2). All that rival did was come back to win the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on February 7, rolling to a massive, easy win. Knowing the big money was still to come in Dubai, it makes perfect sense that he was not likely fully cranked for this effort, but it was still a good one. Watch the San Antonio below.
2 – LEA
Trainer: Bill Mott
Coral price: 5-1
Initially, Lea was thought to be a very likely contender for the Dubai World Cup. He was off eleven months before returning a winner in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) (video below) on January 10 at Gulfstream Park. The winner of the 2014 Donn Handicap (G1) over that same strip, Lea was bothered by a virus throughout the year and did not make it back to the races until that January score. A short field in the Hal’s Hope yielded a tactical race that unfolded almost like a turf race contest, but jockey Joel Rosario, a winner of the Dubai World Cup on Animal Kingdom, guided Lea from out behind rivals in the short stretch.
He wheeled back about four weeks later to defend his title in the Donn Handicap (G1), but came up just less than a length short of Constitution (more on him below). A trip to Dubai seemed off after that, but the rumors were flying in the last ten days and sure enough, his work at home was good enough for Bill Mott to give the trip the green light. Mott, of course, trained the first Dubai World Cup winner, Cigar.
3 – CONSTITUTION
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Coral price: 5-1
At Gulfstream Park, Constitution is unbeaten – four from four. Two of those wins came in the premier dirt races at the Florida oval, the 2014 Florida Derby (G1) and the 2015 Donn Handicap (G1). In the Donn, the son of Tapit jumped to the lead from the inside draw under Javier Castellano and made every yard.
His Florida Derby win in 2014 had him as one of the favorites going towards the Kentucky Derby, but a hairline fracture to a shin was caught a few weeks before the big race and sidelined Constitution until October. The Donn was his first win back over a surface where his trainer, Todd Pletcher, absolutely excels. Over the last five seasons at Gulfstream, Pletcher trainees have a 36% strike rate (10-28) in graded stakes for older horses over distances at one mile or longer on dirt.
Comparatively, at New York’s three big tracks over the same period, Pletcher wins at only an 18% clip (17-92) for horses fitting the same criteria. How will Constitution do in Dubai? It’s a legitimate question whether or not his Gulfstream form follows him abroad.
4 – TAMARKUZ
Trainer: Musabah Al Muhairi
Coral price: 7-1
With three wins at the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival, all over a trip of 1,600 meters, Tamarkuz seems like a shoe-in for the Godolphin Mile. But the rumblings seem to suggest that the connections of the son of Speightstown, with some staying pedigree on his dam side, are anxious to give the Dubai World Cup a chance. This amendment to our original field projection adds even more pace to the race, and an interesting wrinkle to consider. Tamarkuz won the Burj Nahaar (G3) on Super Saturday (video below) after annexing a Carnival handicap and the Firebreak Stakes (G3) earlier in the campaign.
This move isn’t completely foreign to trainer Musabah Al Muhairi, who currently leads the UAE trainer ranks. Snaffy won the Burj Nahaar in 2009 for Al Muhairi and was given a World Cup goal, finishing seventh beaten more than 24 lengths by Well Armed. The price offered on the international markets seems much too short given the competition he has faced and the question marks surrounding the stretch-out, but he seems a likely runner based on what we are hearing.
5 – EPIPHANEIA
Trainer: Katsuhiko Sumii
Coral price: 10-1
The Japan Cup winner, Epiphaneia would be a rare commodity in a now back-on-dirt edition of the Dubai World Cup – a turf champion giving the dirt a chance. He emerges off a three-month break following a fifth in the Arima Kinen, and cuts back to the ten furlongs for the first time since April, when fourth in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Sha Tin. Below, watch his win in the Japan Cup.
All season in the UAE, horses that have had all their success on grass typically have not produced on the dirt, but this is a classy galloper and he adds some real intrigue to the race. The ownership of Epiphaneia is likely to have Harp Star going in the Dubai Sheema Classic, hence the reason to separate two of their main stars. Trainer Katsuhiko Sumii was victorious in the 2011 Dubai World Cup with Victoire Pisa.
6 – RON THE GREEK
Trainer: Nicholas Bachalard
Coral price: 12-1
Drawn widest of sixteen in the 2014 Dubai World Cup, and with all his previous experience on dirt, Ron The Greek didn’t fair that well in the last running of the race on the all-weather. Since then, the winner of the 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) has managed four scores from five starts, the lone loss being his first-up try in October. He came right back a week later to win, then took three straight over 1 ½ miles, and by widening margins. The video below is from the most prestigious race in Saudi Arabia, which was Ron The Greek’s last start, a seven-length trouncing. He races in Saudi under the Arabic name “Wattani.”
Obviously, Ron The Greek steps back into top competition in this race, but you cannot knock what he has done this season. He’s up in age and has had his health issues over the years. If sound, he can land a blow in the big race.
7 – AFRICAN STORY
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Coral price: 12-1
The 2014 Dubai World Cup winner is hoping to be the first horse to win this race a second time. He broke an inauspicious trend when winning the Maktoum Challenge – Round 3 (G1) last out, becoming the first horse since Curlin in 2008 to win a race after taking home the Cup.
While he didn’t seem to like the dirt in his first-up run in February, perhaps he just needed the race as it was his first since the $10 million glory last March. African Story sure bounced back, racing forward and holding stable companion Prince Bishop at bay. Watch his last out win below.
8 – HOKKO TARUMAE
Trainer: Katsuichi Nishiura
Coral price: 14-1
The best active dirt horse in Japan, Hokko Tarumae is a winner of 15 races from 28 starts, including the 2014 Champions Cup (G1) (video below), formerly known as the Japan Cup Dirt, and consecutive renewals of the Tokyo Daishoten (G1). Normally racing with prominence, Hokko Tarumae is one of several in this field who would like to be up with the early speed and hope to last.
The son of King Kamehameha was last in the 2014 Dubai World Cup, but as is the case with Ron The Greek, his subsequent form showed that race to be an aberration more than anything. Count his connections as plenty pleased this race is back on dirt.
9 – PRINCE BISHOP
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Coral price: 16-1
If you watched the Maktoum Challenge – Round 3, you saw the crazy run of Prince Bishop. Under a ride right from the start, he was bustled throughout and just kept coming after African Story. He got some reminders early in his dirt debut in February when he also came home in the place spot behind Frankyfourfingers in the Maktoum Challenge – Round 2 (video below).
Despite his relatively ungainly appearance, the son of Dubawi very clearly gets over the dirt, beaten just a head and a neck in two starts. He ate plenty of kickback when racing almost entirely on the rail two back and still closed with gusto, something that many have not done. Prince Bishop won both the second and third rounds of the Maktoum Challenge last season before only mustering a ninth in the big race. At the least, we know he still goes well when fresher, but might tail off.
10 – CANDY BOY
Trainer: Doug Watson
Coral price: 20-1
Winless since February 2014, Candy Boy has had plenty of experience versus top American competition. He was 4 ¼ lengths behind Shared Belief in the Los Alamitos Derby (G2), then was beaten a nose in the West Virginia Derby (G2) after covering a brutally wide trip.
It happened again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (video below), where he broke from gate twelve and went 47 feet farther than Bayern, according to the Trakus data. In that race, he basically averaged the same speed as Bayern, even though he was beaten by 5 ½ lengths.
A change of scenery might help the son of Candy Ride, who is with the winningest trainer on the new dirt surface at Meydan. Doug Watson, an American, has recorded 23 wins from 132 starters (17%) while nearly 41% of his runners have landed in the first three over the new surface. Candy Boy has been in the UAE since late January following a private purchase and is working steadily for this. Flying way under the radar, this guy deserves massive consideration, especially if he draws an inside gate.
11 – FRANKYFOURFINGERS
Trainer: Salem bin Ghadayer
Coral price: 40-1
Second in the Maktoum Challenge – Round 1 (G2) (video below), the son of Sunday Break went forward and was not for the catching in the second round (video above, listed for Prince Bishop). The son of Sunday Break was an October purchase at the Arqana Arc Sale for about $125,000 and has shown an affinity for dirt that his pedigree suggested.
In order to earn an invitation for the race, horses typically need to have an official rating near 113, and after his fourth in the Maktoum Challenge – Round 3, the handicapper has him at a mark of 111. That might not be enough to make the field, though there could be some exceptions given a likely smaller field this year.
12 – SIDE GLANCE
Trainer: Andrew Balding
Coral price: 40-1
Believe it or not, Side Glance has been fourth in the last two Dubai World Cups, earning a handy $1 million for it. This would be the first try on dirt for this gelding, now eight, who has just one win in his last 20 starts.
Typically, the Dubai Racing Club releases a list of the potential fields within two weeks of the races. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @DubaiRaceNight for ongoing details and thoughts as we get closer to the big day. DubaiRaceNight.com coverage from Dubai begins on Monday, March 23.