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Recapping the 2013 Dubai World Cup meeting

Well, it was another fabulous Dubai World Cup meeting. To put the proper context and perspective on performance from the world’s richest night of racing, it seems more appropriate to let a day or two pass to regain focus.  All pictures are courtesy Cedric Lane – to buy these and others from the big night, contact Cedric HERE.

Overall, it was a great day.  Let’s tackle some questions from the day.

How impressive was Animal Kingdom?

Quite. The first dual Kentucky Derby/Dubai World Cup winner since Silver Charm capped the feat in 1998, ANIMAL KINGDOM plotted a wide, but clear trip from an outside barrier draw. His final winning margin of two lengths was misleadingly cozy. At the finish, Animal Kingdom traveled 17 meters more than RED CADEAUX, closing fast at the rail. Covering an extra 17 meters is the equivalent of approximately 6.5 lengths of added ground traveled. Adjusting the final margin of victory for this ground coverage suggests that the Graham Motion-trainee was more than eight lengths better than rail-skimming Red Cadeaux.  Given several days to absorb the data, it seems appropriate to suggest Animal Kingdom ran the best race of his life to date.

One added way to review the data from the Dubai World Cup is to compare the average speeds of horses. Horses asked to plot wider courses have to run faster to maintain their position. If four horses were lined across the course and began to corner, in order for a widely-planted horse to hold its position, they absolutely must run faster than a horse to its inside. Animal Kingdom never lost position in running, expending more energy with the highest cruising speed in running.

After 1,200 meters of the Dubai World Cup, here is the position of each horse, in order, with their average speed to this point in the race:

Royal Delta – 59.5 kph
Animal Kingdom – 59.7 kph
Side Glance – 59.1 kph
Hunter’s Light – 59.0 kph
Meandre – 59.0 kph
Dullahan – 58.9 kph
Treasure Beach – 58.5 kph
Planteur – 58.7 kph
Red Cadeaux – 58.4 kph
Kassiano – 58.5 kph
African Story – 58.6 kph
Capponi – 58.0 kph

Following these first six furlongs, Animal Kingdom had traveled seven meters (about 2 ¾ lengths) more than leader Royal Delta, and 11 meters (about 4 ¼ lengths) more than Red Cadeaux.

At the finish, Animal Kingdom was still in control, running the second fastest final 100 meters behind only Red Cadeaux’s time, and averaging 0.7 kph more than that rival over the course of the race. Overall, Animal Kingdom’s individual sectional times are massively impressive, running 0.33 seconds faster in his fifth 400-meter segment than the fourth segment, and clocking the single fastest split in the race, from the 1600m pole to the 1200m pole in :23.20 seconds. Once Joel Rosario recognized that neither PLANTEUR, who made all the running in his previous race, nor AFRICAN STORY, stretching-out off mid-pack trips in one-turn races, were interested in running forward, Rosario seized the initiative and prompted the obvious front-runner in Royal Delta.  Take note of Animal Kingdom’s sectional times below (North American readers should note that race-timing in the UAE, and much of the world, begins with an electric pulse tied to the starter’s gate-opening mechanism, yielding the slow, in appearance, opening quarter).

Animal Kingdom’s Dubai World Cup Sectional Times

400m – :26.98
800m – :23.20
1200m – :23.60
1600m – :24.88
2000m – :24.55

While the entire final 400m segment of the race is run in the home stretch, given Animal Kingdom’s earlier fractions, his ability to stay on really puts this performance into magnificent territory. In three previous runnings of this race at Meydan, Gloria De Campeao walked slow and free on the lead, Victoire Pisa’s fastest 400m segment was his last after he made a last-to-first backstretch move into a mind-bogglingly slow pace, and Monterosso had the pleasure of running into the fastest of the four early paces in the running of the race on Tapeta.

Over the history of all-weather racing at Meydan, 38 races out of 51 at 1,200 meters were faster than the 2013 Dubai Golden Shaheen, 46 races out of 49 at 1,900 meters were faster than the 2013 UAE Derby, and 59 out of 65 races at 1,600 meters were faster than the 2013 Godolphin Mile. The all-weather surface at Meydan has shown a tendency to quicken slightly as temperatures cooled in the desert, a phenomenon experienced in past years. The sun was setting as the Derby ran, while it was dark during the Golden Shaheen. Still, there was no cold front that swooped in and provided a wildly different course roughly two hours after the Golden Shaheen – let there be no doubt that Animal Kingdom’s race in the Dubai World Cup was phenomenal. Overall, this year’s edition ranks as the fifth fastest from 31 at the distance, significantly faster than the trends from earlier races on the night.

Wherever Animal Kingdom goes from here, there is no doubting his performance in the 2013 Dubai World Cup will rank as one of his most impressive.


Who was the best winner on the night?

Top to bottom, it has to be SOFT FALLING RAIN in the Godolphin Mile. First, as a 3-year-old, the impetus is just to make the Derby, but from the very beginning of the season, even as announced by trainer Mike de Kock in the Dubai Racing Comprehensive, this guy has distance limitations. Given the way the Godolphin Mile was run, maybe came back to say that Soft Falling Rain could have won the $2 million race instead of the shorter event for just $1 million, but we disagree with jumping to the conclusion.

The South African juvenile champion was one of two winners on the night who made it through the rigorous quarantine from Cape Town to Mauritius to England and finally the UAE, and remains unbeaten. He traveled nine meters more than second-home Haatheq (who we thought was the most viable longshot chance to place at an astronomical price) and 15 meters more than Moonwalk In Paris, who amazingly got to the rail but was gerrymandered through the stretch.  Yes, we said “gerrymandered.”

Overall, the pace in the Godolphin Mile was very strong – yes, you also read that correctly, very very strong. For all the initial talk of the track playing slow, we think it would best be termed tiring and potentially deep.  RED JAZZ set an opening quarter in :25.22, which was 0.22 seconds off the record mark at Meydan, while the 800-meter split of :47.97, set by ALPHA, was 0.25 seconds slower than the record, but still 1.51 seconds faster than standard.

Soft Falling Rain is undefeated, but had never ventured against older horses – and he defeated a Travers (G1) winner in Alpha (who ran his best race since being in the Carnival), Zazou (fifth in the 2012 Dubai World Cup), multiple older Group-level stakes winners including Master of Hounds and the aforementioned Moonwalk In Paris. While the poetically named son of National Assembly might not have won the richest race on the card, the way he did it, and the field he beat, given his preparation, the quality of his competition, etc., all shapes up to be a phenomenal win, and makes him remarkably exciting going forward. Royal Ascot might be in the cards.


What were some sneaky good non-winning DWC performances?

The Dubai Sheema Classic was full of good runs – especially from Qatari wonder VERY NICE NAME and the 2,000-meter record holder AWAIT THE DAWN. Very Nice Name covered a wide trip, going 14 meters more than winner St. Nicholas Abbey, and five meters more than Gentildonna, both of which are good enough to negate his margin of defeat. Await The Dawn was wide from the break, covering 11 meters more than St. Nicholas Abbey. Both stayed on well and will be interesting to watch going forward.

We shudder to think what MOONWALK IN PARIS might be with a more patient ride – while he flashed home after a surprising ground-saving trip drawn in gate 15, it’s that trip which may have cost him a better actual placing. All the action was outside, and he was lucky to weave through and come running. This guy is good. Ahmad Ajtebi was suspended four days for his ride.

Wherever GIOFRA goes next, we want to be with her, because she ran a progressive race and covered plenty of extra ground doing so, going nine meters more than SAJJHAA – more than her margin of defeat.  She probably looked best of the French runners out on course during the week leading to the race and ran like it.  Honestly, we want a bunch of horses out of the Dubai Duty Free, which was a new record, and a bit of a roughly run race. THE APACHE ran another blinder. If Sajjhaa gets drawn wide somewhere down the line in a race where turns come into play (not really at Newmarket, for example), she is a brilliant bet against.


How about the Carnival?

While half of the night’s winners shipped in, the players from the Dubai World Cup Carnival had plenty of success.  SHEA SHEA popped in without a question in the Al Quoz Sprint. REYNALDOTHEWIZARD led a sextet of Carnival alums in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, which included the first three finishers from the Mahab Al Shimaal turning the same trick three weeks later. SAJJHAA and THE APACHE, the quinella from the Jebel Hatta did the deed in the Dubai Duty Free.  We aren’t sure what happens when Sajjhaa gets a less-than-perfect trip, but she’s been brilliant since the hood was added.

The problem with this is that Carnival runners were wildly hit-and-miss on the big night. For as much consistency as they showed in some races, it was completely lacking in others. HUNTER’S LIGHT, who trounced rivals in the last two editions of the Maktoum Challenge, did nothing for Godolphin in the big race. Overcooked, I suppose.  International runners took the first three positions in the $10 million event, reaffirming the belief that America can in fact win the big race, and that a big galloper like Red Cadeaux is usable in the big race. Even SIDE GLANCE running a solid race to stay on for fourth showed legitimate resolve that will keep all parties engaged going forward.


Dissecting a few performances with Trakus data

Shea Shea bolted in to win the Al Quoz Sprint, lowering his own course record by more than a half second, getting the best of Joy And Fun in the late stages. Both horses just bolted away in the second 400-meter segment.

Shea Shea – :23.72, :21.09, :11.62
Joy And Fun – :23.69, :21.01, :11.84

Despite running what was the second fastest, second 400-meter split, Shea Shea kept on and ran the fastest final 200 meters in a monumental performance. He is also aimed at the Royal Ascot meeting and we can’t wait to see it.

Lines of Battle may have kept on to win the UAE Derby, but Secret Number showed it was possible to run from off the pace and flashed home to get third after being well out the back. With 300 meters to run, Secret Number was an astounding 7 ½ lengths behind Lines of Battle before rattling off a final 300 meters in :18.84 seconds – which was 0.80 seconds faster than the winner. If he broke with the field and secured a more handy position, Secret Number could definitely have laid a claim to the top prize.

GENTILDONNA and ST. NICHOLAS ABBEY did wonders to stay on in the Dubai Sheema Classic. Each sectional time after the first 800 meters was a record for the distance at Meydan, and it got progressively faster as the race continued.


What we got right at the Dubai World Cup

1. HAATHEQ. The Ali Al Raihe trainee was one we suggested was most likely to grab a placing at a monumental pricing, and he did – getting second at 52-1 on the international tote. Amazingly, we didn’t cash a dime when our second choice, Soft Falling Rain got on top of our best longshot play with our third pick running third. Massive personal failure.

2. LINES OF BATTLE.  This guy just jumped off the page with his gaudy Trakus data from Santa Anita, the trainer’s record in the race, the friendly barrier draw, and then the likelihood he would prompt the pace.

3. MENTAL. We tossed him entirely from the Dubai Golden Shaheen and he ran accordingly. The stat of all runners beyond first-up from the Al Zarooni yard was a powerful one.  In our last post before the big day, we called Mental the overall favorite most likely to lose, and he did.

4. CAVALRYMAN. In some of our pre-race videos, we acknowledge little opinion on the race, but that he was the most proper two-miler in the race. He at least proved that.

5. The pace in the Dubai Kahayla Classic was going to be a barn-burner, and it was. Erwan Charpy was near inconsolable after VERSAC PY didn’t get up, but it was a mammoth run against the continually improving AL MAMUN MONLAU.

6. TRADE STORM was storming at the end, but he was an absolute play against given the company he kept. Still, he ran very well and credibly against the highest quality field he’s ever faced. While seemingly exposed on form, he seems to be finding more at this point in life and could keep progressing.

7. While we thought GENTILDONNA was better than ST. NICHOLAS ABBEY, she did cover more ground and on overall form, they did tower the field. The latter was possibly the most soaked horse we’ve ever seen in Dubai post-race – literally, the Breeders’ Cup Turf and now Dubai Sheema Classic winner was absolutely dripping.

8. GORDON LORD BYRON screams a 1200 to 1600 horse on grass with some slight give – Singapore here he comes? He should – we called him the worst short priced contender, having traded internationally around 5-1 for the Dubai Golden Shaheen all week, and he never got out of second gear.

What we got wrong at the Dubai World Cup…

1. As happy as we were to see Richie Mullen get a win, the performance of REYNALDOTHEWIZARD was really surprising. We thought the American speedsters would handle the track well, but it never happened. This guy is better than he’s ever been and proved it, even in spite of the very slow final time.  Three cheers for Richie, Satish Seemar, and the gang at Zabeel Stables, much deserving of the big win

2. How did Imperial Monarch not try to make the running in the held-up Dubai World Cup? He wanted his head so bad the first time by, and there was no letting him have it

3. SURFER was off the bridle following the snappy early fractions of the Godolphin Mile. As we said to some in the press room at the time, it might have been a sign as to the later performance from HUNTER’S LIGHT.

4. While we made it clear the Americans would walk away with a massive disappointment if they didn’t win the big one, we sided with the locally-prepped DULLAHAN over Animal Kingdom. Having unequivocally said that all three of the US-trained horses were eligible to win, we just had the wrong one.  Also, as we said, we’d gladly lose a tip to another American trainee…that happened.

5. We called the Dubai Duty Free the most confusing race of the night, and as it turned out, it was incredibly true to local form. Still, we just can’t get over the perfect trips Sajjhaa has worked out.

6. Thought Treasure Beach was a legitimate longshot chance to save ground and kick for home in the Dubai World Cup, but never got going. Back to grass for this guy, who could potentially be a chance at the Arlington Million.


Overall Thoughts

It was a truly international meeting with many winners the world over. Back when Meydan launched, the tag line was “The World Races at Meydan.” And it does. Horses came from five continents, and a sixth was duly represented via bloodlines. There is no such true global participation at any other meeting in the world, certainly not on the scale of what we see in Dubai. Two winners for Godolphin, two for South Africa, an America/Australian World Cup champion, Ireland managed two wins and a placing (which included the first two in the UAE Derby), plus a Qatari-owned, French-trained Arabian success, and a locally-prepared sprint success for the UAE.  Given the harsh conditions this winter in Europe, it would not surprise us at all if UAE shippers are highly successful early in the season there, especially in the UK and Ireland. Many have sights on Hong Kong, Singapore, Royal Ascot and the Arlington Million meetings. Another great season is in the books.

What’s Next?

We continue to track the runners from the Dubai World Cup meeting as they go forward and will be in attendance at the Singapore Airlines International Cup meeting in May, where we are likely to see several from Dubai take their chance. DubaiRaceNight remains active on Twitter and when little tidbits pop up from time to time, we’ll post them here and there.


One comment

  1. Big winners for Mike de Kock. SOFT FALLING RAIN is a really champion and so is SHEA SHEA…IGUGU ran a good race but she is looking for further now.

    Nobody would have beaten ANIMAL KINGDOM who was all class on the day…a real champion!

    SAJJHAA was amazing again.

    REYNALDOTHEWIZARD was game and repeated his prep race.

    ST NICHOLAS ABBEY is surely one of the best horses around at 12 furlongs.

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