Some time has passed and thoughts on the Dubai World Cup meeting have settled. Let’s dive into what was said about the winners pre-race, where things were right, wrong, or not mentioned at all (Toast of New York).
DUBAI WORLD CUP
#6 AFRICAN STORY is the best of the Godolphin chances and you can excuse his poor run last time when he slammed the gate with his head just before the race and was essentially concussed. Excuse him one bad race and he’s right in the mix on form. A legitimate outside threat, well-drawn, and with the leading rider of the Carnival. Compelling.
Surely you could justify a play at 17-1 on the tote off that, no? We tipped him third and he ran a blinder with a perfect trip. African Story loves the Tapeta, and continues the run of various streaks for World Cups run on the surface – having a recent race (21 days) and being well drawn. In the Dubai World Cup Superlatives post from Friday, we identified African Story as the “horse most likely to make a massive improvement over a Super Saturday performance.”
The win from African Story justified Saeed bin Suroor’s opinion from 2013, which yielded some massive head-scratching at the time. Then, bin Suroor said he believed African Story was better over the 2,000-metre trip of the World Cup, flying in the face of the form. How could he possibly contend that African Story was a better chance over longer given that prior to his 2013 Dubai World Cup try, he had never been over a distance longer than a mile? As the 2014 season would yield, African Story has matured, and with that age came the interest in going two turns. He was a fast-closing second in the Maktoum Challenge – Round 2 and seemed a most deserving choice to turn the table in the third round, only to have gashed himself in the stalls. All things considered, his run, beaten less than three lengths, had him well in the mix.
Who knows what will happen with the surface at Meydan, it’s really quite difficult to project. We said it countless times during World Cup week – the DWC does not yield the best horse in the world, just the best horse to manage the conditions in the world’s richest race. There is a massive difference. The world’s naysayers need to get over the fact that prize money does not equate status. Look at qualifying for the Kentucky Derby – in years past, the total amount of graded/group-level earnings determined who qualified for the race. Lowly Delta Downs created a casino-enhanced purse of $1,000,000 for their Delta Jackpot, earned the race Grade 3 designation, and boom – you won that race, you could loaf around and get connections a spot in the Derby.
Churchill amended the qualification method and assigned point values to performance in races viewed as legitimate class. In our own minds, it seems people are routinely moved to believe purse equates to quality, and it just isn’t always the case. So stop fretting about the “quality” of the Dubai World Cup – it’s as close as you will get to a playing field that does invite horses from all surfaces to try against unfamiliar, but quality foes, on one. You would almost never ever see Ron The Greek against Military Attack in the same starting gate. Maybe neither liked the surface, but by George, it was entertaining – and now we know.
As for others in the race, Mukhadram ran incredibly well, and Paul Hanagan got shifty in the final 300 metres, trying to implore his mount to find a bit more. While African Story is likely going to Europe for the summer, Mukhadram might hold the Dubai chances throughout the year over the grass with greater chance.
Yasunari Iwata may be a great jockey in Japan, but the bouncing along and Yakisoba-cooking-style of race-riding simply flies against the laws of physics. That’s the ride he gave #12 GENTILDONNA in the Dubai Sheema Classic last season. There may have been times it worked in Japan, but it didn’t work here, as the big mare was never able to get past St. Nicholas Abbey. Fast forward a season and the wildly capable Ryan Moore is on board, having had her home first in the Japan Cup. Last year, she covered 9 metres more than St. Nick, a non-hollow number considering their margin in the end was just more than the lengths-equivalent of 9 metres. She has to cover extra ground yet again with the draw, and it does leave some potential concern. Can Ryan Moore work out the trip?
There were some pieces going around most recently highlighting Ryan Moore as the best jockey in the world. Did he work out a trip or was his mount just the best, cause from these eyes, he sure seemed to get his mount in a load of trouble (or at least found his way into trouble). He was backed-into by a fading pacemaker in Festive Cheer, boxed about, cut down, and more. He yanked the mare across Cirrus Des Aigles, got out and still won relatively easy. This was a dandy effort, and a very deserving one, making it the second consecutive year where the previous year’s Sheema Classic second came back to win.
Cirrus Des Aigles covered 12 metres more than Gentildonna, as did fourth-placer Empoli, who gets our mark for the best overall non-placing effort of the night. After he was interfered by the expiring Mars, Empoli ducked in and ran on well, confirming our belief in his quality. It’s also worth noting four of the first five home were drawn in the four widest stalls.
The story of the race remains the absurd tactics of Denim And Ruby. How, oh how, was this filly on the lead, outrunning the defined pace horses Festive Cheer and Twilight Eclipse, and running exactly the opposite of her performances from Japan, coming from well behind? Clearly, she broke quick and just stayed there, really undoing all of her chances. Her performance ranks up there with Soldier of Fortune pace-pressing his own rabbit in the Breeders’ Cup Turf from 2008, the maiden Red Rock Canyon.
While there were many storylines emerging from the race, still, the Japanese mare deserved every dollar she earned when faced with adversity from various corners of her trip. She did it well, and became the third mare to win the race (Sun Classique – 2008, Dar Re Me – 2010).
DUBAI DUTY FREE
#2 JUST A WAY had an absolutely perfect trip last time in his prep race – sat on the rail the entire way, got an opening in the stretch, went straight through and it was all over. But more impressive was his win last autumn when trouncing Gentildonna in the Tenno Sho Autumn.
Put up to a rating of 130 after his overwhelming performance in the Dubai Duty Free, where is the ceiling for Just A Way? An incredible run to win this race by more than six lengths over the previously unbeaten Vercingetorix, on par with the best we’ve ever witnessed in Dubai.
Greatly assisted by countrymate Tokei Halo rushing forward, the sectional times set the table for someone to come from well out of it. The first 400 metres of the race were just 0.04 seconds off the record first 400 sectional, and each subsequent sectional was a new record, and by a widening margin. This was sensational.
#4 STERLING CITY is the lone visitor here only for this, and seems not without chance of replicating his best from Hong Kong.
Setting the morning line in America, it was a massive mistake putting this guy at 20-1, and it was made clear right from the start. But this performance suggested loads – the only horse with no experience on the surface was the winner, and he was probably the best horse in the race regardless of surface. That should really be suggestive to anyone looking to grab a slice – bring a good one and you have a legitimate chance.
Reynaldothewizard was surprisingly very far behind early and kept staying on to get fourth, but his early lack of action was just head-scratching. Richard Mullen was into him early, too, suggesting he just wasn’t picking up, but eventually got him going.
How about Joao Moreira? Superb on Amber Sky, and sublime on Sterling City – he had his mounts in the right positions to win and managed back-to-back successes.
AL QUOZ SPRINT
#8 AMBER SKY is a fascinating entrant here, and if either of the top two get overturned, it could easily be this guy. He goes to the front in straight turf sprints and doesn’t look back. The competition is lesser in these 1,000-metre races in Hong Kong, not the tops, so to speak, but he knows nothing else. Andrew Hawkins of the South China Morning Post, interviewed for the Dubai World Cup Comprehensive, declared Amber Sky as the best chance for a Hong Kong win on the night, strong words considering they have a total of eight starters on the night.
Well – he went on, kept going and didn’t stop. End of story. Amber Sky is a freak. We have to think Royal Ascot or Australia are on his ledger considering he isn’t going to find many other straight races like this one.
Shea Shea might have lost his chance with a slight stutter at the start, but it was still a superb race considering his early positioning. Ahtoug ran a career best all things considered, and the Meydan Sprint form was well-franked as a result.
Toast of New York.
Had nothing to say about the UAE Derby winner. He shocked. And frankly, how could he not? The UAE Derby winner had never come from outside of Saeed bin Suroor, Mike de Kock, or Aidan O’Brien. So a two-time winner of all-weather races at Wolverhampton overturning the big names was indeed as shocking as it seemed. But he did it well and got a great ride, so all props to the winning connections.
Asmar ran a very solid race to be second and has claims to move forward from this. Cooptado, who ran fifth from well off the pace, looks a type who could get involved in the action next season on the Tapeta.
DUBAI GOLD CUP
It’s worth noting that at least #9 SEISMOS has a prep coming into this race in 2014, having started straight off the plane last year. He’s capable of a big one from time to time and stays on just when you think he is all-in. He’s not the craziest longshot in the field, along with the always in touch #14 CERTERACH, who gives it a good go every time in the UAE.
You really couldn’t ignore Certerach who was pointed to this race a year earlier and encountered a setback and did not make it. He wheels back for hot connections who have finally figured how to win in the UAE and was incredibly competitive in his runs this season.
What made the difference was probably settling way out the back and getting a more patient ride than he had in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy. You could argue he was too close there and it made the difference settling farther out of it.
Two very different South African chances here – #5 SOFT FALLING RAIN coming back second-up, is the defending champion in this race. Meanwhile, #15 VARIETY CLUB was a dominant winner in the Firebreak Stakes, becoming the first horse all Carnival (regardless of surface) to make all the running and actually win. He was beaten by #10 SHURUQ when softened on the lead by the always game #12 CAPITAL ATTRACTION and Empire Storm.
Perhaps a slight bounce after the monumental Firebreak for Variety Club? You have to think he is very capable of moving forward and back to his best, but somewhat compromised by the draw. He is surely not going to be alone on the lead as Capital Attraction goes on with it, while main threat Soft Falling Rain has drawn incredibly well in gate five. Those factors make it very difficult to ignore Soft Falling Rain over Variety Club as the former is very likely to improve and have the better trip.
Well, that’s racing. Capital Attraction missed the break, Variety Club cleared to the rail and had it all his own way, and Soft Falling Rain could do nothing but stalk throughout. Had Capital Attraction been up front and pressing, maybe it’s a different story.
In the end, it was a brilliant decision for Derek Brugman, racing manager for Markus and Ingrid Jooste, as it seemed Variety Club would have been in trouble being a front-runner in the Duty Free with the crazy Tokei Halo in the mix. Another win for South Africa on the big night, a 1-2 finish in fact, and both horses still seem well in line to move forward from there, with the Champions Mile at Sha Tin mentioned as the likely spot for Variety Club.
Both #15 RABBAH DE CARRERE and #16 DJANIKA DES FORGES have been done off by the draw, but make sense wheeling back off good performances on grass at Abu Dhabi.
Some great rides yielded a rare 15-16 finish and this race was more a story about the true emergence of trainer Majed Al Jahouri, who is the best-kept secret outside the UAE. The man has trained up a storm this season, with more than half of all his wins coming in Group-level company, including the season-topper.
Well, that puts a wrap on the 2013-2014 UAE racing season. Another great one is in the books. We will have on-site coverage from the Singapore Airlines International Cup weekend in May, and potentially from Royal Ascot. Be sure to stay tuned throughout the offseason to track those who ran in Dubai, might run in Dubai, and thoughts and tidbits on racing around the world.