We aren’t quite certain we can recall a six-race Carnival meeting where more performances really had us excited about the possibilities going forward. Let’s review what we learned (and didn’t) from the sixth night of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival. As always, pictures are available via Cedric Lane (UAE Racing Pictures).
- Sanshaawes was tipped up as our best bet of the day in the opening event on Tapeta, over the Dubai World Cup trip of 2,000 metres. He won, and did it well. The competition was generally lesser than what you’d normally expect, but Sanshaawes impressed. The handicapper only moved him up to a 105, hardly blowing the lid off of his rating. The second-place run from Storm Belt might have pushed a few off raising his handicap substantially, getting into the race off the reserve list and only being put up a pound. Considering Sanshaawes needed the run into form, and proved he can get over Tapeta, we might not be shocked to see him stakes company by the end of the Carnival.
- What is there to say about Long John? It was an explosive kick, and he very quickly separated himself from the rest of the 3-year-old competition winning the UAE 2,000 Guineas in a romp. Emirates Flyer proved he can get over extra ground, and Wednaan stayed-on well and should come on for this run. A few of the others just didn’t pick-up at all. Regardless, holding-back Long John seems tough given what we saw in this spot.
- Vercingetorix was unbeaten in four starts, including a Group 1 win, and somewhat surprisingly only rated 108. He was put up to 113 after his tally from late running Code of Honor and Forjatt. Gabrial ran an even fourth, continuing to perform well at the Carnival. As trainer Mike de Kock said in the Dubai Racing Comprehensive, Vercingetorix was the worst traveler of the lot, so this performance, first-up, has to be significantly encouraging for the team representing South Africa. The time from the race was fairly slow relative to par, and that seemed likely to help Vercingetorix stay-on. A win over the Dubai Duty Free trip of 1,800 metres should also fruitful, and we’d expect to see him stay on this path through the Carnival.
- Keeping the South Africa theme going, Variety Club was ridiculously impressive with a first-up win in the Firebreak, doing it on the front-end, and through VERY strong early fractions. Granted, the field for this year’s renewal of the Firebreak was less than stellar, but that was a Godolphin Mile second behind him, and Empire Storm ran lights-out in the Maktoum Challenge – R1 when he was second behind Shuruq. The start of the official final timer was triggered by hand, so the race doesn’t count as a course record, but it should count as such in the minds of viewers. Where does he go from here, over farther in the Dubai World Cup, or staying within the parameters of the mile? Back on grass? It’s a tough call, and serious discussions will be had with Joey Ramsden, Mike de Kock, and the owners.
- Don’t forget that Soft Falling Rain and Shea Shea, two winners from last year’s Dubai World Cup meeting, are STILL in the barn at Blue Stables for Mike de Kock. Possibly they’ll come out for a prep on Super Saturday, or maybe go straight for the World Cup meeting.
- Russian Soul so totally deserved a win in the Al Shindagha Sprint after four seconds in the UAE. He was campaigned exclusively on the grass at last year’s Carnival, with credit, and seems best suited amongst the local sprinters, where really, just about all of them seem to run similar races from time to time, taking turns. Jamesie had another solid run when second, surely delighting connections. This division remains wide open.
- The strangest performance of the night, but an encouraging one, came from Complicate in the Al Shindagha Sprint. A Godolphin import from Australia, he broke on top and led after the first 100 metres, before being allowed to loaf back in the field. He was seventh after the first 400 and with 400 to run, was 11th of 14. He covered plenty of extra ground and was one of the fastest to close, finishing third. You have to think if he didn’t break as well as he did, spending a bit of extra petrol early, he might have had a greater say in the result. This might have been the most impressive non-winning performance of the night, and he’ll be third-up in his next start.
- We ignored Songcraft in our analysis, and given the way he’s run first-up, including at Meydan, it was a mistake. He did not make an appearance last year, but was a first-up winner in 2012 when landing a few blows in handicap company before finding bigger race a bit much. Meandre ran a good one, and Sheikhzayedroad continued to show that his win was aided, in some respect, but the outlandish pace set by Energizer earlier in the campaign.
- It’s worth noting that all three South African winners on the night, Sanshaawes, Vercingetorix, and Variety Club were quite lathered in the neck. We get rather peeved hearing some suggest it’s a bad sign when that happens, not knowing whether or not it is typical of the horse in question, and have seen quite a few “very washy” horses win big races in recent years. Shackleford in the 2011 Preakness Stakes and Chinchon before the Singapore Airlines International Cup of 2012 are good examples.
- Perhaps the best Dubai World Cup prep of the weekend came from Ron the Greek when winning on his Saudi debut for trainer Nicholas Bachalard in Riyadh. The win was a second consecutive score dating to his last American start for former connections. Can he go on the Tapeta? He does have one all-weather start to his name, a fourth beaten about four lengths at Keeneland on Polytrack in a conditions race from April 2011, where he was running-on at the end.
- Racing resumes at Meydan on Thursday with the Balanchine Stakes (G2) for fillies and mares, along with the newly upgraded Dubai Millennium Stakes (Listed) over 2,000 metres on grass.