Well, it was an interesting week at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. We have quite a few scattered thoughts on performances, form comparisons, the international tote, and more. Here they are in no particular order.
Three dirt races on Thursday and all three were won by horses that made all the running. Does this mean closers need not apply? No. But it doesn’t hurt when you show speed, that’s for sure. Horses are still coming from off the pace and making an impression in the placings, and several just missed last week to win. This track IS NOT, repeat, IS NOT playing like a carousel. There are many out there who want to label the way it plays in a certain fashion and we simply are not willing to make that logical leap without more facts and time.
The one thing that really does catch us a bit off-guard is the number of repeat winners on the surface. If you’ve shown you like it and get over it, it’s gone over very well going forward. Through Saturday’s local meeting at Meydan, there were 51 races on the dirt track and they’ve been won by 38 horses. Twelve horses have won at least two races, with ONE MAN BAND becoming the first three-time winner. The others, for those keep track: FAULKNER, FILFIL, I’M BACK, LE BERNARDIN, MUAANID, MUBTAAHIJ, MUHTARAM, SATWA STORY, SHAISHEE, SURFER, and STATE LAW. Three of these got an additional win on the track on Thursday, while two more came on board Saturday. Experience, at least in some part, does seem to matter.
I’m Back did it much easier than his first-up win – this time saving all the ground and doing it from the front-end after covering loads of extra ground. As the Trakus Report from last week showed, TIZ NOW TIZ THEN and ARTIGIANO both seem likely to move forward showing they enjoyed this surface and were wide from the outset.
STORM BELT reminds us of a horse that prefers to be outside and free racing in the clear, because his on-rail performances in the last two races have certainly given that impression. When he got out in the latter stages last week, he was still fighting when it had looked like he was cooked a long way out.
In last week’s second race, who was making BANAADEER the favorite? Literally, this made NO sense. On the tote and on the UK books, Banaadeer was a clear favorite. Now, don’t get us wrong, this horse will be useful, did a few good things in South Africa, etc. But going against this field, which, not for nothing, included the Al Quoz Sprint second and fourth? How did we get 6-1 on Ahtoug? This was the second consecutive week of a Charlie Appleby trainee winning second-up in the UAE, after Safety Check did the business last week.
Full credit to Dean Ivory who was making his overseas debut with LANCELOT DU LAC, and nearly getting both he and Jim Crowley their first wins in the UAE. MEDICEAN MAN ran into some trouble after the field somewhat oddly came down the middle of the course and caught Harry Bentley in some tight positions. He came out and around the field and went home fastest of the lot.
We still think Ahtoug will come for this run more as part of a well-plotted campaign to reach peak fitness for the Al Quoz Sprint.
One Man Band became the first three time dirt winner at Meydan with his score in the local race on the card. Filfil, our top selection, almost got to him (and on the live look, we still thought he did, only to be replayed a brutal bob just at the post). Yes, you can close on the surface. Filfil has done it before and he did it again, and just missed.
Alain De Royer-Dupre was winless in 11 tries at the Carnival from 2008 through 2013, but got back on the board in a big way when CLADOCERA obliged in the Cape Verdi (G2) with a confident ride from Christophe Soumillon.
In hindsight, our tip of SLIPPER ORCHID was probably a big mistake, and she is really just a handicap horse. But the quality of this field was legitimately in question. ZURIGHA was a dull eighth the week before when UMGIYO ran down the field in the lane, and she rebounded to be second with a better trip.
Trainer Doug Watson has been having a phenomenal season. When Saturday’s local meeting ended, he had moved out to lead in the local trainer’s standings with 30 wins to Musabah Al Muhairi’s 27. Muaanid was no slouch leading all the way in the fifth race.
Here was another race where the international tote players really left us scratching our heads. While ANOTHER PARTY had run well behind SAFETY CHECK, there was no reason to think he was going to absolutely love the dirt. Though it couldn’t be ruled out, the punters went mad and made him the 7-5 favorite in the race. We expected Encipher, our top selection and value play of the day, would be ignored in the betting, and he was, off at 16-1…but United Color at 12-1? Madness. United Color had finished ahead of Muaanid in the Dubawi Stakes and was now almost 2.5 times his price? It was madness.
But we will say this – when some out there seem to ignore what is clear dirt form…that makes for fun hunting!
Isn’t it great to have VERCINGETORIX back? He made swift use of True Story to win the Al Rashidiya, who could not move forward off the Singspiel win, whose form seems fairly well held in this spot, as SANSHAAWES finished about as far behind True Story in this race as he did last time. The win gave Mike de Kock his seventh tally in the race from 16 previous runnings.
It also looked like Vercingetorix loafed on the lead once he hit the front, hence Christophe Soumillon getting back into the guy who has now three of four starts in the UAE. We are thinking they will wait until the Jebel Hatta (G1) on Super Saturday and aim to get a big run in the Dubai Duty Free (G1).
HUNTER’S LIGHT hasn’t seemed all that interested in winning of late, but got a massive class drop and it sure showed, landing a very strong final race handicap.
The pace was quicker than standard for this affair, and it showed as CASTLE GUEST and SCIGHERA finished well out the back. Even the 1,400+ day-off returnee EAVESDROPPER made a big run. We maybe should have known that MUSHREQ and PILOTE were slightly in trouble when True Story didn’t run as well as we expected in the Al Rashidiya, but take nothing away from the winner who was very deserving of accolades.
ELLEVAL ran another good one and is certainly useful for trainer David Marnane, while we were quite taken by the run of ALMOONQITH who took a big step up in class, ran closer than most of those who were near the finish, and still came home with some gusto.
Racing resumes at Meydan on Thursday with the UAE 1,000 Guineas and the second round of the Maktoum Challenge (G2).
Horses for the notebook: Almoonqith, Artigiano, Encipher
Tipping performance: Another one-win night on Thursday, but had the winner in our first three selections for each race. Five of the runners we put up to run second actually won. Oh, what could’ve been! Carnival-to-date: 28 races – 7 first, 8 second, 0 third ($2 ROI = $2.66)