Again, in non-consecutive order, here are some of the things we learned from Thursday’s sixth night of the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
It took until Saturday’s fourth race at a local meeting to really make the assessment, but we think it is fairly clear at this point. The warmer it gets, the faster the Meydan dirt plays. YEAR OF GLORY set a new course mark for 1,400 meters in this otherwise lackluster handicap, lowering the mark set by Mubtaahij in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial.
THA’IR winning and BERLING holding second in the 2,000m turf handicap that went off as the second race is about as strange as races come. BELGIAN BILL was the only horse to run on from well off the pace, and that sticks out as particularly strange because the pace was absolutely lightning. SLUMDOGMILLIONAIRE set the first 400 sectional, along with SCIGHERA, in a time of 25.31 seconds and the first 800 in 48.69 seconds. That was a record for the first 400, and the second-quickest ever recorded at Meydan for the 800. The standard times for this trip are 26.52 for the opening 400 and 50.46 for the first 800.
Tha’ir and Berling tracked that pace and then basically took off after leaving the backstretch and stayed-on, with almost no impact from the backmarkers. Count us surprised by that, especially as Berling was 60-1 on the tote. PILOTE made a menacing move around the turn and completely flattened out (what we are now realizing is fairly regular for him). ALMOONQITH simply stayed-on, along with most of the rest of the field, bar the only horse who did what the fractions would have suggested was likely – Belgian Bill. In these instances, the suggestion when most of these meet next time is to avoid all of them and look for something new. Mental note made.
One thing we did clearly learn is that Tha’ir was none-too-interested in the dirt. Distanced behind shock winner Toolain on January 22nd, he bounced back in fine fettle. There might be more of those failed experiments turned improvements-on-a-preferred-surface still to come. Stay tuned.
MAFTOOL and MUBTAAHIJ put on quite the show in the UAE 2,000 Guineas, with the former bettering the latter by a slim margin. The visor really seemed to help Maftool, but the partnering with Paul Hanagan was surely a great assistance as well. Breaking well, Maftool settled just off the speed and the top two took over turning for home.
Does Mubtaahij want more ground? It seems like he has a stride much more suited to longer races as opposed to these shorter events, not bursting with speed, but rather a prolonged release. Mike de Kock indicated that he is indeed likely to come back in the Al Bastakiya on Super Saturday as opposed to waiting for the UAE Derby, and AJWAD would likely do the same. Speaking of Ajwad, he basically muffed the start and it was all over, but remains another who should appreciate more ground.
There is really nothing to take away against how well Maftool ran either. A top performance and one from which he can progress forward. Surely, Mubtaahij was coming back at him in the end, but it didn’t really matter in this spot.
What we were most taken with was how the race shaped, based on sectional times, compared to the Firebreak Stakes. The sectionals of the 2,000 Guineas came back as follows: 25.04, 23.24, 25.37, 24.04. The Firebreak sectionals: 25.13, 22.65, 24.53, 25.14.
It was almost as if the 3-year-olds took the far turn as a break and didn’t want to go too soon while the Firebreak just ran off as a standard dirt race. The 25.04 first 400 from the Guineas was the fastest first 400 recorded on the dirt at Meydan so far, and the final segment home in 24.04 was the second-fastest final fraction, bested only by Mubtaahij’s win on New Year’s Eve when he came home in 23.69 seconds.
We think both of these horses are really quite good, and both could have an impact in dirt races outside of the UAE, and hope they get the chance to show it.
Old REYNALDOTHEWIZARD. What a horse, really.
It’s most funny to look at his history before blinkers and after. This was his 23rd lifetime start and only the eighth with blinkers as applied by trainer Satish Seemar. He has five wins and a second, with earnings of more than $1.5 million, and he sure does require Richard Mullen to get after him. The team from Zabeel has always noted that Reynaldothewizard is an incredibly lazy horse, and if you judged his likelihood to perform at the race on the back of what he does at home, he might never leave the yard.
But yet again, Reynaldothewizard got it done, albeit by a much smaller margin, a narrow winner over another stalwart, KRYPTON FACTOR. Making his first start on dirt, he saved ground and ran on with aplomb, even coming back after being passed. There is presumably more to come. What was a rough 2014 Carnival campaign was seemingly salvaged at the end of the year when he came back with four races in a month and seemed to be back on some degree of the right track. Trainer Fawzi Nass seems to have him right, and he seems he will, indeed, be a factor going forward.
When SPEED HAWK ran into third, we couldn’t help but think that the Nad Al Sheba nature of the dirt at Meydan was truly setting us up for World Cup night. Speed Hawk? It feels as though any American speedsters that come over for the Dubai Golden Shaheen or the Godolphin Mile could easily handle this lot. Hong Kong’s RICH TAPESTRY is also one who could also swing back to the UAE, first-up, and turn the trick on the big night. While the sprinting races have been locally competitive, the days of the big money seem likely to expose the locals as a cut below the predominantly American dirt runners.
Still, take nothing away from TAMARKUZ, who has finally put it all together for Musabah Al Muhairi and team. He looked, on paper, the best horse with local form in the Firebreak and it all went that way in the end. GOLD CITY ran on from the rear but no one else did anything to threaten Tamarkuz and he earned the biggest win of his career.
BUSKER, impeded badly by ROMANSH after he clipped heels or stumbled (or whatever it was that happened to him), stayed on and got up for sixth, albeit well-beaten. But, considering he was so far behind earlier, the legitimate gallop he showed at the end was encouraging. Of course, BUSKER was a horse we’ve tipped this season over longer distances and seems appropriately spotted over longer trips. He actually had the fastest final 400 of the race, after having been stopped from running in the opening 400.
LIMARIO got a deserved win taking the last race of the night, and giving Doug Watson another success at the Carnival. Taken back off the front-end may have settled this guy well, and it also got Pat Dobbs another winner. ZAHEE covered 10 meters more than Limario, more than his margin of defeat.
ELLEVAL ran with credit and could still claim a race at some point, but MUSHREQ keeps moving backwards and it seems relatively unexplainable.
Notebook horses: Zahee, Krypton Factor, Busker
Tipping results: One winner and a few close placings. Still in the positive! 42 races – 9 first, 10 second, 1 third (US$2 ROI = $2.04)