There have been 63 races on dirt at Meydan through Thursday’s seventh Carnival meeting but only 44 horses have actually recorded wins. For some reason (and maybe you share this sentiment), that seems remarkable. The following horses have recorded multiple wins on the Meydan dirt this season:
Faulkner, Filfil, I’m Back, Layl, Le Bernardin, Local Time, Muaanid, Mubtaahij, Muhtaram, One Man Band (3 wins), Reynaldothewizard, Satwa Story, Shaishee, State Law, Storm Belt, Surfer, Tamarkuz, and Year of Glory. Of these, the only ones to manage those wins in Carnival races are Reynaldothewizard and Tamarkuz.
Thursday’s races saw it happen on the grass too – in fact the last five races were won by horses who had all won during a Carnival meeting this season. HUNTER’S LIGHT took the Dubai Millennium after an earlier handicap win. CLADOCERA completed the Cape Verdi-Balanchine double. DARK EMERALD won consecutive turf handicaps. More on all of them later.
As for the dirt, I had an interesting back-and-forth with Dubai racing fanatic, tipster blogger and Jim Gilchrist. The general topic – is there a bias on the Meydan dirt? To us, bias is a strong word. It intimates that because of some quality (being inside or outside, being forward or behind, for example), one’s chances are improved. Again, solely based on that individual quality. As such, it would suggest that there is a bias on the Meydan dirt if horses go forward and keep sticking around on the front end.
Horses that raced on or close to the early pace in dirt races have done exceptionally well, but they HAVE NOT performed beyond expectations. Basically, they’ve done as well as you might have expected them to do provided they took to the surface at all. When something “strange” happens (a horse winning at big odds), horses have subsequently backed-up that original performance and left the impression they just straight-up liked racing on the dirt.
I’M BACK winning on opening night at a hearty 22-1 on the international tote was confirmed when he wheeled back two weeks ago and did it again, easily, at 6-5. TOOLAIN may have won at 123-1 and shocked (he also was one of the few winners to not run on or close to the early pace, but rather running from mid-pack). This week, he came back and ran a great second at 12-1, facing some traffic issues too.
Horses that failed on the dirt first-up and suddenly find themselves racing forward in a subsequent start aren’t staying-on and winning. Form is holding and those that have had some excuses are firing back with decent efforts. We are of the opinion that being handy doesn’t necessarily help or hurt, but might just show that a particular horse can at least get over the track. Being forwardly placed, on its own, does not help or hurt chances to win a race. That would be a bias, and if that actually were the case, we would see some head-scratching results (something that was fairly frequent on the all-weather). That has NOT been the case.
On to recapping the seventh week of the Carnival…
We would be remiss to not mention how great it was to see MANARK win the Bani Yas (G2) for trainer Erwan Charpy. An absolute legend of the Dubai turf, Charpy’s yard has seen its quality take a massive dip in the last few years. But the captain of Green Stables puts on a good face, still gets a few good ones with plenty of issues, and keeps at it. He’s seen it all in the UAE, has Charpy, and earned his third win from 57 starts this season, matching his same total from last year over 69 starts. Erwan always has an opinion and he lets you know it! Seeing Manark streak away to a ludicrous 9-length win likely brought a smile to many on course.
CASPIAN PRINCE was probably ignored a bit too much off his third placing on opening night, when he was just 1 ¼ lengths behind HOTOTO. Their prices were significantly different after a failed dirt experiment. As a player, though, an analysis of the form suggested nearly half the field was going to engage in a front-end scrum. Instead, everyone looked around as Richard Hughes took the Anthony Carroll-trained gelding to the fore and it was race over. The 6-year-old became only the second horse in the last four years to win on the front-end down the straight course after Amber Sky did it in the Al Quoz.
The final time of this dash came back as the third-fastest time recorded over course and distance. Do they go on to the Meydan Sprint (G3) on Super Saturday? It’s the best way to have a chance to run for the big money. Caspian Prince was promoted to a rating of 111 while Hototo was actually upped to a 112 and BANAADEER, impeded through the stretch run, got upped to a 109.
Mike de Kock suggested Banaadeer was very likely to improve off a first-up run against Ahtoug, and he was right. This was a very good performance, beaten 1 ¼ lengths. He is eligible for the Meydan Classic next week and that could be very interesting if they wanted to try 1,400 meters.
JAMESIE came home with the fastest final fractions in the race, and is likely over 1,200 meters this week. Expect improvement.
LAYL was put up to a rating of 104 after starting the season with a rating of 87 back on January 15, taking a local race at a Carnival meeting. A week after getting caught late by stablemate Jeeraan, who appeared a beaten foe, Layl was equipped with a visor and it paid dividends immediately.
Scandinavian trainee GIFTORM ran a much-improved race over a shorter trip and off the bottom of the handicap to get second while former American trained ROMANSH rebounded from a Firebreak disaster to claim a well-beaten third. HAATHEQ did his normal thing and ran on for fourth from well back. We expect Layl will probably go on to the Burj Nahaar, where a decent showing, likely against Tamarkuz, could yield a Godolphin Mile entry.
HUNTER’S LIGHT did what we expected winning the Dubai Millennium, but UMGIYO proved himself worth of the class step, promoted to a rating of 112 from a 108. Decisions are likely to not be easy for either over the duration of the Carnival, but group-level is likely.
STORM BELT got another winner for the Watson/Dobbs pairing taking the fifth race handicap. The story, for us, was to see TOOLAIN really prove his affinity for the track. While we doubted some of his gusto after a win at more than 100-1 a few weeks back, he ran on again and found some trouble in the stretch. ARTIGIANO, wide from the jump two back, covered more ground again, but still showed that dirt can be his game.
I’M BACK stumbled, going to his knees at the break, and was never involved. He likely ran his race at the start and was reported back from the race lame. James Doyle did not persevere, and we are expecting that was his last start of the Carnival.
We tried to go against the Cape Verdi fillies, but it just didn’t happen. CLADOCERA is clearly the best of this bunch and she ran into the absolute crawl without turning a hair. SUZI GOLD just didn’t have it. Whether she wants more ground, encountered some other issue, was compromised by the dawdle, or just isn’t good enough – who knows?
DARK EMERALD made 25 starts in his three-year racing career before being sent to the UAE for a Carnival engagement. He earned approximately $98,000 in those 25 races. Since being at Meydan, he has two wins and a second, beaten a neck after a very troubled trip, and earned an astounding sum in excess of $193,000…yes, just in those three races, bulky handicaps where he faced fields of 15, 14, and 15 rivals. Cases like this are exemplary of the state of racing in some jurisdictions where the financial model may not be the best. Dark Emerald was tried over jumps, twice, at the end of 2013, with nothing to report.
Brendan Powell and his team could have been proud of one win, but two wins and a second – just phenomenal. What’s next? Maybe a try in next Saturday’s Zabeel Mile. Dark Emerald was put up to a rating 112 from 106.
Saeed bin Suroor is well out in front with 13, but how about Doug Watson, who has now moved into second in the Carnival trainer premiership. Meanwhile, Richard Mullen, on six wins, is a somewhat surprising second in the Carnival jockey premiership and is two clear of several tied for third with four. James Doyle leads on nine.
Notebook horses: Banaadeer, Jamesie, Fils Anges
Tipping results: Two winners and a second from the tips, but it could have been better. 49 races – 11 first, 11 second, 1 third (US$2 ROI = $2.04)