A doubleheader of racing last week in the UAE – let’s review what we learned from a pair of Carnival meetings ahead of Super Saturday.
It’s amazing what can happen when you break with the field. A small and suspect group, combined with a good start, gave PRICE IS TRUTH the opportunity he needed, taking full advantage and running away to a Carnival win. He was difficult to trust given his antics in his two Carnival attempts previously, completely blowing the break. But credit to the Seemar team for getting him right.
It didn’t hurt that Price is Truth caught a sketchy bunch. Godolphin’s STRATEGICAL, our selection in the race, looked a bit crooked throughout, and was reported by the vet to have returned lame. We were against RAFEEJ completely after he was reported to have made respiratory noises in his last race (when we tipped him), and he showed things still were not right. On the tote, he was a wildly short 3-5 and we didn’t even pick him in the top three, running fourth beaten more than eight lengths. Small “victories” matter at the races, and if you can find 3-5 shots that you don’t like, in the least, more often than not, you can find a way to make out well (not the first time this happened on Thursday). In this six horse field, the commingled tote trifecta came back 13-1, 7-2, 5-1 – returning a hearty 405-1. That’s astounding.
We simply cannot explain the dramatic form reversal with PIT STOP, who won the second race. He was basically used as a pacesetter for Hunting Ground in what was probably the worst of the local races on a Carnival card all season. Then he showed no interest, and was literally carried out as wide as possible and not persevered with when beaten 20 lengths over course and distance. Where he could have been helped was the fact that they went absolutely blazing away on the front end.
The times on the dirt were generally faster than standard on the night, but the first two races were new records, and the fifth race saw a record fall as well. The 1,200m split in Pit Stop’s race, 1:11.81, was 0.40 seconds quicker than the previous fastest split set in Surfer’s Maktoum Challenge – Round 1 win, and 0.50 faster than Tamarkuz in his Firebreak win. Pit Stop came from far off the pace, and that speed may have helped in soar home, but it was still a massive reversal in form.
LOCAL TIME is clearly flying. She has now won six on the bounce, three on dirt, one on grass, and two on all-weather. While many of the times on the night were fast, this race was the opposite. A small field with a tactical pace arrangement saw it run like a turf race, incredibly slow early with each subsequent 400m split faster than the one before it. The filly by Invincible Spirit had no issue with the added distance and ran away from the field.
Major kudos to George Baker and his team with RUNNER RUNNER. Third in the UAE Oaks, she has earned roughly $40,000 for the three race campaign. As we tweeted this week – what else has your three year-old filly in the UK done this year? Not to mention, her shipping to the UAE was free.
Another class example of the Carnival was VOLATILE, winning the Meydan Classic for his Swedish syndicate, getting Jessica Long her first UAE training win, and proving yet again that a decent horse belongs in the UAE this time of season. MASTERMIND ran well yet again and may have been compromised by the wide draw that forced him to use some extra petrol to get to the front. The first two home were well clear of WYCHWOOD WARRIOR, who put in another dandy off a wide draw, while QUARTERBACK ran on well again for even more Scandinavian connections.
TASHBEEH did have to cover extra ground in the race, going eight meters more than the winner, but really just did not have the punch that would have landed him in the top two. Another who we advised avoiding, he was sent off as the 5-2 favorite on the commingled tote.
Silvestre De Sousa finally got to the winner’s circle in a Carnival race this season when MASHAAREF surprisingly made all over the dirt to defeat MUAANID and SHAISHEE, a 1-2-3 for the owner. The surprising move was that Muaanid did not break on top after having made every yard over the course and distance in a win last time out. PAZOLINI, meanwhile, was terrible, and backed into ludicrous even money favoritism. A horse with ambitions likely for the Dubai Golden Shaheen, he seemed wildly underspotted in this race, a sign that showed us little confidence.
SAFETY CHECK ended a rough patch for trainer Charlie Appleby, who went winless from his previous 15 starters. The second placing from Strategical in the first race from Thursday represented the closest an Appleby trainee had come to the #1 box in the winner’s enclosure. Of Appleby’s four winners to this point of the Carnival, three have come from Safety Check while Ahtoug provided the other. Safety Check is done for the Carnival this year, but could be aimed over similar spots back in the UK.
DARK EMERALD ran a great second and seems likely done for the Carnival, although there is an outside chance he could be supplemented for one of the races like the Godolphin Mile. We’ve written about him before, but it goes well worth repeating. This horse earned about $98,000 from 25 starts in Europe and over $243,000 from four runs in the UAE. You just have to love the Carnival.
FLYING THE FLAG has been a horse with some clear issues, taking quite a long time to come to hand for Mike de Kock. A former runner with Coolmore, this was just his fourth start for de Kock, and his first placing (let alone, win). Jockey Johnny Geroudis told us he thought the outside ground was best and with the temporary rail out to its farthest point, Geroudis didn’t have to go too far to find what he perceived the best going. It’s a particularly beneficial win for the dedicated ownership of Wilgerbosdrift Stud, Mary Slack, and Mr. Michael Javett. Nice, more hospitable folks you are unlikely to find.
Saturday’s races brought us a mixed bag but one clear storyline – how about Paul Hanagan. Just like that, he took four races, three which count towards the Carnival, and propelled him to a second, three behind James Doyle, who was riding in Australia for Godolphin.
NOLOHAY landed the opener in his first dirt start, going forward and making all the running. Trainer Musabah Al Muhairi indicated he will wheel back on Super Saturday and try the Burj Nahaar. That decision seems a bit curious considering Al Muhairi also has TAMARKUZ for the race, a likely favorite. As Tamarkuz does his running from the front, Nolohay will likely have to chase as this race did not give the impression he can match the speed Tamarkuz showed.
JEERAAN cleared over from the outside, ran on the front again and found the 2,200 meters no worry. The pace in this race was quicker than the 1,600m first race, which is fairly hysterical considering the added distance. This guy could be a Carnival campaigner next season for the Watson yard.
What can you say about HEAVY METAL? It’s tough to pick those types of horses in these types of races. He made 16 starts in 2014 and was first-up, first-dirt, and in a field that included six runners that at least placed in starts on the Meydan dirt. Mickael Barzalona had this guy under a ride from a long way out and he just kept coming.
Barzalona picked up his second fine on the week for using the whip to excess after being booked for the same with his ride on Pit Stop, his third of the Carnival as well. Jockey Wayne Smith was suspended for Super Saturday after collecting his fourth excessive whipping penalty of the campaign, which would lead you to believe one more for Barzalona could see him sit for a day.
It was likely one of the weakest overall races of the Carnival, off the ratings. MUSIC THEORY, the top weight, was trying dirt for the first time, and South American import HIGH BLADE just didn’t show his customary early speed and packed it in early off a wide draw.
ERTIJAAL made the Abu Dhabi form stand up admirably with a win two weeks ago in the HH The President’s Cup over 1,400 and made every yard of the 1,200-meter handicap. This was the fifth start of the season for the son of Oasis Dream, bred in Ireland. Owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, this is just one of two horses of the same name (and spelling) in his global string. The other is likely to come to the Carnival next season for Mike de Kock.
JAMESIE and EASTERN RULES were particularly disappointing in that they couldn’t get closer, as was ZAHEE, who came home last. Ali Jan has had a good run in the UAE, and his FILS ANGES keeps knocking on the door.
HENRY CLAY had the rail, a race with relatively little other pace, and took the advantage from the outset. TENOR was legitimate in his second, covering 19 meters more than the winner, a distance that equates to roughly seven lengths. FOOTBRIDGE was bad, and our prognostication that his appearing in a handicap was not a good sign became reality.
ALMOONQITH had the pleasure of being the benefactor of a frenetic pace set by FIRE FIGHTING in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy. Ridiculous, really. The early splits were ridiculously faster than the par times, established over eight races in past years. The time for the first 1,600 in the race was 1:39.1, more than five seconds faster than the 1:44.8, the previous fastest split for the trip.
The race was marred by the injury sustained to CAVALRYMAN. He was put down after a post-race evaluation revealed the damage to be too great. He was a warrior – a nine-year-old entire with more than US$3 million in earnings and 20 finishes in the top three from 38 starts.
HAAFAGUINEA ended the night on a winning note for Saeed bin Suroor after our pick SILENT BULLET ran well, but wide, while ELLEVAL saved ground but was much too far back to get through in time.
Next week – it’s Super Saturday. An earlier start to the races as things get going at 4:00pm in the UAE. We will return with full analysis, the AmWager preview show, and more!