It’s hot in the UK at the moment, but it is certainly a bit hotter over in the United Arab Emirates. It is from there on Saturday that Dubai World Cup night will be staged, the culmination of this year’s racing carnival. In anticipation of such a star studded card, Tim Carroll, our International Racing Correspondent who is currently in the UAE, has kindly put pen to paper and thrown up a few of the key players to concentrate on. If that’s not enough, make sure to check back on Saturday when Alan Hughes will also be wading in with his assessment of who to lump on out in Meydan.
The former Andre Fabre inmate African Story now with Godolphin has been in terrific form during the carnival. He returned from a 5 month break when winning a handicap at Meydan in January before finishing 3rd to the stable companion Sandagiyr in a race that was not run to suit. African Story was last seen when recording an impressive 4 length victory in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar over course and distance on Super Saturday. This lad thrives on the tapeta surface and has been drawn nicely in stall 4. Frankie Detorri is booked to ride and has expressed his positivity that this horse is his best chance of a winner. African Story is the current market leader at 7/4 with William Hill.
This year’s carnival hasn’t produced a 3yo of any note. For this reason, I am looking toward those that have been shipped over recently for this race. Ballydoyle have both Wrote and Daddy Long Legs engaged. Daddy Long Legs won the Group 2 Royal Lodge at Newmarket in September when 4.5 Lengths ahead of Wrote, and wasn’t seen again until the Breeders meeting when failing on the dirt at Churchill Downs in the Grey Goose Juvenile. Provided he has recovered from the trip to the States there is no reason he cannot figure here.
However, I am siding with his stable companion Wrote. This High Chaparral 3yo was a dominant winner at the Breeders Cup and although behind Daddy Long Legs in the Royal Lodge he has always given the impression he had more scope for improvement. He has proven he can cope with travel and although on the tapeta for the first time his run on the dirt at the Breeders Cup would suggest he is a versatile type. Another positive is the booking of Ryan Moore to ride. Although it can be difficult to deduce exactly who is the preferred rider for Ballydoyle, Moore would have had the pick of the yard for this race. Wrote is available at 4/1 best price with Stan James.
Another horse with an undeniable chance in this race is the Godolphin owned and Australian trained entrant Helmet. The most experienced runner in the race who already has 3 Group 1 victories to his name. Although it can be difficult to line up the Australian form, it is worth noting that Helmet was one of the more fancied runners when taking on the older horses in the 2011 Cox Plate (a race won twice by So You Think) which is the premier WFA race in the Southern Hemisphere. On that occasion he led before tiring and not seeing the 2040m trip out. He is officially the highest rated animal in the race and when interviewed during the week his rider Kerrin McEvoy was of the opinion that he would relish the tapeta surface.
Al Quoz Sprint
This race is run over the straight 5f on the turf. Low numbers are drawn on the inside of the course. Speed is the name of the game here and although a strong 5f type can win the race it is worth looking for those that get further as they burn early up front and tend to set it up for those at the back. One horse that will be suited to the way the race will be run is the Paul Messara trained Ortensia. A Group 1 winning sprinter in Australia, she has won her last two starts – the latest victory coming in the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes over 6f at Ascot. She has form up to 7f but her optimum distance is 5-5.5f where she has won 3 from 4. She has been set for this race and goes well fresh having won first up last campaign and finishing 3rd to the wonder sprinter Black Caviar the campaign prior. Ortensia is 10/1 with SkyBet.
Last years King Stand winner Prohibit is another who will be suited to the way the race will be run. A hold up type, his two runs at Meydan during the carnival have only been fair but this is the race they have targeted and expect the Robert Cowell runner to be there when the whips are cracking. Prohibit can be backed at 16/1 with William Hill.
Regally Ready is a high class performer who had a very good 2011 winning 6 races in total including the Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine (beating Bated Breath a neck) and the Grade 2 Breeders Cup Turf sprint at Churchill Downs. His overall record on turf is 7 from 12 and he is 3 from 4 over the 5f trip. Regally Ready was last seen when having his only start here in Dubai and a shade disappointing behind Invincible Ash. However, he will have taken benefit from the run and his trainer Steve Asmussen knows what type of horse it takes to win races in Dubai. Regally ready is also available at 16/1 with William Hill.
Rocket Man holds all the aces here. He is the 2ndhighest rated sprinter in the world behind Black Caviar and won this race last year. He has won 19 of his 25 career starts, but even more impressive is his record on artificial surfaces where he has won 8 from 9 and would have been 9 from 9 except for pilot error here in 2010. Rocket Man has only finished out of the top two on two occasions and that was in Japan 3 starts ago and in Hong Kong (poorly drawn) on his penultimate start. He was tuned up for this with an easy kill in a minor sprint race at Kranji Singapore earlier this month. This proven world class performer hasn’t always had the best of luck at the draw but has managed to land the prime 1 marble here. Felix Coetzee will have him up on the speed and should get the run of the race from there. Viewing him this week, he looked very well within himself during track work. Rocket Man is currently best price with Ladbrokes at 11/4.
Sepoy is considered along with Hay List as the next best sprinter in Australia after Black Caviar. He has won 10 of his 12 starts including the Group 1’s Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper as a 2yo. He suffered only his second defeat last time out when drawn poorly carrying top weigh in the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate beaten 3/4L. However, that run was awarded a rating as high as any of his victories such was the effort. The main concern for this Godolphin owned 4 year old is if he will take to the tapeta surface with his rider Kerrin McEvoy notably cautious when questioned. If he handles the tapeta, then Sepoy (4/1 PaddyPower) ranks as the main threat to Rocket Man.
Dubai Duty Free
Mutahadee is a high class performer from the Mick De Kock yard. Formerly with Tommy Stack in Ireland, he was in the frame in all 3 starts including the Royal Whip at The Curragh and Kilternan Stakes at Leopardstown. Mutahadee won his first two starts here at the carnival including an impressive 4L victory over Viscount Nelson in January. He finished 3rd to Master Of Hounds on his last start on Super Saturday, however there were legitimate excuses as he was given plenty to do and finished strongly despite not getting the clearest of runs. Christophe Soumillion has the pick of the rides for De Kock in Dubai and opted for this one over Musir, surely a sign in itself. Mutahadee can be backed at 7/1 with Ladbrokes.
Await The Dawn won three in a row last year before getting sick and taking a stint on the sidelines. He was brought back for the Breeders Cup Turf over 1.5 miles where he acted as a pacemaker for his stable companion and eventual winner St Nicholas Abbey. Ballydoyle have had a few months to get this horse right and has undoubted ability having won 5 of his 8 starts. One of the best looking horses in training, if they can get him back to form he would take all the beating here. The slight concern is that several of the recent arrivals from Europe have been noticeably sweating up during track work in what has been a very warm last week of March even by Dubai standards.
Dubai Sheema Classic
St Nicholas Abbey (10/3 William Hill) was an impressive winner of the Breeders Cup Turf in November, finally fulfilling the promise he showed early on in a career that has been restricted by problems. Winner of the Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Ormonde Stakes at Chester, his final start in Europe was a creditable 6th in The Arc on a rock hard track that suited those on the speed. St Nich will act on good going and should appreciate the long sweeping run-in at Meydan. Returning from a break shouldn’t be a problem but keep on eye on him prior to the race as he often sweats up even in cooler climates and wont want to get too warm here.
Cirrus De Aigles is one of the highest rated middle distances horses in the world who was only denied a shot at the Arc due to the cruelest of snips down below. He is a nice strong type who won the Champion Stakes at Ascot defeating World Cup favourite So You Think by 3/4L. The French raider followed that with a disappointing run when 5th to California Memory in The Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin in December. The prep race for Meydan was on the AW at Chantilly in which he was surprisingly beaten by Zazou, although he is very smart performer in his own right (also on the card). Cirrus Des Aigles (3/1 William Hill) should come on for that run and is expected to improve here. He is a tough and consistent sort who will give you a good run for your money.
Dubai World Cup
So You Think (5/2 William Hill and PaddyPower) is without doubt the best credentialed horse in the race having recorded a staggering 126 official rating on no less than 6 occasions. This monster joined Ballydoyle last season and won the Mooresbridge Stakes, Gold Cup at The Curragh, The Eclipse, and Irish Champion Stakes and in the process defeating the reigning Derby/Arc winner Workforce and dual Oaks heroine Snow Fairy. His only defeats in Europe were when 2nd beaten a neck by Rewilding in the Prince of Wales when he was arguably pressed on too soon and a 5.75L 4th to Danedream when given far too much to do in the Arc. His season began to look disspointing when beaten into 2nd by Cirrus Des Aigles in the Champion Stakes at Ascot., followed by a 6th place finish at the Breeders Cup behind Drosselmeyer. He over raced with blinkers applied and was stuck in the worst part of the going along the fence for most of the race. So You Think is a 10 furlong specialist and versatile enough that the tapeta should not pose a problem. Coolmore wouldn’t bring him over here if he wasn’t fit enough. I watched him walk the track a couple of times earlier in the week and it was noticeable that he was a muck lather of sweat. However this race is run at 9.40pm local time and he doesn’t have a history of sweating on race days. More of a concern could be the fact that no horse has won this race since 1999 (Almutawakel) without a prep run.
Like many American gallopers who can get a trip, Game On Dude has plenty of pace and will more than likely use it to get across from the wide draw in 14. He is a Group 1 winner at the distance and should have won the Breeders Cup Classic (So You Think 6th) but for running on the worst part of the track. He Won his prep race for this and has the right run style for the World Cup. The only negative is the American horses have ceased to be so dominant at the meeting ever since the old dirt track was closed and replaced with the tapeta at Meydan.
Capponi reminds me of several World Cup contenders over the years who appear to be out of their depth but still perform well on the back of a successful carnival. He was only seen once in 2011 and Godolphin have shown plenty of patience with this 5yo. Capponi was first past the post in a handicap here in January (disqualified after failing a drugs test) and then was too strong when defeating Disa Leader by 3L before winning round 3 of The Maktoum Challenge by 4L from Silver Pond. He has the perfect on-the-pace style for this race and acts on the tapeta. He is stepping up in class but looks a major player in this, buoyed by positive comments from his jockey who fancies a place finish for sure.