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Meydan: The fields are drawn and the feast just a few days away!
Geir Stabell takes an early look at all nine races set for a fantastic Dubai World Cup day at Meydan on Saturday, and selects three horses to consider for each race. This is where you will find the guide to a couple of nice ante-post bets for the big day, as well as some interesting facts and stats.
Part of the Dubai World Cup Special subscribers only
RACE 1 KAHAYLA CLASSIC
Seraphin du Paon and Nieshan finished first and second in this race last year. They have continued to trade punches this winter, most recently when Nieshan won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three (G1) on Super Saturday. Nieshan took charge 400 metres from the winning post and was 2 comfortable lengths too good for his nearest rival, Timadit Al Mels.
Seraphin du Paon ran below his best but still took third, 6 lengths behind the winner. Nieshan is an improving challenger and he deserves to be favourite as the Purebred Arabians, a fundamental part of the history of horseracing, open the show on World Cup night. He gained back-to-back wins in the final leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge Series and his success here on March 10 was the second time he beat Seraphin du Paon this winter. Nieshan bettered Seraphin du Paon also when they met in the HH President Of The UAE Cup (G1) over 2200 metres on turf at Abu Dhabi in February. After an exciting tussle, Nieshan managed to finish a quarter of a length in front. His stamina won the day. Seraphin du Paon also stays well, however. He won the 2011 Kahayla Classic by being ridden from off the pace early before making smooth progress to join the leaders with 200 metres to go, and get the upper hand in the closing stages to beat Nieshan by a length. No Risk Al Mauri finished third. He had been second to Jafeer in the 2010 edition of the Kahayla Classic.
These are solid formlines and perhaps we will get a repeat of the 1-2-3 finish we saw on Super Saturday.
All thoroughbred racehorses trace back to three Purebred Arabian stallions exported to England: Godolphin Arabian (born 1724), Darley Arabian (b. 1700) and Byerley Turk (b. 1684).
RACE 2 - GODOLPHIN MILE
African Story is unlucky not to have won his first three races this year and he will he hard to beat on the Godolphin Mile. The ex-French runner prepped with a solid 4-length win over Snaafy in the Burj Nahaar (G3) on Super Saturday, when he improved to Globeform 119. The race was run over the same trip as the Godolphin Mile. He has been on an upward curve throughout the Carnival. After having carried top weight to victory in a handicap over 1400 metres on turf in January, he stepped up in class in the Firebreak Stakes (G3) over 1600 metres on the Tapeta surface last month; but was blocked twice at the finish before dashing late to take third, beaten only a quarter length by the winner, his stable companion Sandagiyr. Both these smart milers joined Godolphin from France this winter. Sandagiyr was a Listed winner for HH the Aga Khan in France, while African Story was placed in Group 3 events over 1400 and 1600 metres.
Western Aristocrat is representing England but his biggest win to date came in New York, when he led all the way for a comfortable win in the Jamaica Handicap (G1) over 1800 metres at Belmont Park last year. He beat the favourite Brilliant Speed by a length, though was much the best and value for more than the bare margin indicates. Brilliant Speed had previously won a Grade 3 at Saratoga and he went on to run a good race for third to St Nicholas Abbey in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) in the autumn. Western Aristocrat himself also ran once more in 2011, and was a fine third behind Ultimate Eagle and Imagining in the Hollywood Derby (G1) in November. He came with a strong finish from the back that day, after his rider had held him up in order to save energy for the latter parts of the 10-furlong trip (2000 m.). That was probably a mistake, since it meant Ultimate Eagle enjoyed having things all his own way up front just like Western Aristocrat did in New York. This Godolphin Mile contender has done most of his racing on turf course, but he did win also over the artificial track at Kempton in England last year and Tapeta should not inconvenience him. The distance also suits him well but what about the likely pace scenario? This event is often run at a fierce early pace quite different to what he encountered when gaining his G1 win last year. .
DO IT ALL
It is not at all unusual for Godolphin to run more than one horse in this event and, although African Story is the likely favourite, it is easy to see why the sponsors have decided also to run their US import Do It All. He made a most favourable impression when returning to winning form in the Zabeel Mile (G2) over 1600 metres on the turf course in February. Jockey Silvestre de Sousa, who has signed up with Godolphin this year, rode an excellent race on the five-year-old. He sent him straight to the lead and set a sensible pace, keeping something up his sleeve for the finish, where Do It All responded well. This son of Distorted Humor won an allowance race over a mile at Del Mar in California last year, defeating the useful stakes performer (and favourite) Massone by Ύ length this also after leading every step of the way. So we know what to expect when this guy breaks from the starting stalls.
This race has been won seven times by the race sponsors, Godolphin, and Frankie Dettori has ridden the winner six times no other jockey has managed more than one success.
RACE 3 - DUBAI GOLD CUP
Opinion Poll raced nine times in 2011 and was only once worse than third. He was beaten twice by the Irish star Fame And Glory, and Opinion Poll himself won two prestigious races over 2 miles (3200 metres). He beat another horse representing the 'boys in blue', Lost In The Moment, by a head to win the Goodwood Cup (G2) in July. Three weeks later, he travelled to the big York meeting , to contest the Lonsdale Cup (G2). The competition was tougher and many also wondered how Opinion Poll would keep his form, after though races in the summer. Prior to his win at Goodwood, he had been second to Fame And Glory in the Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot. These events had not dented his enthusiasm, however. As always, Opinion Poll looked an absolute picture in the paddock at York. Duncan, who went on to win a Group One on his next start, proved a stern rival but Opinion Poll held him by Ύ length. In the autumn, Opinion Poll had to settle for second twice, at Doncaster and Ascot (behind Fame And Glory), and he was runner-up on his seasonal debut at Meydan, when Fox Hunt beat him by 2 ½ lengths in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3). Opinion Poll may have needed the run last time and he could well bounce back to winning form on World Cup night. Frankie Dettori has chosen him over Fox Hunt.
Fox Hunt has managed something not many other stayers have, namely to beat Opinion Poll. He did so when they met in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) over 2800 metres at Meydan on March 1. Ridden by Dettori, he kicked for home some 400 metres from the winning post. Opinion Poll, partnered by Mikael Barzalona, was settled at the back of the field. He advanced easily to get into an attacking position but Fox Hunt had got first run on him and kept on well to score by 2 ½ lengths, while Opinion Poll took second. Can Fox Hunt come out best again? Of course it's possible but the longer trip favours Opinion Poll and the fact that Fox Hunt had already had a run this year prior to the Nad Al Sheba Trophy is also worth bearing in mind. Opinion Poll had not raced since finishing second to Fame And Glory at Ascot almost five months earlier, and he was in need of the run.
Mikhail Glinka won the Queen's Vase (G3) over 2 miles, approximately 3200 metres, at Royal Ascot in England as a three-year-old, when trained by Aidan O'Brien. He has since joined Herman Brown, and also had spells with Gary Moore in England, and this son of top class stallion Galileo is interesting in the Gold Cup. He has come back to form at the right time, that's for sure, as he won the Dubai City Of Gold (G2) on Super Saturday. Mikhail Glinka went straight to the lead in the 2400-metres contest, and that's where he stayed, until passing the winning post a solid length ahead of Cavalryman. In top form, and being a proven stayer, he is likely to make an impact here.
Godolphin's stables have done well in staying races in Europe over the years, and trainer Aidan O'Brien campaigned the famous Yeats to four consecutive wins in the historic Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot, before Fame And Glory took over the mantle last year.
RACE 4 - UAE DERBY
Last year, Ireland's top trainer Aidan O'Brien saw his colt Master Of Hounds lose the UAE Derby (G2) by just a head. Master Of Hounds (who is now with Mike de Kock) had been sixth in the Breeders' Cup Turf in America on his previous start. This year, O'Brien saddles Wrote for the UAE Derby. This colt also ran in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and he won the race. His chances in the Meydan classic are second to none. Wrote won two of his three starts in Ireland last summer, before being moved up in class in the Royal Lodge Stakes (G2) over a straight mile at Newmarket in England. He did well to take third behind his stable companion Daddy Long Legs. Six weeks later Wrote touched down in Kentucky, where he was to win the Juvenile Turf (G1) over a mile around two bends at Churchill Downs. His strong finish was far too good for his 13 rivals, as he beat Excaper by 2 Ό lengths, with the English challenger Faaraaj a close third and Lucky Chappy fourth. Lucky Chappy is also aiming for glory in the UAE Derby. He was 3 ½ lengths behind Wrote at Churchill Downs but has improved since. Improvement can also be expected from Wrote, and he is the logical favourite.
Like World Cup contender Animal Kingdom, Lucky Chappy represents Team Valor International and trainer Graham Motion. This son of Derby and Breeders' Cup winner High Chaparral began his career in Italy, where he won two of his three races before being sent across the pond. He has had four runs Stateside without winning but in his Dubai prep, the El Camino Real Derby (G2) in California, Lucky Chappy was just a nose away from success. Daddy Nose Best lived up to his name that day, and beat Lucky Chappy in a very close finish, and it is worth noting that Daddy Nose Best won the Sunland Park Derby (G3) last weekend. The El Camino Real is run over about 1800 metres over a Tapeta track, and as such an ideal preparation for the UAE Derby over the same distance at Meydan.
Lucky Chappy's three previous races in the US were all on turf. He was second in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last autumn, prior to a crack at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs, where he managed fourth behind Wrote. Lucky Chappy made his 3yo debut in the Kitten's Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January, a month before the trip to Golden Gate Fields, and was a fast finishing second to his stable companion Howe Great (who beat the Group 1 winner Dullahan on his next start). Lucky Chappy is bred to stay at least 2000 metres, and that is also how he runs, normally delivering a strong run from off the pace. The UAE Derby is a contest that should suit him well.
YANG TSE KIANG
Representing France, Yang Tse Kiang got ready for his trip to Dubai in the best possible way, by winning his first race of the year at home. He took the Prix du Lieutenant over 1900 metres on the new Polytrack at Chantilly in early March, beating the odds-on favourite Orcus readily by 2 ½ lengths with the two others runners in the race well beaten. Yang Tse Kiang was much the best and this run confirmed the promise he had shown as a juvenile. The Prix du Lieutenant favourite Orcus had been second in two stakes races in 2011, when Yang Tse Kiang won once and finished a good second to Loi in the Prix de Conde (G3) over 1800 metres at Longchamp. Loi is reportedly being trained for the Derby Stakes (G1) in England this year so it is safe to say that Yang Tse Kai has been keeping smart company.
Since this classic was introduced in 2000, only two trainers have won it; Saaed bin Suroor (7 wins) and Mike de Kock (5 wins). Will this incredible stat be broken in 2012?
RACE 5 - AL QUOZ SPRINT
Sole Power has been a bit hit and miss over the years but he is a Group One sprinter when on song. His most recent start, in the Meydan Sprint three weeks ago, indicated that he is as good as ever. He finished strongly at the end of the 1000 metres contest, and was unlucky to lose by a nose to Invincible Ash, who was carrying 2kg less than Sole Power. Nocturnal Affair finished third. Sole Power was making his seasonal debut and if he improves a bit with that run under his belt he will be right up with the best again. His first big win, in the 2010 Nunthorpe Sprint (G1) in England, came as a bit of a shock, as he was a 100-1 shot and beat champion sprinter Starspangledbanner. Sole Power winning on Dubai World Cup night 2012 would not be such a surprise.
REGALLY READY Breeders' Cup winner
Regally Ready disappointed on Super Saturday but we should never dismiss a contender based on one poor run. This is a serious racehorse. Handled by Steve Asmussen, trainer of the brilliant 2008 Dubai World Cup winner Curlin, Regally Ready is the best turf sprinter in North America. Regally Ready won last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill Downs. Racing over 1,000 metres, he beat Country Day easily by 1 ½ lengths. He had previously won the Nearctic Stakes (G1) over 1,200 metres in Canada, where he was neck better than Bated Breath, one of the best sprinters in Europe. Regally Ready is a fast horse who normally has that little extra kick at the finish. He is also an experienced runner, with big race wins at high profile venues like Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, and Woodbine.
JOY AND FUN, a very tough and experienced Hong Kong sprinter, won this race two years ago, when defeating Godolphin's Fravashi. California Flag, top turf sprinter in the US at the time, finished third. The evergreen nine-year-old has raced 13 times since, with another two wins to his name the most recent in the Chairman's Prize (G1) over 1200 metres at Sha Tin in February. The race drew a field of twelve runners, with Lucky Nine a strong even money favourite. Joy And Fun managed to beat him by Ύ length, with Sunny King third. Lucky Nine advertised the form by landing the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (G1) a month later (when Sunny King was once more third). The indications are loud and clear; Joy And Fun is as good as ever.
Run over a straight course, this is a race where stalls positions should not make much difference. Early speed is good but while all three previous winners were prominent throughout the contest, all three runners-up came with a strong finish from the back.
RACE 6 - GOLDEN SHAHEEN
The Golden Shaheen will be some race this year, and racing fans from various corners of the world will be pointing at three different names as the favourite. Meydan fans will probably say it is Rocket Man, who was second in this race in 2010 and won it in 2011, while Australians will not be able to see past their win-machine Sepoy, and North Americans will be just as hot on The Factor.
Californian ace The Factor first showed his class by winning the Pat O'Brien Stakes (G1) at Del Mar last August, after a long break caused by injury. He went straight to the lead, and sped around the 7-furlong Polytrack to win by almost two lengths. A couple of uninspiring efforts were to follow, but this grey colt has bounced back in great style. He produced one of the best performances seen in the US this winter in the Malibu Stakes (G1) on December 26. It was his fifth win and the sixth followed two months later, as he landed the San Carlos Stakes (G2) from Sway Away and Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Amazombie. The Malibu and the San Carlos are both run over 1,400 metres at Santa Anita, but The Factor captured these races, and last year's O'Brien, much thanks to his blistering early speed. The shorter distance of the Golden Shaheen will not inconvenience him. Big chance.
Last year's winner, the brilliant Rocket Man is also the undisputed champion of Singapore. He took his A-game to Meydan twelve months ago, when he beat the US challenger Euroears by 2 Ό lengths. Euroears, a stable companion to one of this year's contenders, The Factor, has been one of the best sprinters in the US over the past few years. That he was able to brush such a rival aside without any sort of a fight developing, confirmed that Rocket Man is a world class performer. He went on to win two Group One sprints over 1200 metres at his home track Kranji in May, both by open lengths, and his preparation for back-to-back wins in the Golden Shaheen went smoothly too, as he cantered home well ahead of inferior opposition in the Kranji Stakes on March 4. That was also the race he used, and won comfortably, when getting ready for Dubai World Cup night in 2011.
A winner of 10 of his 12 races in Australia, Sepoy is an exciting young sprinter. His name was soon well known in his first season, as he took the Blue Diamond Stakes (G1) over 1200 metres at Caulfield on his fourth racecourse appearance. Sepoy showed blistering speed to beat Hallowell Belle by over four lengths. He suffered his first defeat next time out but came right back when it mattered to win the famous Golden Slipper Stakes (G1) at Rosehill in April 2011. Again tackling 1200 metres, Sepoy was always up in the firing line, showed a great turn of foot and won comfortably by 2 lengths from Mosheen. Five new straight wins were to follow, including in the Manikato Stakes (G1) at Moonee Valley and Coolmore Stud Stakes (G1) over 1200 metres during the Melbourne Cup feast at Flemington. Early speed and a strong late kick was again his way of getting the glory, albeit by just a head from Foxwedge this time.
Trainer Peter Snowden gave Sepoy a break after this, in preparation for trip to Dubai. Sepoy was brought back in the Oakleigh Plate Handicap (G1) over 1100 metres at Caulfield in February. He was facing a tough task under top weight, and had to settle for fifth place, beaten Ύ length by the winner, Woorim, who was carrying 3kg less than Sepoy.
Sepoy was not as sharp as we know he can be last month but that was only a starting point to the new season, and he is ibviously is in with a good chance in the Golden Shaheen.
9 of the last 12 winners of this big sprint were horses representing the USA.
RACE 7 - DUBAI DUTY FREE
AWAIT THE DAWN
Await The Dawn is another classy performer from Aiden O'Brien's team. This 5-year-old has race only eight times in his career, winning five times, and he is open to further improvement. That's a bit scary to his rivals, as Await The Dawn already has some solid results on his CV.
He an unusually strong seasonal debut last year, when cantering home by 4 ½ lengths from Distant Memories in the Huxley Stakes (G3) over 10.5 furlongs at Chester in England, and he was to prove the form to be no fluke in the summer. He was sent to Royal Ascot in June, and looked even better there; winning the Hardwicke Stakes (G2) over 1 ½ miles with incredible ease. Await The Dawn dominated throughout the home straight and took the race as he pleased, beating Harris Tweed (GB) by 3 lengths. (PS... keep this (GB) for Harris Tweed as there is also a top Australian horse by the same name)
The sky seemed to be the limot for Await The Dawn but difficult times were ahead. He was disappointingly dull when only third of five behind Twice Over in the Juddmonte International (G1) at York in August, and came back a very sick horse. A long break was needed, but Await The Dawn made a full recovery and he returned to racing action in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs in November. O'Brien won the race, with St Nicholas Abbey, but Await The Dawn failed to fire and finished seventh. He is better than that showing, much better, and he is an interesting Duty Free contender.
Dark Shadow was favourite for the Kyoto Kinen (G2) over 2200 metres in Japan last month but the step up in distance may have been a contributing factor to his defeat, as Trailblazer beat him. It was a promising start to the new season. Last year, Dark Shadow won two valuable events over 1800 metres. He took the Epsom Cup (G3) at Tokyo racecourse in June, 2 ½ lengths clear of Able Chairman. Four months later, Dark Shadow confirmed his class landing the Mainichi Okan (G2) as the even money favourite. He did not have such an easy time of it that day, and he showed his battling qualities to come out best in a close finish involving four horses. He beat Real Impact by a neck. Mikkie Dream was another neck away in third, finishing just a head in front of the fourth placed Esihin Apollon who is also being pointed at the Duty Free. Real Impact had previously won the Yasuda Kinen (G1), while Eishin Apollon improved to win his next to races and achieved success at the highest level in the Mile Championship (G1). Dark Shadow himself came up half a length short of another win in the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) over 2000 metres at Tokyo in late October. Tosen Jordan who spoiled the party for Dark Shadow, while the favourite Buena Vista could only managed fourth. Four weeks later Buena Vista won the Japan Cup (G1), with Tosen Jordan second, giving Dark Shadow's form a boost.
Presvis won the Dubai Duty Free (G1) last year, when delivering his trademark finish to get up for a Ύ-length win from River Jetez. Wigmore Hall, who had beaten Presvis into third when they prepped in the Jebel Hatta (G2), was now the one who had to settle for that placing. The French trained Royal Bench finished fourth and Californian invader Victor's Cry came home in fifth. It was a truly international finish, and we can expect a similar scenario this year. We can also expect to see Presvis playing a prominent part. The race was too slowly run in the early stages when he made his seasonal debut in the Al Rashiyida (G2) over the Duty Free trip in January. Presvis is always at the tail of the field and needs a strongly run race to produce his best. Like in last year's Duty Free, when he finished very fast to pass tiring horses in the home straight. He has followed the same path as last year, via a run in the Jebel Hatta (G2) on Super Thursday, and Presvis finished ninth behind Master Of Hounds. Presvis was once more unsuited by the way the race was run and he looked like a horse in need of the race and it is the big day that matters.
An outside starting stall is tricky over this distance, but not impossible; both Elvstroem (in 2005) and Jay Peg (2008) won from stall 14, while Linngari (in 2007) and Presvis (2009) both managed second from stall 16. Presvis had stall 6 when winning last year.
RACE 8 - DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC
CIRRUS DES AIGLES
Cirrus des Aigles, a battle hardened gelding from France, came into his own a last year, when he topped an excellent campaign with a win over So You Think in the Champion Stakes (G1) at Ascot . Cirrus des Aigles could also have gone for the World Cup but a test run over the new Polytrack in France this spring proved that he is happier on turf. Cirrus des Aigles was beaten in the Prix Hotel Meydan, by the German trained Zazou, and his trainer Corrine Barande-Barbe immediately said that she would stick to turf with him. He was not as explosive as he is on turf, she reasoned.
Cirrus des Aigles also took Grand Prix de Deauville (G2) over 2500 metres at Deauville and the La Coupe (G3) over 2000 metres at Longchamp last year. He is as versatile as he is tough, and runs to his best over distances ranging from 2000 to 2500 metres. He was a good second to Sarafina, one of the best fillies in Europe, in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) over 2400 m. last June. Going back to springtime we find another interesting result, as Cirrus des Aigles was runner-up to Goldikova in the Prix d'Ispahan (G1). He's resume sure is solid.
ST NICHOLAS ABBEY
Joseph O'Brien (18), son of trainer Aidan, became the youngest jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race when riding St. Nicholas Abbey to success in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs last October. On World Cup night, the combination will try to follow up in the Sheema Classic (G1), a race run over the same distance as the BC Turf.
St Nicholas Abbey and young Joseph teamed up in a race for the first time when in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) at Ascot last July. They finished third, behind Nathaniel and Workforce. Joseph made no mistakes. Therefore the job was his again in the Arc de Triomphe (G1) in Paris in October. The competition was even hotter, and St Nicholas Abbey took fifth, 6 lengths behind the surprise winner Danedream. St Nicholas Abbey he had also landed the Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom in June. The son of Montjeu must be tough, to have been able to keep his form, both physically and mentally, for a big effort in America on November 5, seven months after he had made his seasonal debut.
This five-year-old comes to Meydan with a serious winning chance. Having missed most of his three-year-old season due to a setback, he has a low mileage and could improve again.
Beaten Up will be the least experienced runner in this competitive field, but he may well be the most talented. Having won all his three races in England last year, he is totally unexposed and his Globeform rating says that he is not far behind the very best turf horses around. In fact, it is likely with a horse at this stage of his career to improve markedly, and Beaten Up has a good chance. Unless, of course, lack of experience gets in his way. That seemed to be case when he turned up for the Worthington's Champion Shield St. Simon Stakes (G3) at Newbury last October. Beaten Up, who is a big strong gelding, was quite immature in the preliminaries and it seemed unlikely that he would have the right focus in the race. It did not affect his performance, however, and he swept to an impressive 4 1/2-length win over the favourite, Al Kazeem, who had been just half a length behind Green Destiny on his previous start. Barbican, a Dubai Gold Cup contender, finished third behind Beaten Up at Newbury, giving the form an even stronger look.
Five of the last seven winners of the Sheema Classic were five-year-olds and, though the four-year-old Rewilding won last year, horses aged five filled second, third and fourth and this is a significant stat.
RACE 9 - DUBAI WORLD CUP
SO YOU THINK World Cup favourite
So You Think, a New Zealand bred runner who was a champion in Australia before being sent to Aidan O'Brien's powerful Ballydoyle stables in Ireland ahead of last season, will get a lot of attention at Meydan. He kept up the good work in Europe last year, winning three Group One races, and when considering a trip to Dubai for this horse, O'Brien had just one race in mind; the Dubai World Cup.
His last long haul trip, to the Breeders' Cup in Kentucky last November, was fruitless, but So You Think is much better than his sixth place finish at Churchill Downs would suggest, and bookmakers in England have him as their Dubai World Cup favourite.
With 12 wins from 20 runs, and several solid performances at the highest level, So You Think is experienced and versatile. Over the past two years, he has performed well on eight different racecourses, and this is just the type of horse you want for big international events. Though it needs mentioning that he is coming off three defeats now. The first came in Paris. So You Think could not win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1), where he was given too much too do over a distance that is too far for him. He finished fourth in Paris. Two weeks later he put up yet another good performance in England, to be a close second to Cirrus des Aigles in the Champion Stakes (G1) at Ascot. Prior to these placed efforts, So You Think had won the Eclipse Stakes (G1) at Sandown (from Derby winner Workforce) and the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown (beating Snow Fairy). He was also an easy winner against overmatched rivals in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) at The Curragh in Ireland last spring and run second to Godolphin's Rewilding in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot.
The Dubai World Cup distance of 2,000 metres is his ideal trip and So You Think is markedly better than stable companion Cape Blanco, who managed fourth in the World Cup last year. To say that he has a big chance is hardly original.
ROYAL DELTA taking on the boys
Royal Delta has yet to race against the boys but it would be unwise to underestimate this girl, representing trainer Bill Mott. Mott sent Cigar to Dubai to win the first World Cup in 1996. Royal Delta is no Cigar, but she is high class. She won the Alabama Stakes (G1) and Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (G1) last year. At the Breeders' Cup, she fought her way past It's Tricky, and drew off to beat her by 2 ½ lengths. This was Royal Delta's fourth win in 2011, four wins gained over four quite different tracks, including one over a synthetic surface. She should handle the Tapeta track. Her main asset is stamina, and the quicker they go up front early on, the better it is for Royal Delta.
She made her seasonal debut in the Sabin Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream in February, but was trounced by Awesome Maria, who beat her by 8 lengths. Three factors combined to create such a comprehensive defeat for Royal Delta; the distance (1700 metres) was too short for her, the winner is a top class miler, and the short run from the bend to the finish line gave Royal Delta no chance of catching up. In other words, the World Cup will be altogether different.
GAME ON DUDE looks better than ever
Chantal Sutherland, the leading female jockey in the USA, has ridden Game On Dude in his five most recent races, and she was also the pilot when he broke through at the highest level by winning the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap (G1). Game On Dude took that race by only a nose, and more close finishes were to follow. He lost by a nose, to First Dude, when the two Bob Baffert trainees filled first and second in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), and half a length was the margin when Game On Dude outbattled Awesome Gem to take the Goodwood Stakes (G1) in October. This set him up for a trip to Churchill Downs in Kentucky the following month, to take part in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
Miss Sutherland, who fills some of her spare time doing modelling, also travelled east, as Baffert had no plans to change jockeys on the big occasion. Sticking to the winning formula paid off, as Chantal rode a superb race. Leading from start to finish is more or less unheard of in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but that is exactly what she set out to do. Game On Dude led the 12-runner field and had plenty of energy when he flashed into the home straight. He fended off attack after attack. Until another longshot, Drosselmeyer, came flying from the back and went by for a 1 1/2-length win.
Game On Dude was given a rest after this and he returned in the San Antonio Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita in February. Chantal had no worries. She guided him to a comfortable 5 1/4-length win over Uh Oh Bango, who had won a similar contest on his previous start. Judged on this showing, Game On Dude is even better this year. Prominent runners have done well at Meydan this winter and the track should be to his liking.
The Dubai World Cup was run on a US style dirt-track when staged at Nad Al Sheba racecourse, and US raiders won 8 of the 14 editions at the previous venue. Americans do not have the same advantage these days, as the Tapeta course also suits turf horses well. Japan supplied the first two home in 2011, Victoire Pisa and Transcend.
Last update: 2012-03-30 01:44:08 (First published: 2012-03-26 05:49:01 )
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