International Thoroughbred Racing Editor & Handicapper: Geir W. Stabell 1992 - 2020
DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (G1)
Meydan 25 Mar 2017 – 2400 m / 12 fur turf
Horses presented with best Globeform past 24 months, sire, trainer, likely rider.
Globeform ratings are expressed in pounds. 1 length = 1,5lb over this distance.
122 - HIGHLAND REEL (Galileo) Aidan O'Brien / Ryan Moore
122 - JACK HOBBS (Halling) John Gosden / William Buick
121 - POSTPONED (Dubawi) Roger Varian / Andrea Atzeni
117 - SOUNDS OF EARTH (Neo Universe) Kenichi Fujioka / Christophe Lemaire
116 - SEVENTH HEAVEN f (Galileo) Aidan O'Brien / Seamie Heffernan
114 - PRIZE MONEY (Authorized) Saeed bin Suroor / Adrie De Vries
112 - EARNSHAW (Medaglia d'Oro) Salem bin Ghadayer / Mickael Barzalona
Sex weight allowance: Seventh Heaven 2kg (4.4lb)
JACK HOBBS has been aimed specifically at this event, after having been restricted to just two runs in 2016, and he is a very interesting contender. This big, strong son of Halling was one of the top 3-year-olds in Europe two years ago, when he ran second to subsequent 'Arc' winner Golden Horn in the Epsom Derby before slamming Storm The Stars by 5 lengths to land the Irish Derby. Jack Hobbs, who has always looked like the type to progress with age, was also third in the Champion Stakes that year, behind Fascinating Rock and Found (on a day when the ground was probably too soft for him). His 4yo campaign was eagerly awaited but unfortunately we saw little of him last year. What we did see on his second run, however, was encouraging. He made a fine comeback after injury when third in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last September. Having been sidelined since pulled up on his seasonal debut at Newmarket in April, Jack Hobbs was beaten just 2 lengths and 1 ¾ lengths behind Almanzor and Found, two of the absolute best performers in Europe last year. He ran to GF 117+ in the process, indicating that he will be able to return to his best this term. The Gosden trainee worked well at Chelmsford racecourse in England two weeks prior to the big day and he must have a big chance in the Sheema Classic. He is a possible improver.
HIGHLAND REEL, who normally sweats up quite badly before his races (without it having a
negative effect), completed a remarkable season last year and he must be one of the toughest turf runners around these days. He made all to win the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita in November, after having been very busy throughout the season in Europe. Dictating the pace, he had too much in reserve when Flintshire (who was given rather a lot to do) tried to challenge down the home stretch, and came home by 1 ¾ lengths. His stable companion Found, who had beaten him when they filled the first two places in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly, was back in third at Santa Anita. Highland Reel set his own pace also as he won the (admittedly sub-standard) King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and he an a good second to POSTPONED in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York. The Breeders' Cup Turf was his eighth run of the season, with the 'Sheema' being his first. Still, Highland Reel went for one more pot, in the Hong Kong Vase (which he won in 2015) but he was caught late by Satono Crown at Sha Tin. Postponed beat Highland Reel into fourth when they met here at Meydan twelve months ago but Highland Reel comes to Dubai a fresh horse this time and he has a good chance of revenge. Particularly since he may be the lone speed in this small field.
POSTPONED was a smooth winner here last year, and it was the first of three Group One wins on the trot for the talented son of Dubawi. He beat Japan's contender Duramente (who lost a shoe prior to the race) readily by 2 lengths at Meydan, and went on to win the Coronation Cup and Juddmonte International in England. The Coronation, staged over 1 ½ miles on Derby day at Epsom in June, became easy pickings. Postponed sailed home 4 ½ lengths in front of the filly Found, who was 1 ¼ lengths better than Postponed's pacemaker Roseburg. Postponed bypassed Royal Ascot later that month and a slight setback ruled him out of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July, a race won by Highland Reel. Postponed met Highland Reel when he returned to action in the International at York in August. Dropping down to 10.5 furlongs was no problem and he justified favouritism with a gritty 1 1/4-length verdict over the 'King George' winner. Dubai Turf contender Mutakayyef, who was hampered when Postponed edged right close home, filled third place. Postponed became favourite for the 'Arc' at Chantilly after this win but he disappointed in the French showpiece. While Found, Highland Reel and the stayer Order Of St George filled the first three places in a memorable sweep for Aidan O'Brien and his team at Ballydoyle, Postponed could manage only fifth, beaten 6 ½ lengths by the winner.
Roger Varian's star made his seasonal debut here at Meydan on Super Saturday, trying to win the Dubai City Of Gold again en route to the Sheema Classic but he was way below his best form and lost by neck to the race-fit Godolphin runner PRIZE MONEY. Much was made of how the slow pace worked against Postponed, and how he was boxed in at the top of the lane but truth be told; he did get his chance if good enough inside the final furlong, but failed to quicken and was really disappointing. Finishing less than a length in front of Emotionless and no more than two lengths ahead of the 105-rated Rembrandt Van Rijn is nowhere near what he was capable of last year. Another worry is how badly Postponed behaved when the stalls handlers were struggling to load him for the contest. He does look a dubious favourite for the Sheema, a race that has never been won back-to-back, and should be opposed.
SOUNDS OF EARTH ran the best race to date when second, beaten 2 ½ lengths by Kitasan Black, in last year's Japan Cup, having been fourth to the same rival in a G2 at Kyoto on his previous start. Ranked a notch or two below the very best in Japan, he can be no more than trifecta filler in this contest.
SEVENTH HEAVEN may have a better chance, as she has proved herself capable of Globeform 116 and gets a 4.4lbs sex allowance. That puts her right up with the top three on ratings, and it is worth bearing in mind how well fillies and mares have done in the Sheema Classic; Sun Classique (2008), Dar Re Mi (2010), Gentildonna (2014) and Dolniya (2015) all won this for the fairer sex.
PRIZE MONEY, who put up a couple of good performances in defeat in England last year, has improved this term and he managed to get the better of a below-par Postponed in the Dubai City of Gold. The moderate pace compromised him as much as the favourite, and he did well to come from the back to land the spoils. Interestingly, Globeform ratings show that his previous win (in a handicap) was a notch better (GF 114 – GF 112) and the City of Gold certainly was a bit of a false race. Nevertheless, Prize Money is in the form of his life and he could well make his presence felt once more. He would need to improve a few lengths to beat them all though.
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