International Thoroughbred Racing Editor & Handicapper: Geir W. Stabell 1992 - 2021
DUBAI WORLD CUP 2015
FREE RACE PREVIEWS
DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (G1)
Meydan, March 28 – 2410 metres turf
Globeform Ratings are expressed in
pounds (1.5lb = 1 length over this distance)
120 HARP STAR (f)
123 DESIGNS ON ROME
120 MAIN SEQUENCE
115p DOLNIYA (f)
115 JUST THE JUDGE (m)
117 ONE AND ONLY
116 TRUE STORY
Main Sequence beating Flintshire at the Breeders' Cup
Harp Star, Just The Judge and Dolnia get a 2kg (4.4lb) sex weight allowance.
Please add 4.4 to their Globeform ratings for direct comparison with the males.
Recent form may be deciding factor
HARP STAR tops the ranking based on her best form in Japan last year, an off-the-pace win over Gold Ship in the Sapporo Kinen (G2) over 10 furlongs in August. She had previously won the Japanese 1,000 Guineas (G1) over a mile and finished second in the Japanese Oaks (G1) over a mile and a half. Her finish in the Sappora Kinen was visually impressive, as it had been also in the Oaks, and she ran another game race from off the pace to take sixth in the 'Arc' at Longchamp in October. Her rider gave her far too much to do that day, and she stayed on at the finish – passing the post 4 ½ lengths behind the winner, Treve. Back home, she produced a similar performance in the Japan Cup (G1) just under two months later, finishing fifth, 5 ½ lengths behind Dubai World Cup contender Epiphaneia. Her seasonal debut, in the 11-furlong Kyoto Kinen (G2) last month, was disappointing. Harp Star may have needed the run but checking in fifth, beaten by Lovely Day, Suzuka Devious, Kizuna and Red Davis, who all gave her weight, was not very inspiring.
What we have here is a filly sitting high on the rankings as a result of one GF 120 run, with three performances well below that level since. Its hard to fancy such a contender, even in a race where fillies have done well in the past. She needs a strong pace to be fully effective, and that may not be what she gets here.
DESIGNS ON ROME is much more solid. This Hong Kong champion must have an excellent chance. He is coming off three straight wins at Sha Tin, he went through his prep earlier this month without breaking too much sweat, and he is capable of Globeform 123 – which seems likely to be enough to win this edition of the Sheema. Designs On Rome maintained his great momentum by winning the Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) three weeks prior to World Cup night. As always finishing fast from well out the back, he beat the 2013 UAE Derby (G2) winner Helene Super Star (ex-Lines Of Battle) easily by 1 ¼ lengths to book his ticket to Meydan. He won the Centenary Vase Handicap (G3) under top weight three weeks earlier, and the Hong Kong Gold Cup was Designs On Rome's eighth win from 17 career outings. One of the top performers at Sha Tin, the John Moore trained Designs On Rome, a five-year-old gelding with three Group One wins to his name, looks a strong contender. His ideal distance is 2000 metres (10 furlongs) , but Designs On Rome normally finishes his races off very strongly and stretching out to 2400 metres could actually be to his advantage. He came from a long way off the pace also when winning the Hong Kong Cup (G1) at Sha Tin in December, a race he took by a head from Military Attack. The two Hong Kong stars finished a length in front of the third placed Australian raider Criterion, who was half a length better than Cirrus des Aigles, a Frenchman racing fans know well in Dubai. 'Cirrus' was not at his absolute best at Sha Tin, but the form still looks quite solid.
While Designs On Rome had won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) last April (again with Military Attack a close second), Military Attack was coming off an excellent run to be second in the Jockey Club Cup (G2) over the same course and distance, and Criterion was one of the better performers in Australia last year, with a narrow defeat against Fawkner in the prestigious Caulfield Cup (G1) as his high point.
Designs On Rome, who was second to Dawn Approach in an Irish Group One as a juvenile, has never been better than in recent months, and he holds a leading chance.
FLINTSHIRE ran his best race when runner-up to Treve in the 'Arc' at Longchamp last October, and went on to finish second behind Main Sequence at the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita and win the Hong Kong Vase (G1) at Sha Tin. He is a well travelled, consistent performer. He was a Group One winner in France as a three-year-old, but he has often been a bit of a 'nearly horse'. Runner-up efforts in three championship events, in three different countries last year confirms what a good horse he is, and Flintshire certainly deserved it when landing the Hong Kong Vase (G1) in December. He had run second to Cirrus des Aigles in the Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom Downs in England in June, played the same role behind Treve in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) at in France in October, and again behind Main Sequence in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) in California in November. It was a demanding campaign, but trainer Andre Fabre, arguably one of the world's finest horsemen, gave Flintshire a bit of a break after the Arc and brought him fresh to Sha Tin, where he won decisively by half a length from the locally trained Willie Cazals. All these races were run over 2400 metres, the distance of the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), where Flintshire is expected to be one of the leading players. Passing the winning post just 2 lengths behind of the likes of Treve and Cirrus des Aigles is something not many turf runners are capable of, and the Sheema looks a good opportunity for Flintshire. It also presents him with a chance of revenge on Main Sequence, who beat him by half a length at the Breeders' Cup. Fabre's contender, and only runner on World Cup night, was a close second to another Sheema runner, the filly Dolniya, when reappearing over 1900 metres on Polytrack at Chantilly on March 3. He is an unusually reliable runner, who has finished in the top two in 10 of his 13 races to date.
MAIN SEQUENCE, crowned North America's Top Turf Runner of 2014 at the Eclipse Awards, is also in with a strong chance. This ex-European can take an unusual turf win for Team USA at Meydan. He lived up to his name last year, taking four top level turf events on the bounce. The Graham Motion trainee capped a superb season by winning the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. Main Sequence had been in the winners' circle at Monmouth Park, Belmont Park and Saratoga already but, with strong Europeans going for the 12-furlong BC Turf, he was not the favourite at Santa Anita. He could well be the international favourite at Meydan. Punters like it when they see “11111” as the formline next to a horse's name. Main Sequence, who was runner-up to Camelot in the Epsom Derby (G1) two years ago, put up a great performance at Santa Anita. Flintshire, coming off a second to Treve in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) in Paris, was the one to beat – and Main Sequence's fine late kick did just that. He went by the Frenchman to win by half a length. He looked full of energy passing the winning post. That was that for the year for Main Sequence, but Flintshire turned out once more, giving the form a boost by winning the Hong Kong Vase (G1) in December.
Main Sequence returned to racing action in the Mac Diarmida (G2) over 11 furlongs at Gulfstream Park last month, and looked as good as ever. He won his Dubai prep race with ease, after quickening past last year's winner Twilight Eclipse for a cheeky 3/4-length win . A son of top class sprint / miler Aldebaran, Main Sequence has developed into a very consistent runner. He could easily improve again this year. A steady pace – which seems likely in this contest – will not bother him as much as some of the others, and he will not be easy to beat here.
DONLIYA is an improving filly from France, and a rare Dubai runner for the Aga Khan. For some reason he has not seemed too interested in racing his horses here. Perhaps we are about to see a change in policy. Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, Dolniya firste entered the international scene when taking fifth in last year's 'Arc' at Longchamp. She did not have the smoothest of runs but ran on gamely to be beaten 4 ¼ lengths behind Treve. Flintshire was 2 ¼ lengths in front of her, as he filled second. The two met again in the Prix Darshaan, a conditions event over 1900 metres on Chantilly's Polytrack, on March 3. Dolniya gained revenge, beating Flintshire by a neck while receiving 2.5kg (Flintshire will be 0.5kg better off in the Sheema). Dolniya, who was a Listed winner over 10 furlongs at Compiegne last June, got first run on Flintshire – both horses were given a tender ride.
Flintshire has been racing exclusively over 12 furlongs going right back to June 2013, when he was beaten at odds-on in a conditions event over 10.5 furlongs. The distance was clearly in Dolniya's favour at Chantilly, but she probably has more improvement to come this year.
SHEIKHZAYEDROAD began his new campaign well when placed behind Sky Hunter (a late defection from this race) on Super Saturday. This English trained challenger is game and honest, and he won the Northern Dancer (G1) over this distance last autumn - but he lacks the class to beat the best of these rivals.
ONE AND ONLY proved himself to be fully efficient over this distance when winning last year's Japanese Derby (G1) by ¾ length from Isla Bonita – who had won the Japanese 2,000 Guineas (G1) on his previous start. This is quite solid form but One And Only's two runs against older horses, in the Japan Cup (G1) and Arima Kinen (G1) saw him unplaced twice (beaten 6 ¼ lengths and 5 ¼ lengths). A son of the 2006 Sheema winner Heart's Cry, this colt needs to find improvement to mix it with the best in this field.
TRUE STORY began this campaign as a potential Dubai Turf contender but is now back up to 12 furlongs, having finished fourth behind Sky Hunter on Super Saturday, when he appeared one paced and was beaten 2 ½ lengths. He justified favouritism when beating Mushreq on his seasonal debut, then went down by 2 lengths to Vercingetorix in the Al Rashidiya (G2) – both times running over 9 furlongs.
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ENGLISH TURF SEASON 2015
Starts in April
41% on-course winners last year
First bet was a £100 winner at 3-1
Positive balance throughout the season
Net profit: £4,538
Detailed raceday reports, horse by horse;
notes; pre-parade ring, paddock, going
down, coming back in.
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GLOBEFORM'S PREMIER SERVICE 2015 FIXTURES
Chelmsford April 1 / Lingfield April 3, 7, 8 & 11
Newmarket 15 & 16, Newbury 17 & 18
Epsom 22, Sandown Park 24
2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30
1, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16 - 20 (Royal Ascot), 25, 26, 27, 29
DUBAI GOLD CUP (G1)
Meydan, March 28 – 3200 metres turf
Globeform Ratings are expressed in
pounds (1lb = 1 length over this distance)
117 BROWN PANTHER
111 MEANDRE *
110 RIO TIGRE
108 STAR EMPIRE *
107 MUSHREQ *
106 HAVANA BEAT
104 BRASS RING
* Meandre GF 115 in 2014
* Mushreq GF 114 in 2014
* Star Empire GF 112 in 2014
One name stands out in staying race
BROWN PANTHER is a clear number one in this field, having won prestigious staying events in England and Ireland last year. He has had this contest as his target ever since a fruitless trip to last year's Breeders' Cup – when he was unplaced but far from disgraced, 5 ¾ lengths, behind Main Sequence in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). This step up in trip, and the big drop in class, will suit him so much better. Brown Panther outclassed two previous English St Leger (G1) winners, Leading Light and Encke, when running away with the Irish St Leger (G1) at The Curragh last September. He was also third in the Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot, beaten half a length by Leading Light. A repeat of such performances will be more than enough to beat these stayers. The division is not strong in Dubai this year. Brown Panther likes soft ground but he acts also on good and good to firm ground.
BATHYRHON, set to represent France, developed into a fine stayer towards the end of last season and could be a bit of a surprise package here. After finishing last of four, 3 ½ lengths behind subsequent Melbourne Cup (G1) winner Protectionist in a G2 at Deauville, he moved forward with two good runs at Longchamp. A decisive win over Kicky Blue and High Jinx in the Prix Gladiateur (G3) was followed up with a game second to the latter in the Prix Du Cadran (G1). The Gladiateur distance of 3100 metres may have suited him better than the 4000 metres of the Cadran, though he was staying on really well also in that event. The third placed Pale Mimosa went on to run a good fourth to Tac De Boistron in the Prix Royal-Oak (G1) three weeks later and the Cadran form looks sound. Barhythron is normally held up at the back early and delivered with a late run. A strongly-run race would suit him well here and he looks the main danger to our selection.
ALMOONQITH improved markedly when stepping up to 2800 metres (14 furlongs) in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) on February 28, when he was a solid 1 1/2-length winner from Rio Tigre. Star Empire was the same margin further back in third, with Havana Beat fourth and Meandre fifth. Paul Hanagan rode a waiting race on Almoonqith, who came with an excellent run from off the pace to lead inside the last quarter mile. He ran on in a manner suggesting he would stay further, and he must also be considered.
DUBDAY is coming off a bloodless win in a valuable 12-furlong event in Qatar, where he is one of the top performers. He was tailed off when running against Gentildonna & Co in the Sheema last year but is clearly a lot better than that showing. He beat Very Nice Name over 11 furlongs in Doha 13 months ago, and that rival went on to run respectably when visiting France in 2013. Based on ratings, Dubday has a chance to make his presence felt here, though whether he will appreciate this test of stamina is another matter. He is a son top class miler Dubawi out of the 10-furlong winner Dayriose, a daughter of Daylami – a top level winner from a mile (at three) to a mile and a half.
MEANDRE has been performing well in Dubai but, compared to his best form when trained by Andre Fabre in France, one must say he has been a disappointment for his new connections. He was beaten a length into third behind Famous Kid when racing off 113 in a handicap two starts back, and finished over seven lengths behind Almoonqith in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) a month ago.
AHZEEMAH (second to Cavalryman in the G2 Goodwood Cup last summer), COOPTADO (3 lengths fifth to Sky Hunter over 12 furlongs on Super Saturday), STAR EMPIRE (who stayed on well last time and may be on his way back to form) and MARZOCCO (fifth in the St. Leger in last year but an unimpressive odds-on winner against lesser rivals at Chelmsford City earlier this month), are quite closely matched and all in with a chance of a placing.