International Thoroughbred Racing Editor & Handicapper: Geir W. Stabell 1992 - 2021
DUBAI WORLD CUP SPECIAL 2015
RACE BY RACE PREVIEWS, GLOBEFORM RATINGS, SELECTIONS
DUBAI WORLD CUP (G1)
Meydan, March 28 – 2000 metres dirt
Globeform Ratings are expressed in
pounds (2lb = 1 length over this distance)
124 CALIFORNIA CHROME
124? AFRICAN STORY *
117 HOKKO TARUMAE
117 SIDE GLANCE
116 PRINCE BISHOP
114 CANDY BOY
112 LONG RIVER
* African Story GF 124? Dubai World Cup 2014 / GF 116 in 2015
This looks a $6 million gift for Chrome
CALIFORNIA CHROME looks the banker on the day, as he heads what is a badly depleted World Cup filed. The defections of Bayern, Toast Of New York, Constitution and Hoppertunity mean that the Kentucky Derby winner is a a clear top rated horse here. That may seem a strange statement, since Japan's challenger Epiphaneia and last year's winner African Story going into this battle with the same Globeform rating, but they are both rather dubious over this dirt course.
Particularly African Story, who showed abnormal improvement to win over the Tapeta surface last year and has been well below that level in two starts this season. California Chrome impressed in his prep race against Shared Belief at Santa Anita. Shared Belief is the best horse in North America at the minute, and he followed up with a facile win in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) next time out. California Chrome was not fully wound up, but still gave Shared Belief a race, as they drew way clear of the rest of the field. Art Sherman's dual classic winner should be well suited by the new dirt track at Meydan, he has had an ideal preparation, and he will be very hard to beat.
EPIPHANEIA ran the race of his life to win the Japan Cup (G1) from Just A Way, winning the 12-furlong event quite easily over rain softened ground. His 4-length margin may have flattered him though, as his runner-up does not truly stay that distance, and also as not many of Ephiphaneia's rivals liked the going. The 2014 Japan Cup result says 'firm ground' but there had been rain and jockey Christophe Soumillon said straight after the race that the soft ground had helped his horse. Without having been there it is hard to know what to make of these scenarios, but it is well known that Epiphaneia does not mind a bit of give underfoot. Which is interesting, since history shows that turf horses acting well on soft / heavy seem best equipped to a switch to dirt. Still, it is hard to imagine this contender matching strides with 'Chrome'. The surface switch is one thing, the cut back in distance another (on what has been a speed favouring track this winter), and Epiphaneia must repeat his Japan Cup form to win. He has not been up to GF 124 in any of his ten other races, and was beaten by four rivals when encountering wintry hard ground in the Arima Kinen (G1) in December. He has more class than most of the field though, and holds a good chance of getting into the top three.
AFRICAN STORY's form in the 2014 Dubai World Cup (G1) was either an absolute 'fluke' or caused by his liking for the Tapeta surface, possibly a bit of both. He has not been up to GF 120 in any of his other races, and in his case we are talking about 19 runs. He performed to Globeform 116 when winning a weak Group 1 over this course and distance on Super Saturday, a race that more or less fell into his lap when the early pace collapsed in the home straight. That level of form won't get him anywhere close to California Chrome, and African Story had a very, very hard race three weeks ago. He could well bounce and finish right out of the frame here.
LEA is more of a danger. If California Chrome is not at his peak, then Lea is the one most likely to take advantage. He set a new course record over 9 furlongs at Gulfstream Park when winning the 2014 Donn Handicap (G1), and ran a game race in defeat when second to Constitution in this year's edition of the Donn – an event that has often been a good prep for the World Cup. Lea was at first thought to give Dubai a miss, but that was when all the big guns were still in the picture. Bill Mott changed his mind when seeing how the World Cup field was falling apart, and it's a decision likely to be handsomely rewarded. This step up to 10 furlongs will be to his liking.
If the two US challengers run to form they will finish one-two.
HOKKO TARUMAE seems to be the best dirt performer in Japan and he should be included in all those Trifectas and Superfectas. This six-year-old performer is coming off three straight wins and he is an uncomplicated, game and genuine performer. Likely to sit handy throughout, he should enjoy the way this race is setting up.
African Story was sent to the lead on Super Saturday and, as holding him up had proved a right disaster on his reappearance, such tactics will probably be employed once more. Not that it would be ideal, as he thus becomes a sitting duck. California Chrome can make the running himself if he needs to but ideally he will sit just a few lengths off the pace, possibly in company with Hokko Tarumae, Lea won't be far behind either and Epiphaneia is also a prominent runner.
A: CALIFORNIA CHROME
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.
A: DESIGNS ON ROME, MAIN SEQUENCE
B: FLINTSHIRE, DOLNIA, HARP STAR
DUBAI TURF (G1)
Meydan, March 28 – 1800 metres turf
Globeform Ratings are expressed in
pounds (2lb = 1 length over this distance)
126 THE GREY GATSBY
117 EURO CHARLINE (f)
112p CLADOCERA (f)
115 TRADE STORM
Euro Charline and Cladocera get a 2kg (4.4lb) sex weight allowance.
Please add 4.4 to their Globeform ratings for direct comparison with the males.
Ryan Moore - had the choice between
The Grey Gatsby and Euro Charline
Four Footed Fotos
Dual European Group 1 winner stands out on ratings
THE GREY GATSBY is a clear number one in this field, and hard to go against. There are a couple of worrying factors though. Firstly, the drop in distance, as he tries 9 furlongs having shown his best for over 10 furlongs in Europe last year. Secondly, we have the pace scenario.
Will The Grey Gatsby get the strong pace he likes? Perhaps not, but if he does he will be hard to beat. He came with a strong run from off the pace when beating Australia by a neck in last year's Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown, and stayed on well at the end of the race also when winning the Prix du Jockey Club (G1) at Chantilly. He ran to Globeform 126 when beating Australia, winner of both the Derby (G1) and the Irish Derby (G1), and if The Grey Gastby gets anywhere near that level of form at Meydan the others will be fighting for places. He is better over further but The Grey Gatsby ran respectably also in the Guineas and the Craven Stakes over the Newmarket Rowley Mile last spring and it is impossible to bet against hium in the Dubai Turf. This is not a vintage renewal of the race.
EURO CHARLINE has been underestimated by the bookmakers, and is freely available at 10-1 for the Dubai Turf. She performed to Globeform 117 when beating Stephanie's Kitten and Just The Judge in the Beverly D Stakes (G1) at Arlington Park last August. Her 2kg sex allowance means that she is our second top ranked runner here. She is coming back after a break caused by injury, but she will be well suited both by the distance and the likely pace scenario. This four-year-old filly looked well when working sharply over a mile at Chelmsford City in England 16 days prior to World Cup night.
SOLOW, representing France, was a very smooth winner of the Prix Daniel Wildenstein (G2) at Longchamp last October. Coming from off the pace, he won the mile contest cheekily by half a length from the filly Veda (unplaced in the Breeders' Cup Mile next time out). Solow, who had made all to win a G3 over the same distance at Deauville five weeks earlier, was an easy 4-length winner of a minor event when reappearing at Chantilly on March 3, again racing over a mile. He was odds-on to win and did so without breaking too much sweat. The places were filled by King Air (winless in his eight preceding starts) and Modagishio (winless six preceding starts). That race told us little new about Solow, who ended last year on a progressive note and looks open to improvement this year. He looked to be in rude health though, and is a very interesting contender.
MSHAWISH won the Zabeel Mile (G2) here at Meydan last year, when he also finished fourth in this race (then 'Duty Free') twelve months ago. Now trained by Todd Pletcher, he has returned to his best this year, taking two of the best turf events at Gulfstream Par. Mshawish resumed winning ways in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2) in January, keeping Grand Tito a safe neck behind him past the winning post. This was an ideal prep run for the 9-furlong Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1). He went to post as a clear favourite, and did come back as the winner – but only just, as a seriously troublesome trip nearly cost him the race. Mshawish was boxed in by the rail at the finish, seemingly with no chance of getting a clear run. Luckily, an opening emerged just in the nick of time, and Mshawish quickened right through it for a well deserved success. He beat Slumber by no more than a nose, and was value for a fair bit more. Mshawish, who was winning for a sixth time from 16 runs, was visually impressive in the Gulfstream Park Turf – and he is not without a chance here.
CLADOCERA has two nice wins already at Meydan, and steps up in class following an emphatic success in the Balanchine (G2) in February. She had taken the Cape Verdi (G2) over a mile in January, and the step up to 9 furlongs was no problem. Again confidently ridden by Soumillon, the daughter of Oasis Dream led a furlong out and won quite comfortably, passing the winning post 1 ¾ lengths in front of Anahita – who had been third in the Cape Verdi. Cape Verdi runner-up Zurigha was third, meaning that Cladocera has beaten the same rivals trice here in Dubai. She has looked a bit special, however, and there is certainly more to come from this filly. She ran a good race also when beaten just a neck by Sloane Avenue in a Listed race at Kempton in England last autumn (with Graphic one place behind her.
TRADE STORM made an encouraging start to his new campaign when second on Super Saturday. The race did not set up well for this closer, who is held up regardless of the pace scenario, and he did well t get up for second – a place he just snatched from 25-1 shot Johann Strauss. Trade Storm won the Woodbine Mile (G1) last year and ran a solid race also when third behind Karakontie and Anodin in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1). He was fourth in this event two years ago, and has run a handful of good races at Meydan over the years.
A: THE GREY GATSBY
B: SOLOW, EURO CHARLINE
DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN (G1)
Meydan, March 28 – 1200 metres dirt
Globeform Ratings are expressed in
pounds (3lb = 1 length over this distance)
120 RICH TAPESTRY
119 SALUTOS AMIGOS
119 SECRET CIRCLE *
117 BIG MACHER
116 LUCKY NINE
116 MONTIRIDGE *
113 EL PADRINO (NZ)
110 KRYPTON FACTOR *
110 COOL COWBOY
110 UNITED COLOUR
108 SPEED HAWK
109 SUPER JOCKEY
* Secret Circle GF 122 in 2013
* Montiridge GF 116 in England, 2013, now in Saudi Arabia
* Krypton Factor GF 114 in 2013
Rich Tapestry winning in Dubai last year. Photo: Andrew Watkins
North American form likely to dominate
SALUTOS AMIGOS is the most logical pick in this sprint, which is likely to fall to a horse with North American form. That includes Hong Kong representative Rich Tapsetry, who won at Santa Anita last year. Salutos Amigos is the one who brings recent form to the table. He won impressively at Aqueduct on March 7, taking his fourth straight win and his ninth overall, and he has solid form in top company. Trained by David Jacobsen, a horseman who is showing a 24% strike rate and is boasting an even better record in stakes races, Salutos Amigos won the Tom Fool Handicap (G3) over 6 furlongs (1200 metres) with a strong performance three weeks ago. He had missed some training leading up to the event, and he was burdened with top weight, but overcame these circumstances without breaking too much sweat. After racing with great zest in third spot until turning for home, he went smoothly past the second favourite Dads Caps at the finish and beat him by 4 lengths. Jockey Cornelious Velasquez never had to resort to the whip to get his mount into top gear. Salutos Amigos won with plenty in hand, stopping the clocks in 1.09.6, a good time when it comes to winter racing at Aqueduct.
All of his four recent wins have come at Aqueduct, though a win in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Belmont Park, and a fine race in defeat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita, shows that he handles various venues. His streak started three weeks after he had finished seventh, beaten just 3 lengths, to Work All Week at the Breeders' Cup last November. Salutos Amigos came back home to carry a massive top weight to victory in the Fall Highweight Handicap (G3) – beating Mewannarose by almost two lengths while carrying nine pounds more than the runner-up. Mewannarose was second again when Salutos Amigos followed up in the Gravesend Stakes during the Christmas racing at Aqueduct, and Dads Caps was second best as he took the Toboggan Stakes (G3) in January. Salutos Amigos has thus been beating mainly the same rivals when enjoying such a fine winter in the Big Apple, but make no mistake about it, this is a highly efficient and classy sprinter. And he is very game.
RICH TAPESTRY was second to Sterling City in the Golden Shaheen last year, having beaten Reynaldothewizard to win the traditional prep race on Super Saturday three weeks prior. Such form makes him an interesting contender this time also of course, but anyone who liked the look of this Hong Kong based sprinter twelve months ago have even more to like these days – as he showed even better form in California last autumn. A big, powerful and imposing son of Holy Roman Emperor, Rich Tapestry beat one of the best horses in the US when capturing the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1). Not just that, he had one of today's rivals back in third place. He was favoured by the weights and may have been a bit lucky as he beat top dirt miler Goldencents by a nose, but note that Secret Circle was beaten 1 ¾ lengths by these two. Based on this run Rich Tapestry, who is built very much like a dirt track performer, became one of the favourites for the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) in November – but he failed to show his form on the big day and came home in last place. Something was clearly amiss, and his jockey eased him at the finish. Secret Circle finished second. Rich Tapestry's best form has come over 6 furlongs, he is one of the top rated runners in this field, he comes here after a long break and that was the case also when he beat Goldencents.
SECRET CIRCLE, conditioned by two time World Cup winning trainer Bob Baffert, is a versatile performer. The six-year-old son of Eddington has a good chance of cashing in at Meydan. His career best is his Breeders' Cup win a year and a half ago, when he beat Laugh Track by a neck after delivering a strong finish. His form was not quite the same last term but he wasn't beaten more than half a length by Work All Week when going for back-to-back wins in America's best sprint, and was compromised by the way the track played when second to Private Zone at Aqueduct. Private Zone benefited from a speed favouring surface and made all for a 5-length win, while Secret Circle was second, a neck in front of Bourbon Courage. Secret Circle's most recent start was a game runner-up effort behind rising sprint star Conquest Two Step in the Palos Verdes Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on New Year's eve. He has won seven of his 15 races, finished second six times and third once. Almost 93% in the top three.
BIG MACHER's form is not far off the trio above. He managed to beat Goldencents by half a length when in receipt of two pounds in the 6-furlong Bing Crosby Handicap (G1) at Del Mar last summer (Polytrack), and returned to the same course to win a minor event over 7 furlongs in November. In between these two wins, Big Macher ran sixth in the Pat O'Brien (G2) – behind Goldencents – and ninth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). He was fifth of six, 11 lengths behind Conquent Typhoon in the Palos Verdes (G2) at Santa Anita two months ago (Secret Circle finished second).
LUCKY NINE is a smart Hong Kong sprinter who won back-to-back editions of the the KrisFlyer International Sprint (G1) in Singapore in 2013 – 2014. He has been a game and consistent runner over the years, and also has the 2011 Hong Kong Sprint (G1) in his collection. He has not been up to his best in his four starts this past autumn / winter, but shaped with promise when third in a 6-furlong Listed event at Sha Tin in February, when he went down by just a short head and a head behind the smart miler Gold-Fun and Aerovelicity. Phenaphobia was a close fourth, in what was a good turf sprint. How Lucky Nine will take to the Meydan dirt track is anybody's guess – but what we know is that he will need to recapture his best form to win this.
MONTIRIDGE is the dark horse in the field, as he is coming off a near ten-length win over 7 furlongs in Saudi Arabia in January, when he bossed the field from start to finish and won in what appeared to be a decent time. He was capable of GF 116 when trained by Richard Hannon in England back in 2013. His win in Saudi was gained over a Savanna La Mar, 10- to 12-furlong performer who was coming off an uplaced run in a local G3 (10 ¾ lengths behind Ron the Greek), and perhaps one should not read too much into this result. Anyway, it would be no surprise to see Montiridge finishing in the top four.
The Golden Shaheen looks the best race to go for if you fancy a Trifecta, perhaps even a Superfecta play on the day. The local sprinters are not really up to G1 level and our four top rated runners really do stand out. Montiridge is the one of the others it makes sense to include.
A: SALUTOS AMIGOS
B: BIG MACHER, RICH TAPESTRY, SECRET CIRCLE
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.
Notebook updated weekly. Entry alerts. Value bets. Go to Premier Service for full details
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.
A: 14 BROWN PANTHER / DAY'S BEST BET
B: 8 BATHYRHON, 9 ALMOONQITH
C: 5 DUBDAY
GODOLPHIN MILE (G2)
Meydan, March 28 – 1600 metres dirt
Globeform Ratings are expressed in
pounds (2lb = 1 length over this distance)
116 PRAYER FOR RELIEF
112p SLOANE AVENUE
109 GOLD CITY
102 FREE WHEELING
Top five on ratings evenly matched
Stalls 1 through 5 have proved best at this trip
BRADESTER is the narrow selection here. He is capable of beating these rivals, he has the right (prominent) running style for this track, and he goes well fresh. UK bookmakers have him at 14-1 and that is certainly too big for this contender. He has done well against better rivals in the US, where he ran his best race to date when landing the Ack Ack Handicap (G3) over this distance at Churchill Downs last September. Giving the runner-up one pound, Bradester beat Carve by 1 ¾ lengths to achieve Globeform 116. His runner-up was coming off three straight wins (one over the same course and distance) and previous G2 winner Flashback was beaten 7 ¼ lengths into third. Bradester will be making his seasonal debut in the Godolphin Mile, but that's hardly a worry; he won at Gulfstream Park on his seasonal bow last year and was coming off a break also when winning the Ack Ack. Coming here fresh is probably an advantage. Stall five is a very good starting point.
TAMARKUZ is coming off three solid wins here at Meydan, and he has produced Globeform 116 and Globeform 115 on his two most recent outings. He is also a prominent runner, and very effective over this course. His connections could hardly have wished for a better draw, as he is set to break from stall one. He was a bit more impressive two starts back than he was on Super Saturday, when he seemed to have a hard race. He won well enough though, beating Gold City by 2 ¾ lengths, with Layl half a length further back in third place. Tamarkuz is likely to beat these rivals again and he has been put up as the favourite for this mile contest. Which makes sense. He has strong recent form and he has home court advantage. But should he be as short as 2-1 to win again? Not so sure about that. Don't forget, this horse could also bounce.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF is in the same league as Bradester in the USA, and he has experience of meeting high class runners – but he does not have the same prominent running style. Prayer for Relief was last seen in action when finishing fourth in the Donn Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs in February, beaten by Constitution, World Cup contender Lea and Elnaawi. Passing the winning post 8 lengths behind the winner, he was not at his best that day. He ran a better race four weeks earlier, to be third behind Lea in the Hal's Hope Stakes (G3), this time beaten no more than half a length. Prayer for Relief has never won in Grade 1 company, but he has produced some solid performances in defeat at the top level, most notably when running a good third behind Itsmyluckyday and Moreno in the 9-furlong Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga last summer. He has the right combination of class and experience to make an impact on the Godolphin Mile, particularly if the early pace is fast. A slowly run affair (which seems unlikely) would not suit Prayer for Relief. His best form has been over further than a mile in the USA.
SLOANE AVENUE is a very interesting contender. Shipped out to Florida for the Donn Handicap (G1) last month, he picked up a minor injury ruling him out of that contest, where he would have met Constitution and Lea. This is a better spot for him, and he is the one horse that might show significant improvement. He beat Dubai Turf contender Cladocera narrowly in a Listed race over a mile at Kempton Park last autumn, when GRAPHIC was half a length behind the filly. Sloane Avenue was held up at Kempton, where he raced a bit keenly at the back of the field. Hold up tactics were employed also in Sloane Avenue's two previous wins, and from stall 15 he has just one option here – to drop in behind again – and coming from off the pace has proved difficult on this track. Sloane Avenue has only five runs under his belt but this is his third overseas journey.
GRAPHIC booked his ticket to the Godolphin Mile when going to the winners' circle at Wolverhampton in England last month. This tough and streetwise six-year-old was winning for a ninth time from 31 career outings as he got home a length in front of Diescentric with subsequent winner Chookie Royal back in third place. Graphic was racing just behind the early leader early on, took command with less than 200 metres to run, and kept on for a game win. The distance was 8.5 furlongs, a bit further than the Godolphin Mile, but possessing a bit of stamina is is not going to be a bad thing in this contest. Graphic has good form over a mile, having gained five of his wins over this distance, most notably the Prix Messidor (G3) at Maisons-Laffitte outside Paris last summer. Frankie Dettori rode him on this occasion, and sent him straight to the lead from the outset. Pilot, who has run some fine races in defeat at this Carnival, finished second and Line Drummer, who had won over the same course on his previous start, was third.
SURFER may be the best local hope but this prominent runner has tough task from stall 16.
He is still going strong at the age of six and gained his fifth win from 21 runs when taking the Al Maktoum Challenge Round One (G2) in January. Surfer had already had a run at Meydan before the Carnival started, winning the Dubai Creek Mile (LR) in December, and he looked really well in himself in the preliminaries to the first round of the Al Maktoum Series. He raced prominently with great zest throughout, took command early in the straight and ran out quite a comfortable winner, 2 ¼ lengths in front of the French import FRANKYFOURFINGERS, with Haatheq third. Surfer was pricking his ears passing the winning post and had something to spare. Logically, he was the most fancied as these three met again in the second round, run over 1900 metres a month later. The field was lot deeper though, with last year's Dubai World Cup (G1) winner African Story and his stable companion Prince Bishop at the forefront. Surprisingly the race was won by the ex-French Frankyfourfingers, who led from gate to wire under a fine Mickael Barzalona ride. Surfer tracked him around the new dirt course he clearly enjoys but tired a bit in the home straight and had to settle for fourth, 1 ½ lengths behind Frankyfourfingers. Haatheq was one place behind Surfer, confirming that the first round was a decent race.
Neither Surfer nor Frankyfourfingers can be ruled out – in what is an open looking race.
FOOTBRIDGE ran to Globeform 112 once last year, when he was probably flattered in third place behind Shared Belief and Fed Biz in the Goodwood Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. He ran well below such form in his handicap run here at Meydan in February and is hard to fancy.
A: 5 BRADESTER
B: 1 TAMARKUZ
C: 8 PRAYER FOR RELIEF, 9 GRAPHIC, 15 SLOANE AVENUE
THE AL QUOZ SPRINT (G1)
Meydan, March 28 – 1000 metres turf
Globeform Ratings are expressed in
pounds (3lb = 1 length over this distance)
120 SOLE POWER
116 AMBER SKY
116 STEPPER POINT
115 BUNDLE OF JOY
114 SIR MAXIMILIAN
114 CASPAR NETSCHER
114 DISTINCTIV PASSION
113 VIA AFRICA
109 CASPIAN PRINCE
109 LANCELOT DU LAC
107 GREEN MASK
The day's most open race
SOLE POWER is well known in Dubai, having taken part in the last four editions of this valuable turf sprint. He was unplaced in 2011, second to Ortensia in 2012, fourth to Shea She in 2013 and unplaced behind Amber Sky last year. Sole Power is eight years old now but sprinters often keep their form right up to the age of ten, quite a few even improve as older horses. This old warrior was holding his own in the top division in England last year, when he proved as good as ever with an excellent big race double in the summer. Sole Power won the King's Stand Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot in June, and followed up in the Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) at York in August – without another run in between. Both these races are staged over 5 furlongs, near enough to 1,000 metres, and the Al Quoz suits him really well. The son of Kyllachy has been successful ten times over seven different courses, but never managed to get his head first past the post in Dubai. Don't get surprised if he does just that this time around. His unplaced effort on Super Saturday was a bit disappointing but it was just a warm-up race. We can expect to see Sole Power in much sharper form here.
AMBER SKY, last year's winner of this straight-course sprint, is a horse the connections of every other contender will fear, although he is not coming off a perfect prep run at home this time. Twelve months ago the six-year-old son of Australian sprint ace Exceed And Excel used a win in the Centenary Sprint Cup (G1) at Sha Tin as a stepping stone to the Al Quoz Sprint, which he won by a neck from Ahtoug. He went to post for the Centenary Cup also this winter, but performed way below expectations and came home last, some ten lengths behind PENIAPHOBIA, who he is set to meet again at Meydan. Now, there are preps and there are preps. The Centenary is run two months before World Cup night, and it's result will not always have such a bearing on the Al Quoz. A lot can happen with a horse in the space of two months. Trainer Ricky Yiu probably wouldn't have sent Amber Sky to Dubai unless the gelding has been sending out the right signals in his morning workouts. Amber Sky is a high class sprinter when on song. Furthermore, he must be particularly hungry for revenge against Peniaphobia, since that rival beat him also in the Jockey Club Sprint (G2) at Sha Tin last November. That win set Peniaphobia up for a good second in the Hong Kong Sprint (G1) in December, a race Amber Sky sat out. These Hong Kong sprinters are really sharp, and will be amongst the favourites here.
STEPPER POINT is way overpriced with a couple of bookmakers, and can be backed at 25-1 with Betfair Sportsbook. This is such an open affair, and not an event to get seriously involved in betting wise, so why not take a shot at this runner. He won first time out last year, and went on to complete a really good campaign. Stepper Point is a horse that often seems underestimated. He went off at 50-1 when second to Sole Power in the King's Stand Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot – where he was beaten 1 ¼ lengths – and was a 20-1 shot as he filled the same place behind Sole Power again in the Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) at York. Stepper Point was beaten only half a length on that occasion (though it needs mentioning that Sole Power was value for more than the bare margin). Three weeks later Stepper Point shipped to Ireland, where he won a Group 3 in good style, beating recent Meydan scorer Sir Maximilian by almost three lengths. So why is Stepper Point 25-1 for the Golden Shaheen? Hard to understand. He is well worth an each-way bet.
AHTOUG went close to winning this race twelve months ago, when he showed improved form to go down by just a neck to Amber Sky. He beat previous Al Quoz winner Shea Shea by a head for second place. Ahtoug had smart form in the book going into the race but this result took him to a new level. And the good news is; he appears to continue the climb this year. He needed one run under his belt to reach winning form, something he did in a tough handicap over the Al Quoz distance in February. Ahtoug was ridden patiently early on in the race, made his move at the halfway stage and finished the race off strongly to catch Lancelot du Lac and win by a head while carrying 1kg more than his nearest rival. The runner-up had won a similar contest at Lingfield Park in England on his previous start, and the third placed Sir Maximilian was a stakes winner in Ireland last year.
Sir Maximilian gained revenge on Ahtoug when they met again in the Meydan Sprint on Super Saturday, a race the latter snatched in the last few strides, finishing well to beat Ahtoug by a short head. It was a tremendously close finish, with England's Caspar Netscher just a nose behind Ahtoug in third. Ahtoug was intimidated a little when the early leader Caspian Prince cut across his path inside the last 200 metres. Ahtoug kept his momentum but this could not have helped. Ahtoug is a strong, really attractive horse. He must have a good chance on World Cup night.
BUNDLE OF JOY was beaten only a short head by Pheniaphobia over this distance at Sha Tin in January, and he beat the same rival by 2 lengths in 6-furlong event over the same course last October. He has good early speed.
SIR MAXIMILIAN may be a six-year-old with a profile making him look rather exposed, but his win on Super Saturday indicated that he is on the upgrade these days. He came with a storming run from behind, found his way between horses, and got up to pip Ahtoug and Caspar Netscher in a triple photo finish. Sir Maximilian, who won two Listed class sprints in Ireland last year, had run fifth in a competitive handicap over the same 1000-metres trip seven days earlier, when passing the post just under three lengths behind Ertijaal – another very interesting turf sprinter who is on the up the ladder these days. There isn't much between these turf sprinters, and luck in running is bound to matter. The Al Quoz Sprint has been won by some seriously good speed merchants over the years, and from time to time we have seen a dominant performance. That may not be the case this time, as the top half dozen going for the race are very closely matched.
CASPAR NETSCHER (winner of the G2 Neractic in Canada last year and a close third to Sir Maximilian on Super Saturday) and Californian G3 winner DISTINCTIV PASSION are closely matched on previous form – but both seem a notch below what's needed to win this contest. The latter, a runner with sharp early speed, is making the switch from dirt to turf.
A: STEPPER POINT
B: SOLE POWER
C: AHTOUG, AMBER SKY, PHENIAPHOBIA, SIR MAXIMILIAN
THE UAE DERBY (G2)
Meydan, March 28 – 1900 metres dirt
Globeform Ratings are expressed in
pounds (2lb = 1 length over this distance)
114? SIR FEVER *
110p GOLDEN BAROWS (photo)
108 ALNAJEM ALFAIZ
106 DEAR DOMUS
106 TAP THAT
106 FAITHFUL CREEK
101 MY JOHNNY BE GOOD
* Sir Fever GF 114? in 2014 / GF 106p seasonal debut in 2015
A very disappointing Derby field
MUBTAAHIJ had no probelms beating Sir Fever on the Al Bastalkiya (G3) and Mike de Kock's charge – the only US Triple Crown Series nominated horse in this field – could turn out to be the one to beat agin. Not that he looks anywhere near good enough to be a serious contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1).
He was beaten by Maftool in the UAE 2,000 Guineas (G3), when he seemed a bit short on stamina, but the impression was quite the opposite as he stretched out to 1900 metres in the Al Bastakiya three weeks ago. Mubtaahij proved too good for the unbeaten South American import Sir Fever, and won the important Derby prep by 2 1/2 lengths. The two had the race between them all the way down the home stretch, pulling well clear of the others. Mubtaahij confirmed that he is an improving sort. The rematch between Mubtaahij and Maftool will be an interesting one. Their form is working out well, and they both have a good chance in this $2 million classic.
MAFTOOL, who won the Sommerville Tattersall Stakes (G3) in England last year and followed up with a gritty win in the UAE 2,000 Guineas (G3) at Meydan, has the class and experience needed for a competitive event like this, but the big question is stamina – as he has shown a lot of speed, and also comes from a family with plenty of speed. He got the 1600 metres trip well enough when beating Mubtaahij by a head in the Guineas, though stretching out to 1900 metres can be a totally different ballgame. Particularly if the early pace is strong.
SIR FEVER was an outstanding champion in Uruguay last year. He won all of his ten races in his homeland. Trained by Jorge A. Piritz, he produced his career best on the final start of his campaign, when beating Fletcher by over five lengths in the Gran Premio Nacional (G1), staged over 2500 metres. Fletcher was coming off a fine win in a Group 3 event at the same venue but he had no chance against Sir Fever, who led throughout and drew right off under a hand ride to win with ease. He had won the Gran Premio Jockey Club (G1) over 2000 metres a month earlier, cruising home by four lengths, and had also landed the Gran Premio Polla de Potrillos, a top a level event over 1600 metres. These three races, also won by Invasor ten years ago, form the Uruguayan Triple Crown. Sir Fever has won races from 1000 to 2500 metres, but stamina is probably his forte. He met defeat for the first time when beaten by Mubtaahij on Super Saturday though, and perhaps he needs both more time and longer distances to acclimatise.
This division has been less than inspiring at Meydan this winter though, and it is tempting to go for one of the new faces on the scene.
GOLDEN BAROWS, a Japanese trained, but US bred son of Tapit makes a lot of sense. This well bred colt is coming off three straight wins, all over 1600 metres in Tokyo. He was long odds-on forr all three races. Ryan Moore, who partnered him in what was a procession when he broke his maiden four months ago, takes the ride. Golden Barows stepped up to allowance company on his first start this year, came across a sloppy track, and won comfortably by 3 ½ lengths from Nobo Baccara. A month later he treated a Listed race much in the same manner, winning the Hyacinth Stakes by 3 ½ lengths from Edenhall. Golden Barows came from off the pace to take the lead with less than a furlong to go and won as he pleased. DEAR DOMUS was back in fourth, two places better than TAP DANCE. The field counted 16 runners. Dear Domus had beaten Tap Dance by half a length to take a Listed event at Kawasaki late in 2014.
Golden Barows is clearly a very talented runner, he is on the upgrade, and if
there is a proper G2 performer in this edition of the UAE Derby it's probably him.
A: 7 GOLDEN BAROWS
B: 1 MUBTAAHIJ
C: 4 SIR FEVER, 9 MAFTOOL
DUBAI KAHAYLA CLASSIC PREVIEW
Djainka Des Forges, who was runner-up to Rabbah De Carrere in this event twelve months ago, has drawn unfavourably in stall 14 as he tries to go one better in the Kahayla, but there is still a lot to like about this Julian Smart trained contender. He could never quite get to grips with Al Mourtazaz when second to that rival over 2400 metres in Doha a month ago, but produced yet another fine performance. Richard Mullen, who has partnered 44 winners this season, rode the son of Kerbella for the first time and gets the leg-up once more. It could well be a ride gives Mullen a memorable World Cup night. He is also set to partner Surfer in the Godolphin Mile. While Djainka Des Forges must overcome a wide draw, one of his main rivals Valiant Boy will break from the inside gate. Coming off an easy Grade 3 win over 1600 metres at Lone Star Park in Texas, this is another strong contender. Valiant Star has won his last eight races, over distances from 1600 to 2000 metres, he has the speed to be prominent early, he is in a perfect spot to save ground around Meydan's new dirt track, and perhaps he is the one who deserves to be the favourite. Though locals fans will quickly point to Versac Py as their top choice. He looked as good as ever when returning to winning form on Super Saturday, beating Af Lafeh by 3 ¼ lengths over the Kahayla distance. A fourth horse to mention is Versac Py's stable companion Manark. I must say I liked what I saw when he cruised home by over nine lengths over 1400 metres here in February, gaining his fifth win from twelve career outings. Whether Manark stays 2000 metres is hard to say, but he was committed fully 600 metres from the winning post when beating previous Group 1 winner Bigg N Rich with such ease. Note that Al Lafeh, who ran well against Versac Py three weeks ago, was 10 ¾ lengths behind him. Manark looks a progressive sort. This is a tricky race, and let's go for him to open the show with a mild upset. GS
SELECTIONS: MANARK – VALIANT STAR – DJAINKA DES FORGES