Category Archives: Dubai World Cup

Dubai: Longshots of the Day

Year in year out Dubai World Cup night signals the return of the flat – at least to me personally. A great day of racing it usually is, even though not a happy hunting ground betting wise.

The question today really is: by how far will Arrogate win? He’s the red hot favourite to land the World Cup and there is zero reason to oppose him. However there are two turf races that appear much more prone for an upset – here’re my two longshots ofthe day:

2.00: Al Quoz Sprint

Ertijaal seems the right favourite but not the right price. Yes, he is unbeaten in two starts this season and clearly loves Meydan but the majority of those successes came over the shorter 1.000m trip.

If Limato can bring his A-game he’s a big danger with decent ground he relishes to play with. Is he ready? Jungle Cat stepped up to win a good 6f sprint over CD when last seen, he’s sure to give his running but is he good enough?

From the bigger prices you have to consider Hong Kong’s Amazing Kid, a speedy sort who’s better over the minimum trip but the ground and flat finish may suit him. The same could possibly be said about Medicean Man who ran really well in two starts here at Meydan this year, though over 1.000m. But at 66’s could be worth a spunt

Not quite as big in the betting but overpriced in my book is Aiden O’Brien’s Washington DC. A classy, ultra consistent sprinter over both 5- and 6 furlongs. AOB did not enjoy the best of success at Meydan in the past but brings a strong team this time around.

The now four year old is rarely outside the money and ran close in some big sprints last season. Granted he has a bit to find with some of these and his last win came over seven furlongs on the Dundalk All-Weather, this race could be ready made for him.

At least with ground to suit and a trip he’s sure to get every inch of it he is underestimated in the field.

Selection:
5pts win – Washington DC @ 16/1 PP

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3.30 Dubai Turf

This looks quite an open race to me with question marks all over aplenty of runners. That says you can make a case for aplenty of these too!

However I am surprised to see Christophe Ferland’s charge Heshem such a big price in the betting as he is. This horse is poised for a big run in my mind and according to the trainer has travelled extremely well.

Heshem is still a somewhat lightly raced individual after a fine three year old campaign Group 2 company culminating in an excellent runner-up effort on Arc day in the Prix Dollar, when he had today’s race favourite Zarek behind himself.

The fact that connections gave the now four year old colt a spin on the All-Weather in preparation of this race race seems they mean business. Tactically he’s more likely to be closer to the pace, which would make sense utilising a fine draw.

Selection:
5pts win – Heshem @ 22/1 Bet365

…….

Read also my comprehensive preview of the Sheema Classic 

Highland Reel a good thing in Sheema

Now that Cheltenham is well and truly behind us we can start to look forward again. Though not too far. Only to this Saturday. Dubai World Cup Day. The big one on the other side of the planet.

For the moment I only want to focus on the Dubai Sheema Classic though – the Group 1 on turf over 2.400m, now worth a staggering US$ 6 million!

Why am I so keen to get this race “out of the way” this early? Well, it’s because I feel the market does not reflect the true chances of one major contender. That is Highland Reel.

The Aiden O’Brien trained five year old started his stellar four year old campaign in this very same race last season, followed by brilliant victories in the King George and Breeders Cup Turf.

At this point it probably makes sense to check out last years running of the Sheema Classic, a race won by Postponed:

On that evidence – at least visually – Postponed won fair and square, in fact he was quite impressive the way he sprinted away from his rivals in the closing stages.

But that is only half the truth. Do you see how nicely Postponed is covered up throughout, getting an energy saving, inch perfect ride by Andrea Atzeni? Compare that to Highland Reel, the leader pretty much from the start. Hassled along from a draw less than ideal, the Ballydoyle inmate set decent fractions, leading the field nearly until the final furlong, where eventually he faded away, finishing 4th.

Aiden O’Brien has a dismal record in Dubai and sometimes his horses turn out there under cooked. This was clearly not the reason why Highland Reel faded so badly in the end. Evidence is to be found in the sectionals that do underpin the visual impression:

Highland Reel did more than other horse in the race – probably a bit too much too soon – burning vital energy. The pace he went was not sustainable in the end against high class opposition. Maybe in hindsight Ryan Moore would ride the race slightly different.

That’s the past. What’s the future? Postponed will try to defend his crown. He had a decent prep run, though he was overturned at short odds. I don’t read too much into it. He’ll be near as good as ever I would imagine.

And so will Highland Reel, presumably. On ratings there is a mere pound between the two. Though it’s true Postponed had the the upper hand on two occasions. First here in the Sheema and then in last years Juddmonte International.

Third time lucky? Yes, I do think so! With ground and trip certainly to suit Highland Reel, and possibly with a slightly more energy saving ride, there is every chance that he’ll be able to beat Postponed.

Granted, it’s not all about these two, though its’ likely to be a small field with not an awful lot of top class horses in the line-up, which again will suit Highland Reel probably the little bit more.

Former Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs is an intended runner. He made a pleasing comeback in the British Champion Stakes last season. He’s a danger, no doubt. But only two runs since his third in the 2015 BCS – he has not only a bit too find on the ratings, but also can’t be trusted to be fully ready on his seasonal re-appearance.

The Japanese Satano Crown, who beat Highland Reel in Hong Kong in a tight finish back in December, is unlikely to line up. And if he’d be here I’d fancy HR to turn it around, given how agonisingly close he came in the Vase, doing it yet again the hard way. Prize Money, who beat Postponed in his comeback will probably find it tough to repeat this feast.

Irish and Yorkshire Oaks heroine Seventh Heaven is probably the second runner for team Ballydoyle. An intriguing one, who can easily be a big player.I fear her most, because she is a somewhat unknown quantity, given she is still lightly raced enough with potential improvement to come now as a four year old.

Summary: Highland Reel was unlucky not go closer in the Sheema Classic last year. On ratings there is very little between himself and favourite Postponed. A small field where Highland Reel can dominate will be an ideal scenario. At 5/1 he looks overpriced and I’m rather sure he’ll be half the price on Saturday.

Selection:
10pts win – Highland Reel @ 5/1 Betfair SB

Dubai World Cup Night – Preview

Flat racing’s really got into my mind by now – and reason for that is the Dubai World Cup is just around the corner! On Saturday it’s raining money and whether you like the meeting or not, it certainly has its place in the international racing calendar, attracts good horses every year and provides excellent racing.

So let’s have a look at some of the big races on the night. I’ve put some thoughts and selections together, however I leave most of the dirt races out since I don’t really get a handle on them. With one exception…

Dubai World Cup: The richest race on earth is also one of the strangest Group 1 races on earth. Touted as the “World Cup”, the prize money is clearly worthy of a world champion, yet the winner usually isn’t anywhere close to be a superstar.

That little fact aside, this years renewal looks compelling on paper. There is California Chrome of course, who – you could argue – wasn’t 100% when he finished runner-up behind Prince Bishop in this very same race twelve month ago.

He had a light campaign since then, with success coming easy in a Grade 2 at Santa Anita back in January after a good break; followed up with an impressive victory on his return to Meydan, however only in a Handicap.

Nonetheless California Chrome appears to be a different horse this time around, “five lengths better” so the words of his trainer. He’ll be big runner on Saturday despite having to deal with a desperately unkind draw I suspect.

Yes, he’s got to start in the car park and that isn’t easy given horses simply don’t win a World Cup from there, but this is no ordinary horse, this is. California Chrome. If there’s a horse able to overcome this hurdle then it could be him.

Most likely the biggest danger is his US mate Frosted. He chased after the almighty American Pharoah last year, but seems to have improved big time from three to four. He looked a monster on his Meydan debut in Round 2 of Al Maktoum Challenge when slaughtering a decent field.

Frosted has been allocated a poor draw too, though slightly better than California Chrome. He showed good early speed in the past, so did Chrome, which means I can see both being able to overcome this disadvantage, however at the expense of burning quite some fuel right at the start.

Given the very short price for California Chrome, and the fact that in essence we know what he is, I’d be rather against him, and would favour Frosted to do better, who in contrast may actually improve again – or let’s say is more likely to have significant improvement left in him.

I believe that despite the draw Frosted is the classiest horse and most likely winner of the Dubai World Cup – but at 5/2 is certainly a price where any possible improvement is already factored in times two. That begs the question – what else is in the race?

Mubtaahij! He’s been disappointing on two occasions this Carnival. Though valid excused can be made. In fact trainer Mike De Kock is unusually bullish. So you have to listen and think about it. De Kock’s bullishness is often warranted and not just a blow in the wind.

He’s adamant that with a more aggressive ride Mubtaahij will be a huge runner. And I think so too. But: he’s not going to stay the trip in a truly run race where he’s aggressive early on in an attempt to grab the lead. No way. I’m bullish about it myself! He’ll be a big runner until 250m out and than start to fade away.

What else? You have to take Special Fighter serious. Yes, there was a dramatic track bias when he romped home in the Maktoum Challange R3, but his finishing speed was still mightily impressive and faster than of sprinters on the same card.

If people want to ignore this particular form – fine. But it’s hard to ignore the facts. This lad, since switched to the dirt, has shown nothing but big time improvement. He’s thrived throughout the carnival on this Meydan dirt track. He’s an improving horse, with only six starts on this surface and a 50% strike rate to date.

Sure, he was well and truly beaten by Frosted in the Maktoum Challenge R2, but he had a bad draw that day, in contrast to Frosted, and travelled wide the whole time. You can make, if you want, excuses for that. This time Special Fighter has a better draw. He goes from box five, which gives him every chance to be up with the early speed, which is so vital.

The Hong Kong runner Gun Pit, who finished second behind Special Fighter the last time, is one with a lively chance too, if he gets home. He’s got an excellent draw and can’t be easily discounted.

The two other US runners, Hopertunity and Keen Ice are strange horses. Are they good enough? Maybe. Hoppertunity once finished a close runner-up in the Santa Anita Gold Cup. So the trip might not be beyond him. But he’s got to overcome a bad draw.

Keen Ice had excuses here on his Meydan debut and should come on for the run. But is he quick enough to be up with the pace? He doesn’t strike me as a particularly quick horse and let’s not forget he beat American Pharoah with a big challenge from off the pace, in what is to date his only graded success.

Recent Grade 1 scorer Mshawish makes more appeal. He’s taken well to the dirt but his stand out performance is a third place behind Sollow in last years Dubai Turf. He has a serious chance if he can get home over the 10f trip.

Verdict: Despite the draw Frosted appears to be the most likely winner. But nine of the eleven runners are rated within six pounds of each other, so there shouldn’t be an awful lot between the individuals. Nonetheless Special Fighter remains underappreciated. He may not be good enough in the end and flattered by his recent win, but his progressive profile is very likeable and from a decent draw he’s got every chance. He still can be backed at 14/1 which is tremendous value in my book.

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Al Quoz Sprint: Can old boy Sole Power do it again? His recent return to action here at Meydan was certainly encouraging and he’s in with a good chance in this field. Though you wonder if some younger legs may eventually get the better of him.

If it comes to the winner of this particular race don’t look further than Ertijaal. The former All-Weather-Championship winner-now-turned-sprinter has thrived at Meydan since dropped to the minimum distance. Sure enough, racing against lower opposition in handicaps, but the way he did it is jaw dropping.

Off top weight, off marks 105 and 113 respectively the last two times, yet oh so easily – this lad looks the part, physically nicely developed into a real sprinter, with a lovely turn of foot who’s perfectly suited to the flat heavenly cushioned five furlong track at Meydan. He’s not only the most likely winner of the race, but also looks a big price at 10/3.

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Dubai Turf: Can anything beat Tryster? Probably not. It’s going to be very hard. He’s produced twice at Meydan’s turf which seems to suit him perfectly well. His trademark turn of foot has seen him jump right at the head of the betting and it’s clear to see why.

Only one thing could beat him: having too much to do from off the pace turning for home. That’s always a worry with this type of horse, particularly at Meydan where in my mind you’re better of being not travelling too far off the pace.

The one horse I really like here is Mike De Kock’s Forries Waltz. He’s a bit the sexy contender, generally lightly raced, improving all the time, with further progress likely to come. He was really impressive in winning the Group 2 Al Rashidiya when last seen.

He has a good draw for the Dubai Turf which should enable him to get into a nice early position. I also feel he might be racing over his optimum trip at nine furlongs. Mike De Kock also really likes this fella, is full of praise and that in itself is a bonus.

Others to mention are obviously Intilaaq. Lightly raced and progressive last season, culminating in a Group 3 success, there is most likely more to come from him. Though the worry is not only a lack of recent run, but a lack of run at Meydan. Horses can overcome this, but you’ve better be a superstar to do that.

Euro Charline was 4th in this here last year. She could run a race for a price. Hard to know what to expect from the Japanese runner Real Steel. On paper certainly classy, but does he have the speed for this trip?

Another one I like and would consider as overpriced is Ertijaal, the South African Ertijaal, not the sprinter. He won the Cape Derby last year beating a really good horse in Act of War that day and was also placed in a huge 3yo Grade 1 the Daily News 2000. He’s done well over the winter here in Meydan, was placed behind stable mate Forries Waltz as well as a fine third behind Tryster the last time. He’s a bit to find but could finish in the money. At 33/1 he’s worth a chance.

But as the main selection I’ve got to go with the other De Kock’s horse Forries Waltz who is overpriced at 14/1. There is plenty to like about him and he’s got to go very close.