Category Archives: Meydan

Preview: Dubai World Cup

The richest race on the planet is just around the corner – the $10 million Dubai World Cup! We could debate all day long if this race deserves its status and the incredible amount of prize money that is on offer – but let’s concentrate on the sport for the moment.

We have a field of eight runners going to post this Saturday. The controversial switch to a Dirt surface at the Meydan racetrack has certainly helped to attract at least two top class runners from the US – but not only that – it is a good international line-up this year, with two classy horses from Japan, as well as last years World Cup champion African Story. But let’s take a closer look:

California Chrome:

Last years Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes hero California Chrome made the trip over to Dubai and has been installed as the red hot favourite. Chrome proved himself a versatile horse, with Group 1 successes on Dirt and Turf alike. He came close to win the Triple Crown last season and it would have been easy to retire him to stud after such a great year, so one has to applaud connections for their brave decision to keep him in training for another season. Can he add to his impressive tally of victories?

Possibly. Chrome started the new year with a very good effort in the San Antonio Stakes. Only beaten by Shared Belief that day, this prep run should bring him along nicely for the big day. One of the few concerns is the Meydan Dirt. Seemingly different to what he knows from the US, we will have to find out on the day itself how he handles it. There are positive vibes, though, following good workouts since his arrival in Dubai.

The 2.000m trip won’t be a problem at all. He won the Derby over this distance and finished a gallant third in the Breeders Cup Classic. Usually aggressively ridden, he should be helped by the way the new Meydan Dirt track has worked out so far over the course of the season.

Lea:

A multiple Stakes winner in the US, he broke the track record at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap over 1 1/8 mile last year. He had a long lay-off afterwards but was probably near his best when reappearing in January, winning a Grade 3 over a mile. He followed up with a nice runner-up effort in the 2015 Donn Handicap. That all sets him up nicely for a crack at the Dubai World Cup and he rates a big chance.

The main question is the trip. He never tried 10f before, albeit there aren’t that many opportunities in the US to do so. He’s got a chance on pedigree, but the way the Meydan Dirt rides and the possibility of a very quick race, this is a potent concern in my mind.

African Story: 

Last years impressive World Cup winner, although back then on Tapeta, has put concerns to bed about his ability to translate his class to Dirt. A fair effort on his seasonal reappearance, followed by a very gutsy success in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3, proved that he is capable of running well on the Dirt. He hated the kick-back on his first run, but was much closer ridden to the pace the last time and that proved the deal breaker.

African Story isn’t getting any younger but his most recent run was clearly promising and over the years he has excelled under the Dubai sun. Naturally he has to be one of the main contenders, given the fact that he is proven over the course, surface and trip. He also showed guts and the right mental attitude to compete with the best on Dirt.

Prince Bishop:

A versatile and talented horse, albeit also a quirky character, Prince Bishop has been a close runner-up in two starts on the Meydan Dirt this season. He has developed a habit of starting poorly as well as racing lazily in the early parts of a race and that caught him out the last two times. He stayed on very impressively on both occasions, but the risk is there that he loses the race at the start and any ground he’d give away early on would be difficult if not probably impossible to make up in the World Cup this time.

Epiphaneia:

The 2014 Japan Cup winner is a top class horse and exciting addition to this race. If he can translate his class to the Dirt, he must be a big runner. But there is the big question mark: He’s never tried this surface On pedigree there is a possibility that he can adapt to it. But first time out here in a big race like the World Cup may prove quite a difficult task. He is a former St. Leger winner, so one has to be slightly concerned about the sharp 10f trip, particularly as early speed is so important on Dirt. It could be all happening a bit too quickly for Epiphaneia.

Hokko Tarumae

Another high class individual from Japan is trying his luck in the World Cup. Hokko Tarumae was a long way beaten in the very same race last year, but the change of surface should make a big difference to his chances. He is the reigning Japan Dirt Cup winner, in addition to a long list of other big Grade 1’s on Dirt in his home country.

Hokko Tarumae likes to be ridden close to the pace and he showed himself in good nick lately. If he travelled well over and can adapt to the Meydan Dirt surface, he should be a big chance to go really close in the Dubai World Cup this time.

Candy Boy: 

The four year old was thought to be one of the more fancied Kentucky Derby contenders last year but disappointed in the race itself and was a long way beaten by California Chrome that day. He ran out some creditable placed efforts in some big Stakes races, however was more than five lengths beaten in the Breeders Cup Classic. He looks up against it here, particularly with the trip not sure to suit.

Side Glance: 

He has been running really well in Group 1’s all over the world last season and was only half a lengths beaten in the Cox Plate when seen the last time. He was fourth in the 2013 Dubai World but has never raced on Dirt and that is an obvious concern. Worth a try with him here, but hard to fancy him against top class opposition.

Verdict: The 2015 Dubai World Cup looks an open enough renewal. The Meydan Dirt surface is a question mark for many runners, but it can be assumed that the US horses have enough class to take to it. If that is the case, then Lea but probably even more so California Chrome have to be strong contenders to land the richest race on the planet. However it would be a mistake to underestimate the local runners.

I feel that African Story in particular doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He is a proven top class performer, defending his crown, and has seemingly adapted to the new surface as his most recent success proved. He showed good gate speed that day, and if he can get a good break this time again, he’ll have a big chance to go really close. At 8/1 he looks a huge price.

The other international horses have to be respected as well. Japan’s top Dirt performer Hokko Tarumae should play a big role this time I feel. He wasn’t suited to Tapeta at all last year, but should be really suited by the test on Saturday. It is sometimes hard to know how this Japanese form translates to the international stage, though my perception is that Hokko Tarumae would be a classy Dirt performer anywhere in the world. Widely available at 12/1, he is overpriced and together with African Story I select him as a value bet against the two market leaders California Chrome and Lea.

African Story @ 8/1 Betfred – 5pts win
Hokko Tarumae @ 12/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win

Another Round for Frankyfourfingers

This race looks certain to evolve around the first three in the betting: African Story, Prince Bishop and Frankyfourfingers. Those three renew their rivalry from the recent Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2, where Frankyfourfingers prevailed under a canny front-running ride by Mickael Barzalona.

The French gelding has rapidly improved since his first start on the Meydan Dirt, which came in January in the Round 1 of this race. That day over 1m, he travelled well but couldn’t quite match the speed of eventual winner Surfer. However he looks a horse naturally suited to the Dirt, and he proved that when he took Round 2 in excellent style. Critics would say he got tired in the end and the additional half a furlong could find him out today. I would rather think the opposite. He looked to idle as he was alone in front and in fact the slight step up in trip should very much suit on pedigree. More improvement is not unlikely to come.

What about Prince Bishop, who came very close in the very same race after staying on in extremely eye-catching fashion? Yes, he is a big player, certainly. He proved to be able to cope with the new surface and his past form rates a very strong one. He may stripper fitter today, and must be in with a big shout. However there is a valid concern, given the fact that he seems to develop a habit of starting slowly and lazily these days. He won’t be able to allow that to happen again today. With this risk in mind, he looks a very short price.

Stable mate African Story is the reigning Dubai World Cup champ and naturally warrants plenty of respect. His Dirt debut was okay I thought, given the long break. He didn’t look like really enjoying to get Dirt into his face, though, and I would rather like to see another run of him performing really well on this surface before I would back him. US runner Long River makes his Meydan debut and has fair form in his native country. He surly will enjoy the test but if he is quite up to the standard required here remains to be seen.

As touched on already, I feel Prince Bishop is too short in the betting given his habit to blow the start. If he could get it right this time, he is obviously a very big runner. I can’t trust African Story today but I’m interested to see some improvement. Natural choice is Frankyfourfingers with the right form in the book and the right profile to take this. He looks overpriced and would have thought that he is at the top of the market.

3.30 Meydan: Al Maktoum Challenge R3 (Group 1)
Frankyfourfingers @ 4/1 VC – 10pts win

Flying The Flag can land Meydan Finale

This is a Handicap which lacks the competitiveness of what one would have seen in recent weeks in this very similar slot. Not too many of the runners in the line-up give the impression to be either particularly well handicapped or have conditions in favour to achieve a career best performance. That makes Tha’ir a very fair favourite and his last win was rates a big performance, no doubt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he could follow on and he has every chance here, but I’m not sure if he should be much shorter in the betting than what he is now, given that he has to deal with a rise in the mark.

Mushreq is a consistent performer, though doesn’t seem to be as good this season as he was the last years. First time tongue tie fitted doesn’t instil much confidence and as the top weight is one to avoid here today. Berling ran a fine second behind Tha’ir recently, and another bold bid is one the cards. He’s to overcome a wide draw once again and may find one or two too good today. Belgian Bill didn’t quite have the run of the race in the very same race and stayed on nicely. If that is an indication that he gets the trip these days, then he’ll be a big runner. Francis Of Assisi, if fit after a break, is a very interesting runner, now in Godolphin colours, while Star Right may well be able to build on a promising last run.

However the most interesting runner and also the only really overpriced one in my mind, is Mike De Kock’s Flying The Flag. He was a Group 3 winner in Ireland over 10f back in 2013, joined subsequently De Kock’s yard without setting the world alight in two starts in pattern class in the UK. Dropped into handicap company on his seasonal reappearance earlier this month, he travelled very well but had a tough ride turning widest and losing loads of ground. He really stayed on very strongly eventually.

That performance came over 1m but general perception is that he is best over further. The step up in trip should suit perfectly today and his mark of 106 gives him a very nice chance to run big. De Kock was pretty bullish talking about Flying The Flag which is a significant boost for his chances: “He’s catching the eye in his exercise gallops. He ran on well after a rest last time and I fancy he’ll be very competitive here.”

6.15 Meydan: Class 1 Handicap, 10 furlongs
Flying The Flag @ 7/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win

Preview: Meydan – Zabeel Mile (Group 1)

After his latest two impressive wins over seven furlongs, Safety Check is a hot favourite to make it three in a row. He always looked a classy individual and it is good to see him fulfilling his potential. His most recent Group 2 success in the Al Fahidi is the stand out form and for that reason alone he warrants an awful lot of respect. Is he a sure thing in this field, though? I’m not so sure about it. It’s now his third race in rather quick succession, and he has shown his very best over seven furlongs, which could point to him being a specialist for that particular trip. He has to bring all this now to a mile today, and will have to give three pounds away. He has previous form over the distance, but he encounters some classy rivals today.

On of those rivals comes from his own stable. Outstrip returns to turf after a rather disastrous try on the dirt. This should suit much better for obvious reasons. His Breeders Cup Grade 1 success is the form that is the best in this field by a country mile. Since then things didn’t go to plan in his classic season last year. He went straight into the Guineas after his seasonal break and finished tailed off. A very much improved performance saw him finding back to form in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot when he finished third behind Kingman and Night Of Thunder. The small field in the Sussex Stakes and a slowly run race didn’t suit him at all subsequently and it didn’t get better in the Joel Stakes either, which ended his season. After this recent outing on the dirt, it is hard to know what to expect of Outstrip today. He is the highest rated individual in this field, though probably flattered by a mark of 118. I believe he deserved another chance. No excuses today. Ground and trip are sure to suit.

Progressive Dark Emerald was impressive in Handicaps this winter and his latest triumph was very taking indeed. Not impossible that he can improve further, but he’ll have to lift his game to another level today. De Kock has a strong hand in the race with Anaerobio, who, if he could find to last seasons form, would be in with a good chance to go close, though age may be catching up with him and his best came over 7f. Darwin is an interesting runner. Thought to be a potential superstar when brought over from the US to Aiden O’Brien, he couldn’t quite live up to the early promise, but a third in the Sussex Stakes must rate strong form, however he had the run of the race back then and he’ll need to bounce back after a poor effort on the dirt. Johann Strauss is another former O’Brien horse now in De Kock’s care. Hard to know what to expect from him today.

Hugo Palmer’s Short Squeeze deserves a shot in this race today. He is a very fair performer in hot handicaps and Listed level. Perception is that he needs to find a bit to be really competitive here today. That says, on balance, I feel Outstrip is overpriced. One has to trust him to find back to something of his old best. No excuses for him today, though. It one last chance he deserves. All is set for a big run. It’s on Outstrip to show if he is good enough these days. A performance like at Royal Ascot last year, would be good enough to win this I suspect, and with fitness on his side after the last outing, he’s the one I side with here.

5.40 Meydan: Zabeel Mile, 1m 
Outstrip @ 13/2 Coral – 5pts win

Cladocera a class act in the Balanchine

The betting said it all beforehand and so it was no surprise when Cladocera surged clear to win the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes with plenty in hand last night.

The lightly raced four year old filly looks to improve nicely with age and followed up in impressive style on her recent Dubai debut. The 1/2 favourite was travelling super well in the rear of the field, but had to go widest around the home turn in order to get a clear shot. She was still able to produce an electric turn of foot and made it look pretty easy in the end.

That are the signs of a talented individual. And while she was surly entitled to win this race in style, it appears that Cladocera has the potential to improve further and that makes her a filly to follow this season. Of course she has to step up in grade now and tackle some stronger rivals to prove how far she can go. But at this stage, a bid for the Dubai Turf must be on the radar of trainer Alain de Royer-Dupré.

Maybe the one to take out of this race besides the winner is runner-up Anahita. She was ridden much closer to the pace than Cladocera, travelled very strongly into the home straight but wasn’t able to match the burst of speed of the big favourite. However she showed plenty of guts, fighting to live and defend her second place. It looks to me, in combination with her pedigree, that she wants further. She looks to have trained on very nicely over the winter and now as a four year she appears to be a much stronger individual. More improvement is likely once she goes up in trip I believe. She finished a gallant runner-up in her only start over 10f last year.

Meydan Preview

Do you feel excited? I certainly do. Why? We have some fantastic racing at Meydan today! There is the interesting looking Listed contest with recently rejuvenated & multiple Group 1 winner Hunter’s Light leading the pack. And there is the hightlight of the night, the Group 2 Balachine Stakes. But don’t dismiss the competitive Handicaps. There usually offer some great drama!

Surely, Cladocera is the star of the day! The French filly is a short price to land the Balachine after a very impressive Meydan debut last month. There is potential so much more to come from her, given her lightly raced profile. She is bound improve and it is hard – if not impossible – to look past her in the Balachine. Only slight worry could be the additional furlong today. She is a very speedy filly, and her stamina will surly be tested. But could someone threaten her if she finds her natural limits approaching the one mile post?

Well, the Turkish filly Suzi Gold is a Group 1 winner in her native Turkey and she is expected to do very well today. With form over further, one would think that stamina won’t be an issue for her. However her local Group success translates “only” into Listed class actually. Means she has a bit to find on form. But she may well do so. Her Turkish jockey Ozcan Yildirim is flying over for only this one race. So there is clearly some confidence that she has what it takes to feature prominently today.

What about the Dubai Millennium Stakes? Hunter’s Light is the odds-on favourite to land this Listed race and as a multiple Group 1 winner there is every reason to believe that he has too much on the plate for his rivals. Most of them are progressive handicappers, at best. The four year old colt Mr Pommeroy looks to me the one who could be leading the chasing pack. He wasn’t disgraced in A Group 2 last month, though more is required her today, and Hunter’s Light should be able to build on his recent Handicap success.

In the very same race the Norwegian trainer Niels Petersen has two runners. They are big prices and hard to see them going close, but it is still great to have races with truly international flair here at Meydan! The bravery of Petersen is respectable and one can only hope that it pays of at some point.

Betting wise, I find all those races not particularly attractive. I find it hard to challenge the short favourites in the big races, while most of the Handicaps are minefields, particularly the ones on the dirt. Fair play if anyone can make them pay. I struggle to distinguish the runners unfortunately. That says there is one race that really intrigues me. It the final race on the card, a big Turf Handicap over 7f:

18.15 Meydan: District One – Class 1 Handicap

This is an ultra competitive looking handicap, and nothing else is expected. The two at head of the market have obvious credentials to take this. Both Eastern Rules and Anaerobio proved themselves in Group class in the past and their return to Meydan in the Group 2 Al Fahidi was promising as well, with Eastern Rules chasing home Safety Check as the runner-up, while Anaerobio was quite unlucky not getting a clear passage, but finished very strongly. These two are very closely matched on previous form, but I would believe Anaerobio with a weight advantage this time could turn around the form. That says, I feel both are fair prices, but not really too big, so I look elsewhere.

You could make a case for plenty in this field, though two horses are stand-out prices in my mind. Music Theory is one of them, even though the big odds are diminishing fast. This lightly raced Godolphin gelding has caught my eye on two occasions now. He usually travelles extremely well and certainly did so on his seasonal reappearance when he finished 3rd behind subsequent Group 2 winner Safety Check. He got an absolute horror run that day though but finished like a train when in the clear. It’s been a different picture two weeks ago, when he stepped up to 1m. He was right up with the pace and travelled like the winner for a very long time. However he faded pretty badly inside the final furlong. That is no surprise to me. He looks like a 7f specialist and the drop to this trip will certainly help him today. An additional pound off his handicap mark won’t do any harm either. One has to keep in mind that Music Theory was a very promising juvenile when he finished once less than three lengths behind Kingman in the Solario Stakes. Talent is there, and there could be still more to come from him.

The second horse I believe has a much better chance than his big price tag, is the experienced Professor. His mark is dropping down to something that could see him go really close today. He returned to track two weeks ago in a hot mile handicap, which potentially stretches his stamina a bit. But he was also pretty badly hampered in the home straight when he was about to make a big move. He still ran on well I felt and that outing could bring him nicely along for today. It has to be said he didn’t have quite as a productive last season as one would have hoped, however a very strong runner-up at Royal Ascot in the big Wokingham Handicap and some decent performances on Group level, proved that he is a very genuine individual. With a clear run today, he could be very dangerous dropping down to the ideal 7f trip.

Music Theory @ 8/1 Coral – 5pts win
Professor @ 33/1 Coral – 5pts win

Meydan Preview


There is some pretty good racing at Meydan today. Couple of Group races on the Dirt track, most notably the 2.000 Guineas which looks a real cracker! The Handicaps seem intriguing puzzles to solve – nothing less is expected, though. But that makes it interesting, right? There is clearly some value to find on this card today and analysing todays races, I’ve come up with three selections. All decent prices. If only ones gets in, it’ll be a good day.

3.20 Meydan: Jaguar F Type Trophy (Handicap)

This big handicap looks wide open and usually a bit of luck plays its part. There are a couple of the better fancied horses here who have some doubts about the trip in my mind and I feel this could easily go to a longshot. That says Pilote is one I do really fancy to go close if he gets a clear run from off the pace. He is clearly on a mark he can win off. The same applies to Tha’ir. He can go well too and a big run is expected.

However for a huge price I take a chance on Sennockian Star. He didn’t perform to his best in two starts here at Meydan in recent weeks, however he slipped another 3lb in the mark and that can make a difference. He is one who likes to be up with the pace, and while he isn’t drawn super close to the rail, his draw in seven gives him every chance to waste not too much energy to take up a prominent position. Officially he is one pound above his last winning mark (in a Handicap) when he won a big one at Goodwood last summer. He followed up with a fair second in Listed company. All over 10f, which is his ideal trip these days. I feel he is worth a punt today to outrun his big price tag.

Sennockian Star @ 20/1 Coral – 5pts win

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3.55 Meydan: UAE 2.000 Guineas (Group 3)

Two big favourites in the Guineas with Godolphins Maftool and De Kock’s Mubtaahij heading the market. Both have strong form to share from last month’ Guineas trial over 7f. Mubtaahij won that day in pretty emphatic fashion. He had the perfect race from the start, and drew clear in the closing stages, clearly benefiting from match fitness through a run he had before. He’s still lightly raced and there could be much more to come. Clearly an exciting prospect. Maftool in contract had his first start in over three month, was first time tried on the Dirt, and had to overcome a completely messed up start. The way he finished the race was very impressive, and he must be a big danger to Mubtaahij today. Albeit very talented, question mark is about his attitude, as he looks a difficult horse to ride, though.

De Kock has a second runner in this field with Ajwad. Already a four year old, formerly trained in Argentina. Ajwad is bred for dirt and one would belief can improve a good deal for his first run here at Meydan, when he finished a fair third behind Mubtaahij. He clearly needed the run, the way he finished as a tired horse, and he did allot in the early parts of the race. He should benefit from the step up to 1m as that is what is clearly in his pedigree. I expect him to improve a good deal and he’ll finish much closer to his stable mate today. He has to give loads of weight to the three year olds though, and they have in turn potential to improve themselves of course. So it remains to be seen if he is good enough after all. But that says he has the right profile to go really close and he looks a nice alternative to the short priced favourites.

Ajwad @ 11/2 PP – 5pts win

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18.15 Meydan: Range Rover Sport Trophy (Handicap, Class 1)

This is a premier handicap and some really good horses are lined up here. Former Group winners all around, and that makes it a pretty interesting race over 9 furlongs. Consistent Mushreq is top of the market and ran already pretty well in two starts this year here at Meydan. He’s bound for another good performance. De Kock’s other hope Zahee has been places over 9.5f on the tapeta track in the past, but best forms came over shorter and he may struggle to get home. Ocean Tempest flies the flag for the UK, ran well lto and I’m sure he does well today too, but this trip seems to be slightly beyond his stamina as he usually is best over 1m. In general this looks a wide open race and a case can be made for most runners. I’m most interested in Vancouverite and Mujaarib though, as they seem overpriced in my eyes.

Mujaarib is the third De Kock runner here. He didn’t land a blow on his seasonal debut in Group 2 company lto, when fifth behind word class stablemate Vercingetorix. But it was a decent run nonetheless I thought, and if he can come on a bit for that, he must be in with a fair chance today. Nine furlongs seems to be his ideal trip, he won a big Group 2 at Meydan last year, beating Mushreq. Reportedly he is a pretty lazy horse, so no surprise to see blinkers on again, which may sharpen him up. He has done well with them fitted in South Africa, so they should help him to focus and 16/1 looks way too big for his chance, despite the fact that he has to overcome top weight.

Talented Vancouverite is trading as high as 6/1 an in my eyes that is very generous for a horse that has been beaten less than two lengths to Vercingetorix in the G1 Jebel Hatta last season. He was in subsequent starts not quite as good as expected, with a second place Listed contest at Haydock (albeit a good one) the highlight. He’s done well as a fresh horse in the past however, so chances are there that he goes well today again.

Vancouverite @ 6/1 Coral – 5pts win
Mujaarib @ 16/1 William Hill – 5pts win