Tag Archives: Dubai World Cup

Sunday Selections: April, 1st 2018

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Hawkbill (11/1) makes the day! A superb front-running ride by William Buick, who rode his jockey colleagues to sleep, saw Hawkbill striding home nearly gate to wire.

As much brilliance as it was from Buick, as surprising it was that some of the finest jockey talent around, did let him get his own way up front so easily. I take it, as one turf closer to home things didn’t quite go to plan as hoped.

……….

2.05 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 7f

Despite still chasing this elusive maiden win after 22 starts I do feel Iconic Figure may have found a golden opportunity here in race. He clearly enjoys the Southwell fibresand given the way how well he usually travelles and that he has achieved some of his best career performances here.

He was second and third respectively in his most recent starts earlier this months. Coming off a small break he finished a good runner-up over CD, chasing home Poppy May – who’s here today as well off 3lb higher – who got first run, which was decisive.

Only two days later Iconic Figure reappeared, dropping to 6f. From those up with the pace he was pretty much the only one finishing the race, ending up in third eventually – bar the eventual winner, who, however, seemed to have tons in hand that day.

The slightly longer trip should suit better. A perfect draw and coming here in fine form with a good 5lb claimer in the saddle, Iconic Figure could get finally this first iconic career victory on the board.

Selection:
10pts win – Iconic Figure @ 8/1 VC

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Saturday Selections: March, 31st 2018

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Good Friday washed out – both selections non-runners thanks to the severe ground conditions at Bath yesterday. Let’s see if today – on Dubai World Cup day (one fancy for the Sheema Classic) – things go more to plan.

…….

3.00 Musselburgh: Class 2 Handicap, 1 mile

Some of the lesser exposed individuals are interesting, particularly Paco Boy son Fake News. The one I fancy, though, is hardy sort Indomeneo, who has seen plenty of racing as a juvenile.

He is vulnerable to an improver, and will have to overcome a wide draw. However, he has proven himself over this sort of trip and ground last year. He looked good winning two on the bounce at Ripon and Redcar, and he already ran to a TSR of 82 – so of his current mark off 84 he looks a rock solid option.

I like the fact that he is usually up with the pace. Something that is of massive advantage at Musselbourgh particularly in these type of conditions today, I feel. He will need to be sharp at the start, on the other hand – as drawn in 10 is not an easy task.

Selection:
10pts win – Indomeneo @ 7/1 VC

…….

4.45 Musselburgh: Class 5 Handicap, 5 furlongs

Question marks all over, so I go with one who’s proven to enjoy the ground and might not have shown his best over this sort of trip in these conditions yet: Richard Fahey’s Geoff Potts has a poor win record, however, looked an improved horse last season, particularly with cut in the ground.

He was very consisted in the second half of last season, winning a 6f Handicap on soft ground and going close enough in a handful of races subsequently. A good piece of form over the minimum trip is missing, however only twice in Handicaps did he have the chance and was very much unfancied those times.

With more rain to come, this should turn into a grind and that will suit those who act on this type of ground and stay a bit further. Geoff Potts fits the bill.

Selection:
10pts win – Geoff Potts @ 9/1 Matchbook

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8.45 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 6 furlongs

Money is already pouring in, yet top weight Fareeq looks still a tasty price. He’s a tricky sort who can make a mess of things at the start and can hang violently in the finish, however judged on his two last CD runs here at Chelmsford he should be bang there when it matters.

He won here in January in fine style, running to a time speed rating of 61 and finished subsequently a good runner-up off a revised mark, when things did not go his way as he missed the break from a widish draw and travelled always wide mostly off the bridle.

Pretty much the same story at Kempton the last time, now back at Chelmsford, a kinder draw and a mark of 60 should give him a big chance with a good 5lb claimer in the saddle.

Selection:
10pts win – Fareeq @ 12/1 VC

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5.10 Meydan: Sheeema Classic, 1m 4f

The Japanese Rey De Oro and Arc runner-up Cloth Of Stars head the market, and probably rightly so. However, at given prices, I do fee Hawkbill is the forgotten horse and way too big.

He had a fine comeback run here at Meydan earlier this months. Overcoming a wide draw and travelling wide throughout, he grinded it out eventually. This is much tougher today, obviously, but that was as good a reappearance as you could expect and shows Hawkbill is still close to his best form.

William Buick is in the saddle of the five times Group winner, including the 2016 Coral Eclipse. I hope he will have Hawkbill close enough to the pace. Stall seven is wide enough but Hawkbill has the pace to get across quickly.

He is not the best horse in the race, but if he gets an ideal run, he could be hard to pass, given race fitness is ensured.

Selection:
10pts win – Hawkbill @ 11/1 PP

The World’s Best Racehorse in 2017

The news broke on Tuesday afternoon and Twitter went wild: Arrogate was crowned the World’s Best Racehorse in 2017.

Australia’s wonder mare Winx finished second, Cracksman and Gun Runner joint third. And Enable? The Arc, dual Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and QE II champion?

Fifth. Let that sink in….

“Are you kidding???” my initial reaction. A couple of angry tweets later I remind myself how these self-proclaimed world thoroughbred rankings are compiled.

Arrogate landed the Dubai World Cup in most scintillating fashion, flopped on three subsequent occasions afterwards – however, this doesn’t matter for the rankings. One might wonder why? It all makes sense if you know what BHA handicapper Phil Smith explains:

“We look at the best sustainable performance over the whole year. We ask if the form of a race can be supported and substantiated by the prior and subsequent performances of the winner and/or placed horses.
With Arrogate, his Pegasus World Cup win nearly replicates his Dubai World Cup performance. The form of the placed horses in both races is also rock-solid. What we are talking about here is a classification of performances from January 1 to December 31.”

Long story short: the World’s Best Racehorse is awarded to the horse that ran the single best race in the given year. It probably would be more appropriately titled “World’s Best Racing Performance in 2017”.

Plenty of wise racing folks are of the opinion Arrogate’s stunning Dubai win was, indeed, the single biggest performance of the entire year. So there must be some merit to it – who am I to argue?

Because his performance in the DWC was deemed so outstanding, it didn’t matter what else he did in 2017. In the eyes of the panel (that came up with the rankings), that day Arrogate repeated performances from the past, hence the performance was deemed sustainable.

Well, racing and judging performances is subjective – the world thoroughbred rankings are highly subjective as well. An esteemed panel comes up with these ratings – still it is a subjective way of assessing performances. There is no other way in racing, though.

Personally, I do not agree with the rankings. Plenty others do. And that is okay, too. I believe, nonetheless, to crown the best horse of any year based on one single performance – in this case achieved in March – while not taking into account the rest of the year and therefore subsequent performances, is flawed.

I find it hard to accept that a filly like Enable, who won five top class Group 1 races in 2017, doesn’t even get into the top 3 of these rankings. Mind you, The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was named the best individual race of 2017… but the horse who won it, who clearly repeated her big performances time after time, finishes in the so called World’s Best Racehorse rankings only in 5th place.

It’s not right. In my eyes, at least. I think, if you want to ensure that this award is a serious reflection of achievement in a given year, you have to be able to reflect and look back on the entire year in order to decide what performance(s) reflect the very best of this given year. That has its own flaws, mind. Still, it would be a fairer way, in my opinion.

That doesn’t take anything away from Arrogate. He was – deservedly so – crowned the World’s Best Racehorse in 2016. He clearly was not the best in 2017, though. His DWC victory remains a sensational piece of achievement, nonetheless.

So does Enable’s Arc win, beating eleven other Group 1 winners that day. Doing at at the end of a long season. Doing it after landing four other big Goup 1 prizes during her 2017 campaign.

So is a third consecutive Cox Plate win by Winx. Who did it after winning nine other graded races in 2017, including 5 more Group 1’s.

That’s class. Class that has been repeated over and over again. An exceptionally high level of performance that is sustainable. As 2017 proved.

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

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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

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