While the Breeders’ Cup may bill itself as the “World Championships” of thoroughbred racing, the Dubai World Cup Night highlights a significantly more diverse group of international competitors with representatives entered from all six continents where horse racing is contested. This year’s event, held for the second time at the new Meydan Racecourse, features seven Group stakes worth a total of $26 million, including the world’s richest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup.
First held in 1996 at Nad Al Sheba, these races have seen some terrific American performers over the years, especially in dirt races such the Godolphin Mile, Golden Shaheen, and the featured World Cup. However, with the move to Meydan’s artificial Tapeta surface in 2010, no longer do dirt horses hold an advantage, so don’t be afraid to look at turf performers with excellent form. Often overlooked by American bettors, fillies and mares have also performed exceedingly well in these open company races, such as last year’s Dubai Sheema Classic where three of the top four place-getters, including the winner Dar Re Mi and runner-up Buena Vista, were mares.
G2 Al Quoz Sprint (5F Turf)
Race 2 | 9:15 AM ET
By Teresa Genaro
This might be a first: a turf sprint and trainer Linda Rice nowhere in sight.
United States racing fans will find familiar names in Stradivinsky and Mr. Gruff. Stradivinsky is trained by Rick Dutrow, who claimed him in May 2010. Stradivinsky won that day, and Dutrow jumped him from the claiming level to the stakes ranks when he entered the son of Stravinsky in the Grade 3 Jaipur at Belmont (replay), which his new trainee won by more than a length. Winner of his last race, the ungraded Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (replay), Stradivinsky won four of seven starts last year and is 6 for 10 at the distance.
Mr. Gruff intrigues if only for his racing history. He won his first foray into stakes company in the Grade 3 San Simeon at Santa Anita in April of 2009. Off for more than a year, he won his first start back, an optional claimer in March 2010, and then repeated in the San Simeon (replay) the next month. His most recent start was in May of last year, but given that he doesn’t seem to mind long layoffs and that jockey Joel Rosario, who’s been aboard for all of the horse’s wins, went abroad with him, he might be an interesting choice at 12-1 on the morning line.
One of only two Group 1 winners in the field, J J the Jet Plane (SAf) is the stand out. Winner of the G1 Mercury Sprint (replay) and G1 Hong Kong Sprint (replay) last year, he’s won four of his last five; his only dismal performance came over the Tapeta track at Meydan. His most recent wins have come at six furlongs, but he’s two for three at five furlongs. He’s worthy of his 2-1 morning line odds.
Sole Power (GB) is the other Group 1 winner, coming in off a victory in the Nunthorpe Stakes (replay) at York at odds of 100-1. Punters who fancy him here will have to settle for a much smaller price. War Artist (AUS) comes in off a stakes win after a largely unimpressive 2010 campaign; Happy Dubai (IRE) has three wins from five starts over the Meydan grass.
Picks: J J the Jet Plane, Happy Dubai, Stradivinsky
G2 Godolphin Mile (8F Tapeta)
Race 3 | 9:50 AM ET
By Dana Byerly
In a well-matched and wide open race, tepid favorite Conveyance (7-2) is America’s best shot. Making his second start off a long layoff, he put in a solid effort in the 6 furlong G3 Mahab Al Shimaal at Meydan, setting the pace and getting nipped on the wire (replay) by Bankable, who’s starting in the Duty Free. His trainer, Satish Seemar, was very pleased with his inside post and feels he’ll improve (interview). The second choice is Skysurfers (GB) at 9-2. Last out in February in the the 1 mile Firebreak Stakes at Meydan, he got the best of last year’s UAE Derby winner, Musir, who was coming off a year-long break (replay).
Several entrants look like interesting value plays. Rileyskeepingfaith (12-1) was fourth in the G3 Mahab Al Shimaal and then went on to an emphatic win in the grassy G2 Zabeel Mile (replay) earlier in the month. Ahmed Ajtebi likes his chances with Rileykeepsthefaith the most of all his mounts on the card (interview).
Other interesting prospects include Zafeen Speed (20-1) and As de Trebol (20-1), who ran second and third in the 1 mile G3 Burj Nahaar at Meydan (replay), fighting down the lane to finish within a neck of Mendip. American-owned Crowded House (20-1) finished ninth. Mufarrh (Ire) (20-1) had done well at the distance and could improve on the cut back from 10F last out. Red Jazz (12-1) was last out in November with a win in the G2 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket (replay). Premio Locco (6-1), Imbongi (SAf) (8-1), Make Music For Me (20-1), I Want Revenge (5-1), Hearts of Fire (20-1) and Le Drakkar (20-1) round out the field.
G2 UAE Derby (9.5F Tapeta)
Race 4 | 10:25 AM ET
By Jessica Chapel
The sole American entrant in the UAE Derby is Sweet Ducky (12-1). A winner of three races from six starts, Sweet Ducky finished second in the Holy Bull Stakes to Dialed In (replay). At Meydan on Monday, he worked 800 meters (approximately four furlongs) on Monday, untimed due to fog. Trainer Herman Brown, still getting to know the colt previously trained by Kelly Breen, told the track notes team thatSweet Ducky will be “be a good horse in six months time.” The Kentucky Derby remains a possibility, if he runs well on Saturday. “It would be tough to turn it down if he runs a great race,” said Brown.
Sweet Ducky would have to run a career-topper. The field of 14 for the UAE Derby is led by three stakes-winning fillies and Xin Xu Lin (4-1), a 4-year-old four-time Group 1 winning Brazilian-bred. Making his first start for Godolphin, Xin Xu Lin is the DRF morning-line favorite off the strength of his win in the 1 1/2 mile Group 1 Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini at San Isidro last December (replay). The UAE Derby is his first race since then, which shouldn’t be a problem for the colt, a winner in his debut and off two previous brief layoffs. A versatile runner, Xin Xu Lin also the advantage of speed in a race that doesn’t seem to have much — he controlled the pace in the Pellegrini and looked as though he had plenty left in the stretch.
UAE Oaks runner-up Mahbooba (5-1) is the second morning-line favorite. Never out of the money in her seven career starter, all four of her wins have come at distances of less than one mile. The 4-year-old Galileo filly defeated Reem (10-1) by 3 3/4 lengths in the UAE 1000 Guineas (replay). Reem went on to finish second in the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes and then to beat males by 5 1/4 lengths earlier this month in the Al Bastayika, run at the same distance as the UAE Derby. Introvert (20-1) won the Meydan Classic in his first start at a distance longer than mile. He should appreciate the additional distance of the UAE Derby.
Picks: Xin Xu Lin, Reem, Introvert
G1 Golden Shaheen (6F Tapeta)
Race 5 | 11:05 AM ET
By Kevin Martin
When it comes to sprinters, the U.S.A. has the market cornered — even when racing halfway around the world. Looking over the list of winners of the 6-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen, you see names like Benny the Bull, Kelly’s Landing, and Proud Tower Too, all American-based sprinters.
Last year’s winner, Kinsale King was bred in Kentucky and all but three of his twelve career races were inside the U.S. He returns again this year for trainer Carol O’Gallaghan and will try to become the second two-time winner of the Golden Shaheen; he’s 5-2 on the morning line. Euroears (9-2), winner of nine races from seventeen starts, will be making his second start for trainer Bob Baffert. In his first start for Baffert, he completed the 6-furlong Palos Verdes (replay) in a fast 1:07.1, good enough for a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. He has been working brilliantly over the Santa Anita dirt in preparation for Dubai but will be making his first career start over a synthetic surface.
The major non-US player and morning line favorite is Rocket Man (2-1), who finished a tough luck second to Kinsale King in last year’s Shaheen (replay). He has 13 career wins and has never been worse than second in 17 career starts. An interesting longshot with a chance to boost the exotics is Charlie’s Moment (20-1). He is owned by the host country’s Godolphin Stables and will be ridden by world class jockey Frankie Dettori. The 5-year-old son of Indian Charlie won a 6-furlong prep race over the Meydan racecourse in February.
Picks: Euroears, Rocket Man, Charlie’s Moment
G1 Dubai Duty Free (9F Turf)
Race 6 | 11:45 AM ET
By Valerie Grash
An American-based horse has never won this turf race, a situation trainer Eoin Harty hopes to change with Victor’s Cry (9-2), who demonstrated an explosive late burst in winning the G1 Shoemaker Mile (replay) last spring. He then followed that up with a runner-up effort in the G1 Eddie Read (replay), but in his sole effort outside of California flattened out to finish well back in the G1 Woodbine Mile (replay). Other Duty Free entrants Americans will be familiar with include G1 Arlington Million winner Debussy (10-1) and third-place finisher Tazeez (20-1), as well as G1 Secretariat runner-up Wigmore Hall (10-1). Of the three, Wigmore Hall appears in strongest form, having won the G2 Jebel Hatta (replay) here over Duty Free favorite Presvis (3-1), a brilliant yet mercurial gelding making his third attempt to win this race. Considering that for the past three years the winner of the Duty Free prepped in Dubai, it’s certainly an important angle to consider.
Last year’s runner-up, Bankable (10-1), is back and in apparent good form, but fragile legs have led to him be prepped solely on Tapeta and over shorter distances, including a decisive victory over Conveyance (replay), who goes in the Godolphin Mile. Godolphin’s Mendip (10-1), a son of Harlan’s Holiday, attempts turf for the first time, while Singapore-raced Better Than Ever (12-1), winner of 14 of 15 starts, gets a major class check but is speedy enough to be up for the challenge.
With the success South African horses have had in this race, it’s impossible to discount the mare River Jetez (10-1), now trained by the legendary Michael de Kock, especially off two sharp preps at Meydan. De Kock’s other entry, the mare Raihana (4-1), is second-choice behind Previs, but drew the far outside post 16, and even after her runner-up finish in last year’s G2 UAE Derby on Tapeta, she has yet to prove herself against top quality horses. Still, she’s very fast and top jockey Christophe Soumillon stays aboard.
Picks: River Jetez, Wigmore Hall, Raihana
G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (12F Turf)
Race 7 | 12:50 AM ET
By Valerie Grash
With the best turf routers – including last year’s Sheema Classic runner-up Buena Vista – opting to run on Tapeta in the Dubai World Cup for $5 million more in purse money, this year’s race has lost a bit of its luster. However, it offers a major opportunity for American-based turf horses like Champ Pegasus (9-2) and Bourbon Bay (8-1), who have developed a nice little rivalry dating back to last year’s G1 Clement Hirsch (replay). That said, they are likely to be overbet by Americans on the international tote, as will tepid morning-line favorite Dangerous Midge (7-2), making his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf (replay).
G1 Northern Dancer e (replay) winner Redwood (8-1) narrowly missed in the G1 Canadian International last fall, and then ran second to Mastery in the G1 Hong Kong Vase in December (replay), defeating G1 Melbourne Cup victor Americain by a half-length in the process. His second dam, Jolypha, ran third behind A.P. Indy and Pleasant Tap in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Another well-bred entrant is Japanese colt Rulership (10-1), who posted a smoking 12-furlong win in January’s G2 Nikkei Shinshun Hai (replay) after admirably finishing within three lengths of Victoire Pisa and Buena Vista in the G1 Arima Kinen (replay). Look for this son of 1997 Japanese Horse of the Year Air Groove to do his dam proud with Christophe Soumillon aboard.
Last year, the mare Deem (20-1) just missed a placing when she finished behind Dar Re Mi, Buena Vista and Spanish Moon (replay). This year she enters off a second-place finish behind Golden Sword in a Meydan allowance race that saw a new track record established for 10 furlongs. She’s definitely a place chance at long odds.
Picks: Redwood, Deem, Rulership
G1 Dubai World Cup (10F Tapeta)
Race 8 | 1:35 PM ET
By Chris Rossi
The most striking insight I had while watching last year’s Dubai World Cup at Meydan was that the new Tapeta surface was kind to those with proven grass form and kinder to those with recent form on Meydan’s Tapeta. They say history repeats itself, so let’s keep that in mind when taking a look at the deep field of 14 for this year’s World Cup.
Twice Over has never been better, having answered the surface question winning the G2 Maktoum Challenge earlier in March at Meydan (replay). A stark contrast to last year when 10th in this same race off a 5- month break, Twice Over is a remarkably consistent performer all over the world and with a perfect prep for this behind him, he’s set up well for this race.
Cape Blanco has gotten the best of Twice Over before at this distance, in the Irish Champion Stakes (replay) last September, but was a disappointing 14th as the favorite in the l’Arc de Triomphe (replay). The layoff is the only question for Cape Blanco.
A trio of Japanese-breds made the trip to Dubai. Victoire Pisa turned the tables on Buena Vista two back in the Arima Kinen (replay) after Buena Vista finished in front of Victoire Pisa while being disqualified in the Japan Cup (replay). Both should be major players here, with the edge going to Victoire Pisa on recent form. Rounding out the trio is Transcend, who does his best running on dirt. His limited grass starts don’t point to success here.
Speaking of trios, the American contingent all have major questions. Gio Ponti has been a mixed bag off long breaks in the past and is a bit longer in the tooth than last year when coming up short in spots. Has shown an affinity for synthetics and that should count for something. Still looking for that career best effort needed to put him over the top.
Richard’s Kid is a multiple G1 winner on synthetics but hasn’t been around when the dust settles against the best. Forgive his last at your own risk.
Fly Down has never been on synthetics and has never proven it at this level despite showing occasional glimpses of ability; looms an underlay.
Godolphin sends out, you guessed it, a trio. Monterosso, a stayer that has won going long, made a fresh appearance when winning last off a layoff and could be around at the wire. Poet’s Voice has shown some class up to a mile but never beyond that. He gets the services of Godolphin main rider Dettori. Rounding out the Godolphin entry is Prince Bishop who appears to be in too deep.
Musir has never been out of the money at Meydan; the 5-year-old is light on experience with only eight lifetime starts. Will make him prove it as second choice on the morning line.
Golden Sword has never won at the G1 level but has two straight victories at this track at lower levels. The connections are no strangers to Dubai upsets.
Rounding out the field is synthetic specialist Gitano Hernando, having won five of eight lifetime starts on these surfaces; his recent form, however, is a bit shaky.