Dubai World Cup Carnival

Pat’s Picks for the Dubai World Cup Carnival

Thursday, January 22, 2015

 

Race 1 - $110,000 Gulf News Sport Handicap (Rated 95-105) – 1,200m – dirt

#9 GENIUS STEP comes in as a slight favorite on the morning line in what looks an open race. His demolition of the The Taj was strong on opening night of the local season as that horse came back to a strong win next out. The big concern, though, is the break. He’s not going to run anywhere else and there have been ample opportunities to run, so it’s obvious he’s had some issues. He does get the pick of top stable jockey Richard Mullen.

Another Seemar runner is #8 PRICE IS TRUTH, who was too bad to be believed last time when missing the break from a rail draw. Mullen rushed him up into contention and vied for the lead, then when he came under pressure, folded badly and was not persevered with over the final 250m. That race was a big class jump for him, but really just seemed to lose his mind in the gate and that would be the legitimate excuse for it all. Well away in his other two wins, he could rebound here.

#10 SIR FREDDIE enters this with six wins on dirt, four of them at this distance, and the breeding made it pretty clear this guy could go on the natural stuff. It’s just a question of class, really. He doesn’t find the toughest field here and is well-handicapped. He’s an outside chance.

You also have #5 SPEED HAWK getting to the dirt for the first time, something that seemed a very logical decision with that pedigree. Trainer Robert Cowell indicated they were planning to try him in this spot and got a good leg stretcher in the turf event. 1,200 could be a bit too much, as he is seemingly best over 1,000, but it’s a chance to take.

The interesting runner is #6 MERHEE, who gets back to dirt after average results on the sandy stuff at the Vaal, and a lacklustre run at the end of last season. He races with prominence and should show himself early, as he did with a leg-stretching grass run on the Carnival’s opening night. That wasn’t a terrible effort, and now he’s back to one of his better distances and could be just right.

1st - #5 SPEED HAWK, 2nd - #9 GENIUS STEP, 3rd - #6 MERHEE

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Race 2 - $150,000 Friday Handicap (Rated 95+) – 2,000m – dirt

Five horses come out of the opening night race won by I’m Back: the second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh placers. It’s worth noting the third placer from that spot, Le Bernardin, came back a big winner last week, and the tenth placer Almoonqith also was back a winner on Saturday in a fairly easy score on turf. So – it has the making of a fairly key race. More on that later.

#1 ENERGIA EL GIGANTE comes in as the top-weight, and is unbeaten on dirt, with all those starts coming in Sweden. He’s back in the UAE for new connections, and trainer Niels Petersen is still looking for his first UAE win – and while needless to say, that top weight won’t help him here. The dirt pedigree is striking, even if you have trouble accepting the Scandinavian form. Point Given is an American Hall of Famer, a winner of two classic races. This gelding’s dam, Lira Da Guanabara, is a half to Azul Da Guanabara, who ran second in the 2006 Al Shindagha Sprint on dirt at Nad Al Sheba.

He also always goes to the front, something else that #6 FATTSOTA tends to do, and it’s typically the modus operandi for #4 HENRY CLAY. Meanwhile, #8 DRAGON FALLS tends to stay fairly handy too, though will have to do it from gate 13 and #10 TORCHLIGHTER showed plenty of early zip too.

Of all of these, Henry Clay and Dragon Falls are most compelling for us. The former is as game as they come and has been enjoying a great run of things lately. Will he be able to get the 2,000m with seemingly so much pace signed on? Dragon Falls just doesn’t win all that often but was very credible over the surface where he is bred to run. He could move forward here with a patient ride.

It leads us to #7 BUSKER. He’s drawn on the rail, but would likely be there anyway as he tends to miss the break. He ate the dirt well in his two tries and is a winner over the distance, which he seems like he would appreciate more of considering his last two runs. There is no doubt he had a relatively perfect trip last time, but it could set up for him again.

#3 INDIANA JONES will likely attract some attention on the back dirt form but comes from connections that are difficult to trust. Trainer Omar Daraj is just 6-186 in his UAE career, and while four of those wins have come in the past 41 starts, they have all been with purebred Arabians in some soft spots. He absolutely must prove it to us.

1st - #7 BUSKER, 2nd - #8 DRAGON FALLS, 3rd - #4 HENRY CLAY

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Race 3 - $60,000 GNProperty.com Handicap (Rated 80-94) – 2,000m – dirt

#10 STREET ACT wheels back after running a good closing second to Layl in a similar event last week. He still likely has issues following a two-month mid-season break but overcame them with a good run last week. We just don’t think he was ever going to get much closer to that winner, who was very impressive. He feels like a trap in this spot.

#1 HUNTING GROUND is one of the two newcomers to the UAE in this field and certainly has the pedigree to get over the dirt. His dam was a Grade 2 winner on the dirt before taking Grade 1 glory on grass. His performances in the UK have been hit and miss, and the distance here seems much shorter than his best, which could be troubling.

#3 SEFRI has improved over the course of his three seasonal appearances and the son of Belmont Stakes winner Jazil could be primed for his best. He races well off the pace, like his sire did, and should be coming late.

If you want to go value hunting, #2 JALAA makes plenty of sense. Presume that his run in the Jebel Ali Stakes Prep last time was just to knock the rust off, he has back performances that make him very competitive here, specifically that win three back. He goes forward and has a good enough gate to be in the mix here too. The price should be right.

1st - #2 JALAA, 2nd - #3 SEFRI, 3rd - #10 STREET ACT

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Race 4 - $120,000 Gulf News Classifieds Handicap (Rated 100-110) – 1,800m – turf

#2 TENOR was scratched last week at the gate after cutting his tongue, and will be joined straight back by stable companion #1 OCEAN TEMPEST, who ran well enough too. It was a bit odd to not see Ocean Tempest on the front-end, but expect both of these to go forward. Tenor is the preferred of the pair.

A few others are likely to be involved in the early gallop, including #10 VALIDUS and maybe #3 STEELER, so the pace should be honest. #4 OUR CHANNEL could mix it up as well. While we don’t think the pace will be fast, per se, it should be contested, and that could set it up for our selections, #5 PILOTE.

A respectable third in his first local start in the UAE, he now comes down into handicap company and is fairly well treated for it. He had a solid trip last time until being forced to steady a bit in the stretch, then came across the back of rivals to get into the clear and stayed on for third in the Singspiel. He should be positioned a bit more outside now and we’ll tip this to be trainer Salem bin Ghadayer’s first winner in the UAE.

Back briefly to Steeler – he was beaten by Tenor in a short field at bath, but typically settles in a nice tracking position. It’s been a LONG time since winning, and we won’t tip him on top here either, but he has had some solid efforts in the UK last season that make him competitive here.

We would be surprised if either #6 ROCK COCKTAIL or #9 UMGIYO ran big ones first-up, as both are likely in need of a good run into form.

1st - #5 PILOTE, 2nd - #3 STEELER, 3rd - #2 TENOR

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Race 5 - $120,000 Tabloid Handicap (Rated 100-110) – 1,600m – dirt

The two horses owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, #3 TAMARKUZ and #6 HAATHEQ should get the majority of the attention on the tote. The former was a big-time closer into the pace on opening night, but hung a bit after being unable to sustain that strong bid. The latter was a competitive and respectable third in the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (G2) on the same card.

Of these two, we prefer Tamarkuz, who had an eventful trip but ran on admirably. It took him a while to get the hang of the dirt, a surface for which he is very well bred, and clearly gets over. The last time he was drawn on the rail he tossed jockey Paul Hanagan at the break.

The breeding on #8 PRINCE ALZAIN is certainly suggestive of a liking to the dirt. All of his wins are on all-weather and he had what just looked like a workout at Lingfield prior to coming in for this. His ability to go forward should also secure him a handy position.

There is incredibly little to go on, from a dirt pedigree standpoint, when discussing the top weight, #1 LIMARIO. This guy has some very good grass and all-weather runs in him, and was competitive against some strong horses last year. It makes us stop and think about why Doug Watson is entering him in this spot, as the horse trains over the dirt at Red Stables, just a few miles north of Meydan. His first-up run last year was better than it looked on paper and he came back in the Godolphin Mile and was beaten just 2 ½ lengths behind a very wide trip. This guy intrigues, and while he is tough to pick on top, has a sustained class edge on the rest of the group. There should be value here and we can’t completely talk you off a locally-prepared horse.

1st - #3 TAMARKUZ, 2nd - #1 LIMARIO, 3rd - #8 PRINCE ALZAIN

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Race 6 - $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort (G2), sponsored by Gulf News – 1,400m – turf

Last year’s winner #5 ANAEROBIO is back to defend his title and without a prep run. That’s fairly understandable considering how well he ran first-up last season, demolishing a group of fifteen rivals over this course and distance. He’s a true 1,400m horse and has been competitive with better horses over longer distances, but this is his type of race. He’ll go forward and track the leaders.

#2 SAFETY CHECK wheels back in two weeks after landing the 1,400m turf win in 2015, leading us to a fascinating matchup with Anaerobio, who won that same race last year before taking this. There should be no doubting how impressive he was against what seemed a quality crew first-up, a better overall group than the one Anaerobio beat the previous year. There is collateral form too, as Iguazu Falls ran fourth beaten 4 ¼ behind Safety Check while he was just 1 ¾ lengths behind Anaerobio in 2014. On raw times too, always a dangerous measure, Safety Check was faster.

Now here’s the wrinkle in the ointment. Just one horse from the last 70 to run for the Marmoom-based Godolphin operation (trained by Al Zarooni in 2013 and Charlie Appleby in 2014) has won in the UAE second-up – that was Anatolian in a life-and-death performance when well-backed as the favorite. Last season, every one of Appleby’s winners came first-up and none were able to replicate it, though Ahtoug came close on several occasions last year. Based on what we saw from Safety Check, something we really liked, we thought he would be a legitimate chance in this spot. The statistic, though, has seen quite a few horses that romped first-up just not be able to back-up, and it makes it a difficult choice. Between Anaerobio and Safety Check, we have to go with Anaerobio until proven otherwise.

#7 RED RAY is first-up for the South Africans off the long quarantine and is likely in need of this but definitely classes up against others in here who leave something to be desired.

1st - #5 ANAEROBIO, 2nd - #2 SAFETY CHECK, 3rd - #7 RED RAY

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Race 7 - $110,000 GulfNews.com Handicap (Rated 95-105) – 2,435m – turf

This seems a very wide open handicap to close the night.

#2 JUTLAND was fifth beaten just two lengths in this race last year, landed by eventual Dubai Gold Cup winner Certerach and has two wins on dirt this year which are solid. Because they were on the dirt, and relative to his recent turf performances, he seems like he might be forgotten a bit, which makes him even more interesting relative to the tote.

#5 ELIDOR, a first-up winner last season, makes his UAE debut over a suitable trip and could give Mick Channon his first win in the UAE since Halicarnassus got it done at the 2010 Carnival over this course and basic trip (2,485 v. 2,435).

#1 EXCELLENT RESULT was a narrow winner of the Dubai City of Gold and found himself overmatched in the Sheema Classic. He was fourth in this race last year, just in front of Jutland. They’ve gone in separate directions most recently, with this guy having been soundly beaten under different tactics in his last three. Maybe the sun in Dubai will do him well.

#10 FIRE FIGHTING seems an interesting challenge for Mark Johnston, whose UAE runners are just 4-125. This guy made an eye-popping 18 starts last year with a few nice wins when often under top weight and gets a considerable break from many of those imposts. You can’t completely ignore #4 AUSSIE REIGNS and #14 SAXO JACK who have proven their mettle at the Carnival.

1st - #2 JUTLAND, 2nd - #5 ELIDOR, 3rd - #10 FIRE FIGHTING