This weekend, Picks and Ponderings takes a look at two top-notch race cards this Saturday.
Stateside, attention turns south to the Fair Grounds. Paul Mazur has analysis of the two three-year-old points races there, turns his eyes to Louisiana, the Louisiana Derby (GII) and the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).
The marquee card of the Dubai Carnival, Dubai World Cup day, also takes place this Saturday. Earlier this week, we previewed the locally connected horses running on World Cup day, and also handicapped the first 100-point Kentucky Derby prep race of the year, the UAE Derby. Here, we continue our Dubai World Cup Day coverage, with a look at the five Group I races on Saturday’s Meydan card.
Race 5: Al Quoz Sprint (GI – UAE), three-year-olds and up, 1000 metres (about five furlongs) on the turf, post time 9:10am CDT (6:10pm GST)
The Al Quoz Sprint was first run in 2007, though it did not become part of the Dubai World Cup night festivities until 2011. It was originally a 1200 metre (about 6 furlong) turf sprint, but starting in 2011 it was run at its current 1000-metre distance. This year, SOLE POWER will attempt to win it for a second time. Just one horse has accomplished that feat before: globetrotting South African-bred J J the Jet Plane, who won it at 1200 metres in 2009, and at 1000 metres in 2011. LADY SHIPMAN will attempt to become the second filly or mare to win the Al Quoz. Australian mare Ortensia took on the boys and won the Al Quoz in 2012, and won the King George Stakes (GII – ENG) and the Nunthorpe Stakes (GI – ENG) later that year.
Locally connected Mongolian Saturday shipped to Dubai for this race, but he got sick as a result of shipping over, and has been declared a non-runner. Thus, the only American hope in the Al Quoz is the horse who finished second behind him in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GI) last year: LADY SHIPMAN.
This race did not draw a lot of horses who really love to gun it to the front. In fact, it drew just two: BUFFERING and LADY SHIPMAN. That said, both have shown an ability to run well enough if they have to sit second, so chances of a speed duel are not great. This space is going to align itself with the Aussie speedster, BUFFERING. Though he has recently been going longer than the distance of the Al Quoz, his last try at the distance was a win in the A. J. Moir Stakes (GI – AUS). He sped to the front early, and though he got challenges, he kicked on beautifully and had enough to repel the closers. In all, he has four wins in six starts at or about 1000 metres, and may make all here.
NOT LISTENIN’TOME, one of the Hong Kong contingent, comes into this race off a cracking effort at Sha Tin on March 6. He lugged 133 pounds, seven fewer than he will in the Al Quoz, and was both extremely fast and extremely game. Though the race was not a group stakes, the horses he repelled in that last outing were class: Super Jockey was second in the Golden Shaheen last year, and Amber Sky won the Al Quoz in 2014. The relatively inside post does him no favours, but everything else looks in place for NOT LISTENIN’TOME to run well. He also stands to be a slightly better price than PENIAPHOBIA, the other Hong Kong hope. PENIAPHOBIA is a solid horse, and finished second in the Al Quoz last year. But NOT LISTENIN’TOME has raced a bit more recently, and won decisively the last time they squared off head-to-head at five furlongs.
Finally, ERTIJAAL demands respect. Though he did not run in the Super Saturday prep, and has instead been facing handicap company all meet, ERTIJAAL has been laying waste to those foes as readily as he needs to in order to be a threat in the Al Quoz. His last two starts have been his only two at this 1000-metre distance, and he has been extremely sharp. This race will be a class test, but he looks the best of the Meydan local contingent.
#9 BUFFERING (8/1)
#4 NOT LISTENIN’TOME (10/1)
#6 ERTIJAAL (3/1)
Longshot: This longshot will require a bit of watching the tote board. If the odds on the morning line do hold in the American pools, then #13 LADY SHIPMAN (15/1) could well be worth a punt each way. She can gun it early if BUFFERING fails to fire, and has also shown a stalking gear. Though she has not shipped out of the country before, the move was at least very well-planned. She was moved into the barn of Kieran McLaughlin months ago, with Dubai in mind, and he is a trainer you can trust with these Dubai ships. She destroyed fillies and mares at Gulfstream last out just as easily as she would need to in order to suggest such a class rise is a good idea. The fact that LADY SHIPMAN has neither shipped internationally nor faced this class yet means you need every penny of her morning line…but if you get it, take it.
Race 6: Dubai Golden Shaheen (GI – UAE), three-year-olds and up, 1200 metres (about six furlongs) on the dirt, post time 9:45am CDT (6:45pm GST)
The Dubai Golden Shaheen began its life as the Nad al Sheba Sprint in 1993, at its current distance of 1200 metres, and was added to the Dubai World Cup night program in 1996. Ten-year-old Meydan mainstay REYNALDOTHEWIZARD, winner of the Golden Shaheen in 2013, will attempt to become the second horse to accomplish that feat. So far, the only two-time winner of the Golden Shaheen was Caller One (2001, 2002). Caller One was also a multiple graded stakes winner in the United Stakes, and third in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
REYNALDOTHEWIZARD wins the 2013 Dubai Golden Shaheen. He will try to win a second on Saturday.
X Y JET is going to take buckets of money from the American pools, but this space is going to take a stand against him. Watch how the dirt is playing — if it is playing as heavily for early speed as it was on Super Saturday, then perhaps he is worth a defensive cover as the speed of the speed. But, if the track is playing in any way fairly so many of the runners in this race do their best on the front end (MASTER KOCHANWONG, KIFAAH, DOMINEER, MUARRAB, MORAWIJ) to make X Y JET unlikely to have things easily. Add to it the fact that we still do not know whether X Y JET is his best away from Gulfstream, and he looks vulnerable and underlaid.
Instead, look to a horse who loves Meydan and will be rolling late: REYNALDOTHEWIZARD. Last out, he did not have quite enough pace to attack, but found a rally for third behind RICH TAPESTRY. Two back, he romped in the Dubawi Stakes; Cool Cowboy returned from that race to win next out, and stands a serious contender in the Godolphin Mile. Last year, he won both of his starts over the Meydan dirt, as well. Though his Golden Shaheen win three years ago came over the Tapeta, he has handled the switch to dirt as well as anyone.
Hong Kong import SUPER JOCKEY returns to the dirt for the first time since he finished second behind Secret Circle in last year’s Golden Shaheen. One wonders why it took his connections so long to send him back to a dirt surface, as his only two career dirt tries came last year, and resulted in a handicap win at Sha Tin and then that Golden Shaheen second. Still, he has shown some class on the grass. Last out, in the Friendship Bridge Handicap at Sha Tin (a turf dash), he finished second beaten just a nose by serious Al Quoz prospect Not Listenin’tome. It speaks well of his recent form. Pacewise, he should be well set, as well. SUPER JOCKEY can stalk, and if rider Joao Moreira can set him up a couple lengths off the pace, he should be well set in the late stages. Finally, CONFRONTATION has appeal. He has run well either stalking the pace or rallying from further off — showing versatility, but also a strong ability not to get burned in a pace battle. It was a bit of a surprise to see him turn up here, as his strong victory in the one-mile Firebreak Stakes (GIII – UAE) in February set him up as a strong Godolphin Mile prospect. That said, he has some American sprint form earlier in his career, suggesting that Kieran McLaughlin has a plan cutting him back here. Furthermore, his Firebreak win came in his first start since last June, giving CONFRONTATION room to improve here second off the lay.
#10 REYNALDOTHEWIZARD (12/1)
#6 SUPER JOCKEY (7/1)
#8 CONFRONTATION (7/2)
Longshot: Watch the tote. The morning line on #1 RICH TAPESTRY (12/1) is appealing, and makes him very playable in light of several things. He fits on class, and he brings his game whenever he ships to Dubai — in five starts at Meydan over three years, he has never been worse than third. That includes a win and two thirds since the track switched to dirt, including a third in last year’s Golden Shaheen. He has also shown pace versatility — though his Al Shindagha Sprint (GIII – UAE) victory two starts back came on the lead, he does not need to be there. The biggest worry about RICH TAPESTRY — and the reason that he needs to be north of about 8/1 to play — is that he is known to bleed. At his best, he could well beat this set, but he has bled just enough in his career to make that something you have to take into account when deciding whether a price is fair.
Race 7: Dubai Turf (GI – UAE), three-year-olds and up, 1800 metres (about nine furlongs) on the turf, post time 10:45am CDT (7:45pm GST)
Run for the 21st time this year, the Dubai Turf began its life as the Dubai Duty Free, and was known that way through 2014. It began its life as a dirt race, but was transferred to the turf in 2000. Among its early winners on the grass was the French globetrotter Jim and Tonic (2001): winner of the 1999 Hong Kong Cup (GI – HK), second in the 1998 Woodbine Mile, and third in the 1999 Woodbine Mile (GI – CAN). Last year’s winner, Solow, was a force on the international middle-distance turf stage all year long. After his Dubai Turf victory, he won the Prix d’Ispahan (GI – FR), Queen Anne (GI – ENG), Sussex (GI – ENG), and the Queen Elizabeth II (GI – ENG) en route to the Cartier Award for Europe’s Champion Older Horse of 2015. The purse this year is $6,000,000, equal to that of the Sheema Classic, and below only the World Cup.
TRYSTER has been on fire this meet, winning both the Dubai Millennium Stakes (GIII – UAE) and the Jebel Hatta (GI – UAE) easily. He is a confirmed closer, but should get some pace to run at with ERTIJAAL, VERY SPECIAL, and GHAAMER around. And, even if the pace does not get especially hot? Last out in the Jebel Hatta, ERTIJAAL had things his own way for much of it, and yet TRYSTER still got the best of it,easily. He gets rider William Buick back in the irons, he loves the course and distance, and his 12-9-0-1 career line suggests he is a consistent sort. TRYSTER will be the chalk, without Solow making the trip, but sometimes the chalk looks like the goods. This is one of those times.
FORRIES WALTZ has not been seen since the Al Rashidiya (GII – UAE) in January. That was his first try at the distance, and he won by a length and a quarter over stablemate ERTIJAAL. As discussed above, he should be getting pace from more than just that stablemate, and his ability to make a rally from midpack should come in handy. If he can run back to his last form he is fast enough to figure. He even has upside to improve a bit: he comes here third off the lay, and has only run six times previously. Five of those six starts have been wins, as well, suggesting FORRIES WALTZ comes ready. EURO CHARLINE finished second behind VERY SPECIAL last out in the Balanchine (GII – UAE). That was her first start since September, however, and it was a good enough prep. She should be sharper this time out, and has back form that would make her competitive here. Though she sometimes has sent to the lead, her better work has come rallying from off the pace. That style should suit her better here than the Balanchine.
Two horses in this field scream “put me in your pocket for later, and not today”. INTILAAQ could be any sort — the four-year-old has raced just five times before, and dismantled a Group III field at Haydock last out. However, that last out was in August, and his stakes wins have come going longer than this mile and an eighth trip. He would have to drift far longer than his 2/1 morning line to want to give him a shot to fire this time out. Five-year-old THE CORSICAN is another who comes into this race off of a layoff. Though he showed solid form against class horses in England last year, he has never even tried a trip this short. The fact that he is not in the Sheema Classic instead suggests he could be a bit short here, and may be warming up for better (and longer) things to come.
#2 TRYSTER (2/1)
#1 FORRIES WALTZ (10/1)
#10 EURO CHARLINE (15/1)
Longshot: #5 FARRIER (30/1) suggested in the Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday that even though you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, perhaps that adage does not hold true for a horse. That race, the eight-year-old Tapit gelding’s 22nd lifetime start, was his first on turf. He could not catch TRYSTER that day, but was the only other to catch and surpass pacesetter ERTIJAAL, finishing a clear and solid second. Rider Richard Mullen, his regular, returns to the irons for the Dubai Turf. The competition gets tougher here from top to bottom, and he will have to provide an improved effort to win a share here. But, as he is just second-time turf, perhaps he can take that step forward despite his advanced age. FARRIER should certainly be the price to try.
Race 8: Dubai Sheema Classic (GI – UAE), three-year-olds and up, 2410 metres (about twelve furlongs) on the turf, post time 11:20am CDT (8:20pm GST)
The Dubai Sheema Classic has been run since 1998. It is the third-longest of four turf races on the Dubai World Cup card, and its $6,000,000 purse equals the Dubai Turf’s as the richest among the grass races. Two winners of the Dubai Sheema Classic have won the Breeders’ Cup Turf as well: 2001 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Fantastic Light (2000), and 2011 BC Turf winner St. Nicholas Abbey (2013). Fantastic Light also won the Eclipse Award for Champion Grass Horse in 2001, the same year he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Sulamani, who won the Sheema Classic in 2003, also made his mark in the United States — and the Chicago area, in particular. He won the Arlington Million later that year upon the disqualification of Storming Home.
Eventual Arlington Million winner Sulamani wins the 2003 Dubai Sheema Classic.
The most exciting betting prospect here — one more than worth taking a swing with — is the Japanese shipper on the rail, LAST IMPACT. Though he was sixth beaten three lengths by DURAMENTE last out, that was at a mile and an eighth — not LAST IMPACT’s best distance. However, here he comes in second off a break, and stretches back out to this better distance of a mile and a half. In five tries going 2400 metres, he has been in the money four times. That includes a win in the Group II Kyoto Daishoten in 2014, as well as a second (beaten just a neck) in last November’s Japan Cup (GI – JPN). Furthermore, he has some Timeform speed figures right in line with this field. The biggest question about LAST IMPACT is the fact that he has not raced out of Japan — but the likely double-digit odds make it worth betting he brings his form.
Much of the discussion leading into the Sheema Classic has surrounded a trio of horses: in descending order of morning line odds, POSTPONED, DURAMENTE, and HIGHLAND REEL. Among these shorter-priced horses, HIGHLAND REEL and POSTPONED have about equivalent appeal. HIGHLAND REEL makes his first start in about three months, leaving open the chance he needs one. Still, the four-year-old has shipped admirably. He is a winner at the highest level on two continents: he made a mockery of the Secretariat Stakes (GI) at Arlington last fall, and won the Hong Kong Vase (GI – HK) at Sha Tin in December. He is Group I placed in France, Ireland, and Australia. In short, he can bring his race around the world with him. He also looks likely to be on the front end, nice since this race does not look to have much speed. Still, HIGHLAND REEL has shown the ability to stalk if need be, or even relinquish and regain the lead. POSTPONED won the local prep, the Dubai City of Gold (GII – UAE), in dominant fashion. It was his first start at Meydan, but it fit right in with his classy back form. He loves this distance: in five attempts at or about a mile and a half, he has four wins and a third; those wins include a Group I at Ascot last July. Though the price will be less than exciting, the form and class fit, and he cannot be ignored.
On the other hand, this space is not quite convinced about DURAMENTE. He showed strong firm last year, through the early half of the three-year-old season, but was off the second half of the year recovering from injury. He did return a month ago in the Nakayama Kinen (GII – JPN), and held off classy horses in Ambitious and Real Steel (a Dubai Turf entrant, albeit one on whom this space is less than keen). He has never shipped and raced outside of Japan, and has never faced this class of older horses. Perhaps he takes the step up despite all this, but the odds do not stand to be good enough to find out. If you’re going to bet a Japanese shipper, take the price shot with LAST IMPACT instead.
#1 LAST IMPACT (12/1)
#8 HIGHLAND REEL (4/1)
#7 POSTPONED (9/5)
Longshot: #6 GAILO CHOP (15/1) has never raced past 2100 metres, making this the longest he has ever tried by a good margin. However, he has some appeal at a price. Though he did not win his prep in France, it was his first race since October, and it was over synthetic and not turf. On grass, he ran some strong races last year, including a gutsy victory in the Mackinnon S. (GI – AUS) last October. In terms of pace, GAILO CHOP has shown some versatility — though he often rallies from off the pace, he can also take the lead and make all if no one else wants the front. Should HIGHLAND REEL not be up to his best, perhaps GAILO CHOP carves out the front end; otherwise, he is content to make a run. The rain this week also helps GAILO CHOP a bit — if any cut in the ground remains, it should play a bit better to his liking.
Race 9: Dubai World Cup (GI – UAE), three-year-olds and up, 2000 metres (about ten furlongs) on the dirt, post time 12:00pm CDT (9:00pm GST)
This year marks the twenty-first edition of the Carnival’s flagship race, the Dubai World Cup. Its purse of $10,000,000 makes it the richest Thoroughbred horse race in the world. Originally run over the dirt at Nad Al Sheba, it was moved to the Tapeta when Meydan opened in 2010. The very first World Cup in 1996 saw Cigar score the fourteenth of sixteen consecutive victories. Cigar is not the only Hall of Fame inductee to have won the Dubai World Cup during his career: Silver Charm (1998), Invasor (2007), and Curlin (2008) have also emerged victorious in Dubai’s biggest race. All of those horses won the races in its days on the dirt. During the Tapeta era, 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom (2013) joined Silver Charm as the only horses to win both the Run for the Roses and the Dubai World Cup. Last year, Meydan switched back from Tapeta to dirt; though classy American shippers California Chrome and Lea tried, it was Meydan local Prince Bishop who rose to the occasion.
Curlin romps in the 2008 Dubai World Cup. His son, KEEN ICE, contests this year’s edition.
For the biggest race of the day, this space will admit to being a dullard. It can’t get past the three top-tier American shippers.
That said, on top, this space will back the longest price among that trio: MSHAWISH. He proved last year that he could ship to Dubai and bring his A-game despite adversity: though he was likely to scratch due to a foot issue, he saw the starter anyway, and finished third behind Solow in the Dubai Turf. He stayed on the green stuff through most of last year, but has recently switched to the dirt with excellent results. He won the Hal’s Hope (GIII) and the Donn (GI), both with a stalking style. He should be able to stay in range of the lead, yet avoid getting tied up in any fun between SPECIAL FIGHTER, CALIFORNIA CHROME, FROSTED, and perhaps even HOKKO TARUMAE. All indications are that he shipped well, putting him one step ahead of last year, and he is in the best form of his life.
This space has been shy (to say the least) about supporting FROSTED since he backed up in the Fountain of Youth over a year ago, but more often than not, this skepticism has been proven unfounded. Particularly, this time, the grey has a very good chance. FROSTED looks downright solid coming into the World Cup. He shipped to Meydan well in advance, contested the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (GII – UAE) in February, and could not have won that race more easily. The waters get deeper here, but FROSTED stands to come back even stronger. He will be second off his winter break, with a race in Dubai under his belt. He should be relatively close to the pace, perhaps pushing it along, but has won from far enough off the pace to suggest he can be settled just a bit back if things get too hot.
Finally…CALIFORNIA CHROME. He will almost certainly go off favoured. It makes sense: he was second in this race last year, and he did win his prep convincingly. The prep was far softer company than this, being handicap company, but the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner did what he needed to do. He shipped well, he dragged his 132-pound sled, and he won with what looked like plenty left in the tank. If the track is playing with the speed bias that it had on Super Saturday, CALIFORNIA CHROME moves up in the estimation — he should be the most forwardly placed of the marquee candidates in the early to middle going. However, if the track is playing fairly…he still rates, but the price (particularly in the Chromie-laden American pools) makes him a less appealing wager than MSHAWISH or even FROSTED.
Among the outside-of-America set, this space gave the longest looks to MUBTAAHIJ and VADAMOS. MUBTAAHIJ has the better chance of the two. Though he has disappointed a bit this Carnival, compared to his shining performances at age three, he did have a wicked speed bias working against him last out in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (GI – UAE). Assuming the track plays in any way fairly here, the Mike de Kock trainee should put forth a better effort this time around. VADAMOS got a look just because the placement was so curious: he has never run on dirt before, has shown most of his form on turf, and finished second beaten a length and a half behind the world-class Solow last out. Still, Solow’s trip was tricky enough, after watching the replay, that it is hard to truly conclude that VADAMOS is that close to Solow in skill or class. His connections likely know it, too, given that they did not even re-route him to the Dubai Turf after Solow begged off. The odds are likely long enough that it would be foolish to talk anyone off a stab at him, but this space will take its swing elsewhere, as discussed in the Longshot section.
#2 MSHAWISH (8/1)
#9 FROSTED (2/1)
#11 CALIFORNIA CHROME (3/2)
Longshot: #1 KEEN ICE (20/1) proved in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, once and for all, that he should not be sent super close to the pace. Speed was playing anomalously well that day, and to Ryan Moore’s credit, he did what he thought he had to do — gave him a try up closer to the pace that SPECIAL FIGHTER was carving out. Unfortunately, that did not work out so well, and he faded late. Here, he returns with a little more zip in front of him. The move to first-time blinkers perplexes a bit, but if Ryan Moore has been riding and thinks they will be a good idea, they are worth a try. In short: KEEN ICE is bred for a mile and a quarter, he should get a better setup, and he stands to be a long price given that last-out clunker. He has an each-way chance.
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