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Hawk’s 2014 Dubai World Cup Day Analysis and Selections

March 29, 2014

It’s back once again – my preview of the Dubai World Cup meeting from Meydan, as the racing world gathers in the Middle East once again.

This is the first time in three years I haven’t been in Dubai, with my esteemed colleague from the South China Morning Post Alan “Hats” Aitken instead enjoying all the desert has to offer. However, I’m excited to be in Hong Kong for this meeting, given it looks like our horses are prime contenders in the features.

To be honest, I think it would be disappointing if we walked away with nothing, but that’s horse racing – who knows what might happen?

I’ve written a race-by-race summary, as well as providing my selections for each race. At the end, I’ve also added some links to some of the other interesting previews I’ve read and seen today.

Race 1 – GROUP 1 KAHAYLA CLASSIC (2000m)

As I say every year, Purebred Arabian form is not my forte but I know enough to know I want to have VERSAC PY on top. He’s game as anything, but he hasn’t won since March 2012. That said, he has run well in this race the last two years, finishing fourth in 2012 before leading until the shadows of the post last year. He can go one better.

The danger for mine is NIESHAN, who is coming off a disappointing run at Abu Dhabi. He hasn’t shown much since winning the Al Mahtoum Challenge for the Arabians last year, but he finally gets back to the Meydan 2000m and he is drawn well. Expect a big run.

RABBAH DE CARRERE has been in good form and must be considered, while MUSHRAE and last year’s winner AL MAMUN MONLAU are other chances.

7 – VERSAC PY
6 – NIESHAN
15 – RABBAH DE CARRERE
8 – MUSHRAE

Race 2 – GROUP 2 GODOLPHIN MILE (1600m)

The race comes down to one question, really: is SOFT FALLING RAIN at his best? Or, more accurately, is he the same horse as last year? He was disappointing first up in the Mahab Al Shimaal, but he drew wide and had to go back over a distance that was always going to be too short. If you remember last year, he sat three deep and still managed to win, so with a nicer draw, I think he’ll prove too good now that he’s back up to a mile.

I think if there’s one at odds who can cause an upset, it’s MULL OF KILLOUGH. I think the mile’s his journey, and his last run behind Boban, Smokin’ Joey and Speediness in the Emirates Stakes at Flemingtno was top notch. I think he’ll be in the right spot despite the wide gate, and I’ll be having something on each way for sure.

SHURUQ won the lead-up to this, the Burj Nahaar, beating VARIETY CLUB, and while I prefer the South African horse as a galloper, Godolphin mare Shuruq has the better draw and is likely to get the upper hand. Both have some chance, though, and I’d love to see Variety Club win.

FLOTILLA is next best.

5 – SOFT FALLING RAIN
11 – MULL OF KILLOUGH
10 – SHURUQ
15 – VARIETY CLUB

Race 3 – GROUP 2 DUBAI GOLD CUP (3200m)

The five runnings of this race have all been won by Godolphin, and it looks like they have a mortgage on this year’s race all being equal. However, while they have the favourite CAVALRYMAN, I think another of theirs may prove the one to beat.

I’ve been wanting to see SONGCRAFT over 3200m since he won his first four starts during the Dubai carnival in 2012. He hasn’t quite been the same since then, but he seems to have found something near his best at his last two starts. His last run, he was just beaten by Excellent Result after hitting the front. I think he’s looking for the trip now and he can win.

Obviously, CAVALRYMAN is the danger. He won in such imposing style last year, while he was dominant in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy first up, smashing his rivals by five and a half lengths. It would be a surprise if he’s not around the mark, but I think the stablemate can beat him.

I’m a huge fan of NOW WE CAN as a horse, I backed him heavily prepost in the Melbourne Cup last year only for his form to tail off. But he won first up over 1900m and he’s been somewhat overlooked here. If he’s as good as I think he is, he’ll be in the mix here.

Next best JOSHUA TREE, who was a good second to Verema in the Prix Kergorlay in August, while SIMENON is obviously some chance if he can find his best.

6 – SONGCRAFT
7 – CAVALRYMAN
12 – NOW WE CAN
8 – JOSHUA TREE

Race 4 – GROUP 2 UAE DERBY (1900m)

This does look a race between the favourites LONG JOHN and GIOVANNI BOLDINI, a clash between leviathans Godolphin and Coolmore. I have nightmares of another Caulfield Guineas winner in Helmet tackling this race and failing miserably two years back, but there’s one key difference – Long John has already won in Dubai. He smashed his rivals first up in the UAE 2000 Guineas and, on that performance, he is clearly the one to beat. There are queries, don’t get me wrong – Charlie Appleby is struggling to get horses to win beyond their first-up run, while the 1900m is some concern as Long John’s only run past a mile was his Cox Plate failure. Still, a repeat of his UAE 2000 Guineas run is good enough to win here.

The danger is Coolmore’s Giovanni Boldini, who finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf behind Outstrip. He’s won a Listed race at Dundalk easily, and there’s a bit of hype about him – he’s always been expected to improve as a three-year-old. The Kentucky Derby could be in his sights, but he’d need to run a big race here.

SIR JOHN HAWKINS is an intriguing runner, also for Coolmore (and no, not just because we share a name) – I remember backing him in the Coventry Stakes, when he finished a well beaten third behind War Command. In two further runs, he was a bit one-paced, and it’s interesting they’ve decided to step him up to the 1900m straight away. He’s not out of this race by any means.

Perhaps the most fascinating runners are COOPTADO, who brings South American staying form – who knows how that will stack up? – and TOAST OF NEW YORK, who is only coming from Wolverhampton but has won his last two starts by 12 lengths and 16 lengths respectively.

4 – LONG JOHN
5 – GIOVANNI BOLDINI
10 – SIR JOHN HAWKINS
3 – COOPTADO

Race 5 – GROUP 1 AL QUOZ SPRINT (1000m)

All this talk about the race being gifted to SHEA SHEA now that he’s drawn the outside – dismiss that now! It’s by no means a one-horse race, and trust me, they’ll know AMBER SKY is there (and no, I’m not biased towards the Hong Kong horses!).

Amber Sky is a speedball, he’ll lead without a doubt. It will be interesting to see if Joao Moreira maintains his course, or looks to cross to either rail – whatever he wants to do, he’s likely to have the speed underneath him to be able to do it. I think he’ll have Shea Shea out of his comfort zone at the crucial point of the race, just past the halfway mark, and if he’s vulnerable there I think Amber Sky can beat him.

Obviously Shea Shea is the hardest to beat, he won the race effortlessly last year while he also won the lead up this year, the Meydan Sprint – albeit unimpressively. He’ll come on for the run and Amber Sky will need to be right on his game to win it.

The dangers are AHTOUG, who almost beat Shea Shea last start – he was flying at the finish – and SOLE POWER, while I’ll give a special mention to JOY AND FUN too as he has his final race here after placing in this race the last three years. Still, I think it’s a race between the two favourites.

8 – AMBER SKY
12 – SHEA SHEA
11 – AHTOUG
2 – SOLE POWER

Race 6 – GROUP 1 DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN (1200m)

A pretty weak renewal of this race, in all honesty. It seems to have really wilted the last two years, which is slightly disappointing.

If Hong Kong doesn’t win the Al Quoz Sprint, then this is our opportunity to get on the board. The last two winners of the Golden Shaheen, KRYPTON FACTOR and REYNALDOTHEWIZARD (who both line up here), both won the Mahab Al Shimaal before winning the Golden Shaheen. That obviously puts RICH TAPESTRY in the prime position.

Rich Tapestry was impressive, albeit in slow time, when winning the Mahab Al Shimaal under a perfect Olivier Doleuze ride three weeks back. Doleuze, known as the “king of the dirt” in Hong Kong, will have to ride an even cannier race if he is to salute here from gate 12. But there’s no doubting the fact he’s a class better on the dirt than he is on the turf, and now that he’s reached such a high level, there are no races in Hong Kong for him on the dirt.

Enter STERLING CITY. Now, Sterling City is yet to race on Sha Tin’s all-weather track, let alone Meydan’s unique Tapeta surface, but his form is clearly superior to Rich Tapestry’s in Hong Kong. They’ve faced each other twice, and the score is 2-0 in Sterling City’s favour. He should have got his first Group 1 on the board last start in the Centenary Sprint Prize, when Joao Moreira never saw daylight, and he’s drawn to get the perfect run here. This is his opportunity to break the duck.

I think the danger could be Godolphin’s COMPLICATE. He’s peaking at the right time for this race, and the former Australian galloper ran home solidly behind Rich Tapestry last start. He can turn the tables on the top two.

It would be great to see Michael Chang have an international Group 1 winner so I will be cheering Rich Tapestry, while you can never discount REYNALDOTHEWIZARD over the 1200m on Tapeta. The only other one I could possibly consider is BALMONT MAST.

Hopefully it’s a Group 1 for Hong Kong!

4 – STERLING CITY
8 – COMPLICATE
12 – RICH TAPESTRY
5 – REYNALDOTHEWIZARD

Race 7 – GROUP 1 DUBAI DUTY FREE (1800m)

The first of the “big three”, it’s a competitive race that has a number of elements.

I think Asia can also snatch this race, albeit it’s the turn of the Japanese. JUST A WAY has been impressive winning at his last two starts, but the victory that sold me was his runaway success in the Autumn Tenno Sho. That day, Just A Way ran away to score by four lengths from Japan Cup heroine Gentildonna, with Eishin Flash in third. TOKEI HALO was among the alsorans, and he managed to finish second to Akeed Mofeed in the Hong Kong Cup at his next start. There will be a large Japanese press pack at Meydan, and I expect they’ll be cheering as Just A Way wins.

VERCINGETORIX is the obvious danger. Unbeaten from six starts, he was South Africa’s champion three year old last year, winning four starts culminating in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000. He then came to Dubai, winning over 1800m before adding a victory in the Jebel Hatta. Barrier 11 makes it a bit awkward but form at the carnival has been a plus in this race in recent years – think the likes of Sajjhaa, Al Shemali, Gladiatorus. It’s also a good story, as described so eloquently in the New York Times by Ryan Goldberg.

THE FUGUE is the main danger to these two, but she’s better over further so could be some risk. With even luck she probably could have won the Breeders’ Cup Turf and the Hong Kong Vase, but it is great to see her in training for another year. She’ll win her fair share of races this year, and it wouldn’t shock to see her salute.

MSHAWISH, DANK, LOGOTYPE all can’t be ignored either, while it does appear BLAZING SPEED has found too tough a race for his ability.

2 – JUST A WAY
11 – VERCINGETORIX
4 – THE FUGUE
1 – MSHAWISH

Race 8 – GROUP 1 DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (2400m)

If the Dubai Duty Free looked tough, the Sheema Classic is nigh on impossible. I’d say there are seven legitimate chances, perhaps eight, and it’s hard to separate the leading horses.

I did this race a number of times, have changed my selections a few times, but in the end I’ve decided to go with a Melbourne and Caulfield Cup winner in DUNADEN. This surprised me somewhat – I didn’t give him a second look when I had a quick glance over the field – but I think this could be his race. He doesn’t win much these days, but I think they’ve pulled the right rein by giving him one early run in Dubai. That was a 1800m race on the Tapeta, when he looked outpaced before finding his feet late, and it will have him spot on for this race. He was the best of the backmarkers last year in what was a farcically-run race, and with a more genuine tempo looking likely, he should be well suited. He looked well at trackwork this week, as this tweet from top photographer and close friend Sharon Chapman showed, and I think he can win the Sheema Classic.

It’s a lottery for second – I think GENTILDONNA’s obviously in with a chance, she finished second last year when fresh (and when Yasunari Iwata decided to take her via Abu Dhabi and Sharjah) but two runs since seem to suggest she is not at her peak when first-up. Ryan Moore renews his association with her second-up here, and she’s definitely hard to beat.

The draw’s cruel for CIRRUS DES AIGLES as he attempts to win this race for the second time (he beat last year’s winner St Nicholas Abbey in 2012). I think the old boy showed towards the end of last season he’s still got some fight in him, and despite the draw, I couldn’t rule him out.

Best of the rest is DOMINANT, who I believe is absolutely flying this preparation. His two runs in Hong Kong were as good as he’s ever gone, the Moore camp believe he’s been the best traveller of their three runners on the night and he’ll be running home hard. Others with chances are MOUNT ATHOS, MAGICIAN, DENIM AND RUBY and even MARS is some hope, but it’s definitely not cut and dry.

6 – DUNADEN
12 – GENTILDONNA
15 – CIRRUS DES AIGLES
14 – DOMINANT

Race 9 – GROUP 1 DUBAI WORLD CUP (2000m)

The highlight of the night, this is the race I hope above all can be won by Hong Kong. We have two very good chances in MILITARY ATTACK and AKEED MOFEED, but I think it is the former who is our best hope of securing our first win in the world’s richest race.

I’ve believed all season Military Attack would improve with racing. It took him a long while this season to find his feet, while he also had to contend with a number of bad draws. Last time out, everything fell into place and he smashed his rivals in the Hong Kong Gold Cup. Last season, his form continued to improve as the season wore on, and it looks a similar scenario this year.

As I said to leading Dubai racing analyst Pat Cummings for his wonderful comprehensive (if you haven’t read it, you should), the Tapeta is always going to be a concern. Military Attack has been a fairly consistent horse right throughout his career, he’s only been beaten by more than five lengths once – that was on the polytrack at Kempton on debut. He was 40-1 and he finished 14 lengths from them. That poses some concern, but that said, he hasn’t been tried since so who’s to know whether he handles it or not?

I think he has enough quality to deliver a World Cup to Hong Kong.

As for the dangers, I think SANSHAAWES is one to be very wary about. Coming from South Africa, he’s emerged from seemingly nowhere to become a legitimate World Cup contender. He was tough last start behind PRINCE BISHOP, but he comes in from gate 13 to gate 5 which should prove to be vital. He’s right in this race.

The Japanese have two hopes in BELSHAZZAR and HOKKO TARUMAE, who were first and third in the Japan Cup Dirt. It’s well worth watching the race just to see the extravagant riding style of Hideaki Miyuki aboard Hokko Tarumae – what a cowboy! But I think Belshazzar is Japan’s best hope of adding a second World Cup after Victoire Pisa’s 2011 success. Not only does he have the right draw to be well-positioned, but I think he’s got the right form to be competitive.

I have to include MUKHADRAM, because I think he’s right in this if he finds his best, while last year’s second RED CADEAUX and AKEED MOFEED are best of the rest.

I’m happy to take on the current favourite, Epsom Derby winner RULER OF THE WORLD, as I’m not convinced about him as a horse and I believe he’s more of a stayer. He was wildly inconsistent last season and I want to see him bring it to the table first.

8 – MILITARY ATTACK
5 – SANSHAAWES
2 – BELSHAZZAR
13 – MUKHADRAM

Here are some other previews that will help you find a winner on Dubai World Cup night:

Pat Cummings (DubaiRaceNight.com– Pat is the doyen of Dubai racing, he is as knowledgeable as it gets. I’m very privileged to call him a good mate. For everything you need for Dubai World Cup night, Pat is your man.

Stephen Molyneaux (Timeform/Dubai Racing Channel) – Long time Dubai expert and Timeform man now based in Dubai with Dubai Racing Channel. Definitely worth listening to his podcast for Timeform.

Trent Masenhelder (TheRoar.com.au) – Trent’s an Aussie based in Dubai, and he has been speaking to the key players this week to gain further insight. It was great to listen to his preview with Mark Monkhouse and Harry Tregoning on Dubai radio yesterday, and his preview on The Roar is well worth a read.

Candice Hare (cappingwithcandice.blogspot.com– I’m a big fan of what Candice has to offer, she clearly knows what she’s talking about and we’ve been discussing these races for a number of weeks. Well worth a read of her thoughts, she’s much more concise than I am!

Emily White (“Meydan Maiden”) – The trans-Atlantic discussion between Emily, Joe and Jim is well worth a listen, they provide different perspectives on the races based on their different jurisdictions, which I found fascinating.

Best of luck for what is one of the world’s great race meetings!

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