HERE is a comprehensive preview of Saturday’s Dubai World Cup night, written by JAMES TROTTER and brought to you by the Equine Group. Photos supplied by Andrew Watkins, who charges a (short) arm and a leg for them! (Photo of Mars from london24.com).
Thoroughbred races kick off with a bang for South African viewers, who can catch all the action on Tellytrack (DStv # 239).
Race 2 – Godolphin Mile G2 – 1600m – All Weather – $1,000,000 – (15.10 RSA time)
Variety Club, on the work track this week.
The Godolphin Mile may only be a G2 however the inclusion of both Variety Club (Var) and Soft Falling Rain (National Assembly) this year make it a vintage renewal and increase the chances of the race being elevated to G1 status in the near future. There is a sense of irony that South Africa’s Champion 2YO and 3YO of the 2012 season would have to wait until the last Saturday in March 2014 to face each other for the first time, in a Group 2, having travelled half way around the world to do so. Nonetheless, that is what we bare witness to here.
South Africa’s Champion 2YO of 2012 and winner of this race last year, Soft Falling Rain, takes on South Africa’s dual Horse of the Year and Champion 3YO of 2012, Variety Club. Though by reputation and ratings they do stand above the rest of the field, neither comes into this race with the air of invincibility and confidence that they may normally assume in this level competition.
Soft Falling Rain is having only his second start in Dubai after a lengthy lay off, his first up being in a 1200m sprint on the All-Weather where he finished midfield. Soft Falling Rain’s primary goal this season is a British campaign and so there is the chance he is not yet at his best for this. However, last year he did become the first 3YO to win the G2 Godolphin Mile (watch race) in the history of the race and it will be no shock to see him defend his crown.
Variety Club’s loss last time out in the G3 Burj Nahaar (watch race) left everyone grasping for reasons why: was it the wide draw, the early competition for the lead, the track, was he just not himself that day? The one statistic I read worth noting is that Variety Club’s debut run in Dubai, where he won in “unofficially” track record time, was the ONLY race in the entire Dubai Carnival where a horse was able to win on the All-Weather making all the running (watch race).
Soft Falling Rain (front) in a workout this week. He has improved in the last few weeks.
This point, courtesy of Pat Cummings on www.dubairacenight.com, firstly exemplifies how impressive Variety Club’s debut performance in Dubai was, but secondly may indicate how difficult it is to win through setting one’s own pace at Meydan, a clue which may have contributed to Variety Club’s subsequent effort being short of his best. Unfortunately for Variety Club is he has drawn wide again at gate 15.
The horse most likely to ruin the South African party here is Shuruq – the Godolphin filly who closed late to topple Variety Club on their previous meeting and who has an affinity for the conditions of the Godolpin Mile having won both the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 and G3 Burj Nahaar over the course and distance during this year’s Carnival. She will certainly benefit from any pressure on the front end early.
Other names likely to be in the fray are Haatheq – runner-up in this race last year – and Capital Attraction, who finished 5.25 lengths behind Variety Club on their first meeting but only 0.75 lengths off him last time out (which, along with the slower time of the race he lost, I take as an indication Variety Club just wasn’t at his best that day).
Previous South African winners: Grand Emporium (2005), Soft Falling Rain (2013)
Race 3 – Dubai Gold Cup G2 – 3200m – Turf – $1,000,000 – (15.45 RSA time)
Star Empire , in a competitive stayer’s race.
Next up is the race for the stayers: the brave and tough warriors of the racing world. South African interests here are represented by Mike de Kock’s charge, Star Empire, who finished fifth in this race last year and has been in good form over this year’s Dubai Carnival. However, he will need to be at his very best here for the competition in this race appears to be getting stronger every year.
Songcraft and Cavalryman represent the Godolphin army in this battle and both come into the event with strong form. Cavalryman, the defending champion of this race, won the G3 Nad al Sheba Trophy – the trial for this race – by 5.5 lengths beating Star Empire into second and sets the bar as the horse to beat (watch race). The two highest rated in the race are dual G1 Canadian International winner Joshua Tree and Ballydoyle’s Ernest Hemingway. Joining the fray are German G1 winner Seismos and Irish warrior Saddler’s Rock. We are in for a test of endurance and will!
Race 4 – UAE Derby G2 – 1900m – All Weather – $2,000,000 – (16.25 RSA time)
Jalotta, a bit to find against the big guns.
Until 2012 this race had only been won by trainers Mike de Kock and Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin. Since then another big name has joined the mix: Aidan O’Brien of Ballydoyle who has won the last two editions of the world’s richest Derby. All three yards are represented in this year’s renewal and it is unlikely the winner will come from outside of the Godolphin, Ballydoyle and Mike de Kock camps.
Between 2003, when Victory Moon helped put South African racing on the international map, and 2010, with Musir, De Kock won this race an incredible five times. This year he has only one string in his bow being the British import of Mrs Fitriani Hay’s Jallota. This son of Rock of Gibraltar has decent form in this year’s Carnival, however has some distance to find on the big guns in this race, namely Long John of Godolphin trained by Charlie Appleby and Giovanni Boldini of Ballydoyle.
Long John won perhaps the most prestigious 3YO race in Australia, the G1 Caulfield Guineas (watch race), before joining the Godolphin team in Dubai. His only start in Dubai so far has been when he won the G3 UAE Guineas in facile fashion by 4.25 lengths. Giovanni Boldini won a listed race on the All-Weather in Ireland before losing the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in USA by half a length (watch race). He will likely take a shot at the G1 Kentucky Derby if he comes through Saturday’s race well.
Together Long John and Giovanni Boldini bring with them to this race some of the strongest G1 form of both USA and Australia and are equally rated at 115: all the makings of a colossal contest. Horses who could also find themselves in the action include Argentinian G1 winner Cooptado, easy Al Bastakiya (Listed) winner Asmar, or Saeed bin Suroor’s two runners Paximadia and Emirates Flyer.
South Africa previous wins: Victory Moon (2003), Lundy’s Liability (2004), Asiatic Boy (2007), Honour Devil (2008), Musir (2010).
Race 5 – Al Quoz Sprint G1 – 1000m – Turf – $1,000,000 – (17.03 RSA time)
Shea Shea: Gr1 Sprint double on the cards.
The first G1 of the night sees the defending champion of last year’s race, Shea Shea (National Emblem), lining up as the favourite to become the only horse to win consecutive editions of the G1 Al Quoz Sprint. Fellow compatriot of Shea Shea’s, JJ The Jet Plane (Jet Master), won the race on two occasions in 2009 (watch race) and 2011 (watch race) however he missed the 2010 edition. That year was won by the Hong Kong stalwart speedster, Joy and Fun, who re-opposes Shea Shea here after running him to 0.75 lengths last year in this race.
The inclusion of Sole Power means that we have the 1-2-4 placed finishers from last year’s Al Quoz all returning for this Dubai World Cup’s test of speed. Shea Shea appears to be in the best form of the three having won his only start this season defending his title in the G3 Meydan Sprint. The horse that finished closest to Shea Shea that day was Ahtoug, challenging Shea Shea the whole way to the line and only going down by a head (watch race). However, that was the South African speedster’s first race in half a year and so will be expected to improve further from that run.
The greatest danger may likely come from Hong Kong raider Amber Sky who comes to Dubai off a 2.25 length victory in a Hong Kong G1 over 1000m in January. Another interesting runner is Brazilian G1 winning sprinter Berlino di Tiger who has since been racing in the USA. He does however look still to have some ground to make up on the likes of Shea Shea, Joy and Fun, Amber Sky and Sole Power at their best.
South African previous victories: JJ The Jet Plane (2009, 2011), Shea Shea (2013)
Race 6 – Dubai Golden Shaheen G1 – 1200m – AW – $2,000,000 – (17.41 RSA time)
The All-Weather sprint of the night, the Dubai Golden Shaheen G1, doesn’t have any South African representation. It does however draw the last two winners of the race in Reynaldothewizard (2013) and Krypton Factor (2012).
Of these two previous champions ‘The Wizard’ looks to be in better current form, having gone down by 1.25 lengths in the precursor to this race, the G3 Mahab al Shimaal. His vanquisher that day, Rich Tapestry, faces up again here and the Hong Kong raider is the likely international favourite for this race.
Rich Tapestry’s compatriot Sterling City is also a major threat, coming into Saturday’s race off a win in a Hong Kong G3 and a narrow loss to Lucky Nine in a Hong Kong G1 last time out. Jamesie, Complicate and Russian Soul all bring solid Dubai Carnival form into the race and could very likely be involved in the finish.
Race 7 – Dubai Duty Free G1 – 1800m – Turf – $5,000,000 – (18.39 RSA Time)
Vercingetorix (front), with Anaerobio (red cap), behind him).
On to the first of the $5,000,000 purses of the evening: the Dubai Duty Free G1. This race historically draws a truly international and highly competitive field, this year being no exception. All South African eyes here will be on Champion 3YO of last season, Vercingetorix (Silvano), whose two victories in Dubai this season take his unbeaten record to six from six. It is a particularly big weekend for Klawervlei Stud who not only bred this colt but also ruling Al Quoz Sprint G1 favourite Shea Shea.
Vercingetorix’s comfortable victory in the Jebel Hatta G1 (watch race) over this course and distance three weeks ago means his connections should go into the race with some confidence, however the fact he is only fifth favourite at 7-1 on international markets at the time of writing shows the strength of the opposition he is up against on Saturday. The field draws two of the best horses from Europe and Japan in The Fugue and Just a Way, respectively. Both of these stars have earned impressive ratings of 123 justifying their favouritism.
Lady Lloyd-Webber’s The Fugue won two Group 1 events last year, the G1 Yorkshire Oaks and G1 Irish Champion Stakes (watch race), before finishing off the season with close runner-up positions in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf in USA and G1 Hong Kong Vase. She is certainly a classy mare, however there must be some solace in the minds of her opposition knowing that her best performances have come over further, and that she has in fact not raced below 2000m since May 2012.
Just a Way comes into the Duty Free off two easy victories, firstly in defeating 2012 Japanese Horse of the Year Gentildonna by 4 lengths in the G1 Tenno Sho (watch race) and following that up with a 3.5 length victory in the G2 Nakayama Kinen. Just a Way’s sire Heart’s Cry won the Dubai Sheema Classic G1 in facile fashion in 2006 and he will be a hard horse to stop in emulating his father’s World Cup night victory.
Dank is another European currently high in the betting coming into Saturday with three consecutive wins, the last two being at G1 level in the USA. This will be her first start since she won at the Breeders’ Cup (watch race) in November last year and she will also not be racing on Lasix as she would have in the USA, two factors that may count against her here. Horses such as Hong Kong G1 winner Blazing Speed, Japanese raiders Tokei Halo and Logotype, Vercingetorix’s stablemate Anaerobio, as well as those with strong prior Dubai form Trade Storm, Mshawish, Tasaday and Hunter’s Light, add further elements into this highly anticipated renewal.
Previous South African winners: Ipi Tombe (2003), Right Approach (2004), Jay Peg (2008)
Race 8 – Dubai Sheema Classic G1 – 2400m – Turf – $5,000,000 – (19.17 RSA Time)
Mars: Outside chance at best.
A Breeders’ Cup Turf G1 winner. A Melbourne Cup G1 winner. A dual Japan Cup G1 winner. A Hong Kong Vase G1 winner. A previous Dubai Sheema Classic G1 winner. Those are just a few of the credentials being carried by horses into this year’s Dubai Sheema Classic G1. Seven G1 winners along with a triple Qatari G1 winner and a field bringing G1 form from as far afield as Australia, Japan, Europe, North America and Hong Kong.
The name topping the betting markets currently is Aidan O’Brien’s Magician, the winner of the G1 Irish Guineas and G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (watch race) last year who won the latter coming off a four and a half month break. Gentildonna is a Japanese Triple Crown winner, the runner-up in the Sheema Classic last year, and the only horse to win back-to-back G1 Japan Cup’s (watch 2013 Japan Cup G1), she therefore deserves the utmost respect. Using Gentildonna as a form line brings Denim and Ruby into the picture too: this filly finished only a nose short of beating Gentildonna in last year’s Japan Cup over the same distance as the Sheema Classic.
Cirrus des Aigles is one of the best middle distance horses in the world on his day. A previous winner of the Sheema Classic counts amongst his numerous G1 victories while his most famous performance could perhaps have been when he ran Frankel to 1¾ lengths in the swansong of his famous contemporary (watch race). ‘Cirrus’ is now eight however and it remains to be seen if he has lost any of his former brilliance with age.
Further G1 winners lining up include G1 Melbourne Cup winner and seasoned traveler Dunaden, triple G1 winner Meandre, G1 Pretty Polly Stakes winner Ambivalent, G1 Hong Kong Vase winner Dominant and triple Qatari G1 winner Dubday. Twilight Eclipse comes into the race off two Graded stakes victories in USA while Excellent Result and Mount Athos both look to be primed to perfection after finishing first and third in the G2 Dubai City of Gold, the trial for the Sheema Classic.
Mike de Kock’s runner in this race, Mars, therefore needs to regain his best form to be a factor here. His prep run in the G1 Jebel Hatta where he ran on strongly from the tail of the field behind Vercingetorix was encouraging, however it remains to be seen whether Mike has been able to get to the bottom of this talented son of Galileo yet.
South African previous victories: Sun Classique (2008)
Race 9 – Dubai World Cup G1 – 2000m – AW – $10,000,000 – (20.05 RSA Time)
Sanshaawes: SA’s hope has a fighting chance. (Also headline photo)
And now for the big one: the $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup G1. The richest prize in the world of horse racing. Could Sanshaawes (Ashaawes) go a nose or more better than Lizard’s Desire and become the first South African horse to win the world’s richest race?
South Africa has previously finished fourth, third and second in the G1 Dubai World Cup, but should Sanshaawes emerge victorious on Saturday evening he will be the first to achieve that elusive first Dubai World Cup victory for his home country.
Though leaving South Africa only a maiden winner he had been mixing it with some of the best horses in Cape Town as a two and three year old, finishing runner-up to King of Pain in the G3 Langerman, and Chave de Oura in the G3 Cape Classic, and a close third to Capetown Noir in the G1 Cape Derby. He appears to have flourished in Dubai with the Mike de Kock team, and importantly for Saturday has taken to Meydan’s All-Weather surface, winning two races in handicaps before placing second to Prince Bishop after a wide trip in the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3.
His rating has risen from one of 100 upon arriving to a mark of 115 where it stands now. He will need to show he can run to a mark higher than that should he hope of winning on Saturday, but what he does have in his favour is experience on the track, a handy draw and good form coming into the race – three things that can’t be said for most of his big named rivals opposing him here.
Epsom Derby G1 winner of last year, Ruler of the World, currently rules the betting boards, as he attempts to be Aidan O’Brien’s first winner of the race. Ruler of the World’s last start was in October last year when he finished a close up third in the G1 British Champion Stakes after engaging in a dual with Farhh and Cirrus des Aigles (watch race).
Hong Kong has left no stone unturned in their attempt to win their first Dubai World Cup and send out two forces to be reckoned with: 2013 Horse of the Year Military Attack (by South African based Oratorio), who has proved he can handle travelling when he disposed of the G1 Singapore Cup field last year; and G1 Hong Kong Cup winner Akeed Mofeed (ridden by Douglas Whyte).
The local hopes are represented by G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 and G2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 winner Prince Bishop, 2012 Godolphin Mile G2 winner African Story, French G2 winner Vancouverite and Cat O’Mountain. Of these, Prince Bishop and African Story both love the surface, have shown strong form in Dubai this season and are the preferred options.
International globetrotter and runner-up last year Red Cadeaux accelerated up the stretch well when eating into the lead of Animal Kingdom in the 2013 World Cup, however by then the race was already won (watch 2013 Dubai World Cup G1). He will very likely be passing horses strongly coming toward the finish on Saturday.
Mukhadram put in some big performances last year at European G1 level earning him a rating of 122 coming into this race. This is his first start of the season however, and even for this courageous frontrunner going start to finish in the G1 Dubai World Cup on its All Weather surface will be a daunting task.
Japan sends out two G1 winners in Hokko Tarumae and Belshazzar while American interests are kept alive by the now Saudi trained and owned multiple G1 winner Ron the Greek, each of which would not be shocking to find in the winner’s enclosure come race end. Hillstar is a European G2 winner over 2400m who also makes his first start of the season while Surfer carries very similar form into the World Cup as Sanshaawes and though he shares the lowest rating in the field with Cat O’Mountain he certainly does enjoy the course and distance.