Dubai Racing Carnival Analysis – Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017

Dubai World Cupby Steven Molyneux

Meydan Overview

 It hasn’t been a great few days for Dubai. First, the weather has been more akin to that in England and then Donald Trump opened up a new golf course. Oh, and then there is the small matter of another couple of trainers receiving a year ban for the use of cobalt. More significant this time is that one of them is not far off the top of the tree. Mussabeh Al Mheiri has been responsible for 378 winners in the UAE, including a double on World Cup night last year courtesy of AF Mathmoon and Muarrab, with Sheikh Hamdan his main supporter.

There is no defending the indefensible, and far better journalists than me will comment on the worldwide ramifications of the spate of failed drug tests in Dubai this season, but the Emirates Racing Association are at least seen to be doing something and the sniggering from afar regards brushes and carpets can stop, regardless of whether they feel the bans are lenient or not.

Anyway, on to the action taking place on the track this week, and a classic looks in store for the feature Nad Al Sheba Trophy, a prep for the Dubai Gold Cup on March 25. It may well be a prep, but two of the highest-rated stayers in Europe will lock horns in the form of Vazirabad, the winner of the Dubai Gold Cup last year, and Sheikhzayedroad who took this corresponding event. The preparation for Sheikhzayedroad will be the same, literally straight off the plane and running whereas Vazirabad has been here for a few weeks now, but that certainly didn’t hinder work companion, Zarak, who was so impressive last week. My gut feeling is that Sheikhzayedroad will just be the straighter and David Simcock will be hoping for a change of luck, having had just one winner from 46 runners here over the past three years.

Many of the same fillies that took part in the UAE 1000 Guineas will contest the Oaks, and the market hasn’t missed the fact that Complimenti, drawn 13 and 11 on her last two starts, has now struck lucky with a pitch in stall 2, and that could be enough to see her reverse form with the three that finished ahead of her. There is obviously the extra distance to go as well, on paper perhaps only Melesina guaranteed to be suited by it but she seemed completely ill at ease on the surface in the Guineas so couldn’t be supported. Another race to leave alone.

As also is the newly-created Curlin Handicap, a race won by California Chrome last year with Mike de Kock hoping that his Mubtaahij can complete the Curlin/World Cup double. As mentioned last week, it hasn’t been a great Carnival for de Kock, and it will turn into a miserable one if Mubtaahij can’t defy top weight. He hasn’t won since the 2015 UAE Derby but he has plenty of high-class form both here and in America, and the cream usually rises to the top in this type of uneven handicap.

Godolphin could well dominate the Meydan Classic with Fly At Dawn and Really Special likely to be popular. Both are switching from the dirt, surprisingly so in the case of the former who landed the UAE 2000 Guineas trial but missed the Guineas itself due to a facial injury sustained in his box at home. The Al Bastikiya had been mentioned, but with Thunder Snow stepping up to the plate last week, Godolphin presumably feel it is best they don’t lock horns.

It hasn’t often paid to look too far beyond the obvious throughout the Carnival, particularly where Godolphin are concerned, but the each-way value looks to lie with Grey Britain who was far better than the bare result in the trial. He got shuffled back into a poor position before staying on late despite meeting trouble, his jockey Martin Harley picking up a ban and missing out on Sheikhzayedroad for his troubles. It is worth remembering he wasn’t beaten far by the likes of Rivet and Blue Point last season and that form will see him involved.

 Oh This Is Us was an unlucky loser last time and he can hopefully make amends in the concluding handicap over 7f. Dropped in from a wide draw on that occasion, he got going too late having met trouble, eventually closing to within a head of Salateen and off the same mark his case is obvious. Largely progressive throughout his career, stall 1 will make things easier for Pat Dobbs and the presence of Bravo Zolo does at least ensure Oh This Is Us is a decent price.

Stephen Molyneux’s Dubai World Cup Carnival tips:

10.05am (ET) Meydan: Grey Britain

13.00pm (ET) Meydan: Oh This Is Us 

Dubai Racing Carnival Analysis – Thurs., February 16, 2017

Meydan Overview:

Just three weeks to go, and for some the Dubai World Cup Carnival is coming to an end barely before it has started. Horses are running out of opportunities and are perhaps forced to punch above their weight.

Mike de Kock is probably quite thankful it is coming to an end, as, by his own admission, he just has not been able to compete this year with his tally of winners standing at just five for the campaign, a mere two in what you would class as Carnival races. The travelling, quarantine, injuries, a reluctance to run on the dirt are all viable reasons for a sub-standard season, but there is time to turn things around, and De Kock is double-handed in the feature Zabeel Mile on Thursday in a bid to do just that. Noah From Goa is pretty much the star of the stable in terms of what he achieved in South Africa, a Guineas win no less, and plenty of heart will have been taken from his third to Championship in the Al Fahidi Fort on his reappearance. Noah From Goa is now 3lbs better off with that one whilst fitness alone could see him bridge the four-and-a-quarter lengths that separated them that day.

The counter argument is just how quickly is Championship progressing. There is every chance this race plays to his strengths and he can defy his penalty. I maintain he will be an even better horse with a lead, and Gifted Master should ensure he gets one, while he will also ensure an even tempo given he is an enthusiastic type who is keen to get on with things. It will also suit the entire field, but with Championship expected to be the first one to make his bid for glory, it is enough to swing it in his favour.

The Group race action kicks off with the Balanchine, essentially a re-run of the Cape Verdi in which Very Special scored for a second year in succession. It certainly wasn’t in the same fashion as 12 months earlier, and she is now penalised, so there are grounds for believing she is opposable bearing in mind her odds-on status. Anahita aside, all the other runners should improve for that outing and are good enough to win this. Muffri’Ha looks the pick to me, given she was keen enough in the Cape Verdi and will be stronger at the finish with that run under her belt. She impressed on the Meydan turf on Wednesday morning under big-race pilot Pat Cosgrave and was successful the sole time she tackled nine furlongs, while tactically you can’t help but feel she will give herself every chance.

The Meydan Sprint looks ripe for Ertijaal once again, despite the fact he is yet to win a Group race even though he has looked unbeatable at times here. Only rain (yes it is possible over here and is actually forecast) could upset matters but it would take a downpour just before the off to change things such is the speed in which the turf dries out. Jungle Cat could threaten and will be fitter for his reappearance when second to Baccarat but on various form lines Ertijaal does hold enough in hand over all of his rivals.

In terms of quality, the Dubai Millennium Stakes probably contains the best horse on the night, particularly if, as expected, Zarak develops into a better four-year-old. He was pretty good at three, despite not being the finished article, but you have to feel it is only a matter of time before he breaks through at pattern level. He will have bigger targets, but main challenger Promising Run needs to raise her game, whilst Sanshaawes will run his usual honest race if ultimately coming up a touch short.

In terms of bets, best to stick to the handicaps, and probably best to stick with Adrie De Vries, who could do little wrong last week with four Carnival winners. The 7f contest due off at 10.40am (ET) is weak. Favourite Wild Dude is dropping in class but I haven’t exactly been blown away with either of his third placings this season (behind Reynaldothewizard and Cool Cowboy). To my mind they were cheap placings at the expense of tiring rivals and Ross makes more appeal in the hands of De Vries. He will be fresh after just one start, that run a fair fifth to Heavy Metal having covered ground from stall 10. Alabaster (third) has come out and won since and expect Ross to strip fitter on Thursday. His previous attempt at 7f at Meydan resulted in him finishing two and a half lengths behind Cool Cowboy. Indeed he has twice finished closer to Cool Cowboy than Wild Dude did last time.

De Vries will aim to maintain his fine record for Saeed bin Suroor in the 1600m handicap when getting the leg up aboard American Hope. While that horse has never been one for maximum faith, his form does look good enough to take this. Messed around on his reappearance last time, American Hope was keen in front and set things up for Cymric, who runs in the Group Two Zabeel Mile, and on a surface he handles (he hit the frame twice off this sort of mark last season) so expect him to keep on rolling and defy a mark that is 5lb lower than his turf one.

Stephen Molyneux’s Dubai World Cup Carnival week eight tips:

10.40am (ET) Meydan: Ross

12.25pm (ET) Meydan: American Hope


Dubai Racing Carnival Analysis – Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017

Dubai World Cupby Steven Molyneux

A brief flurry of excitement this week with the release of the nominations for Dubai World Cup night, the excitement stemming from the fact Arrogate was among them.

Let’s face it the race is in need of boost, nothing got the juices flowing in the second round of the Maktoum Challenge last week, but realistically has the fact Arrogate is nominated brought him any nearer to running? Well it’s a step, but the facts are these free nominations closed on the January 12, so he was included even before he won the Pegasus, and talk since then has hardly been positive regards his inclusion. Anyway, that is all for another day, as this week sees two Carnival fixtures with the Godolphin young guns putting their classic aspirations on the line.

Saeed bin Suroor has openly admitted that he will use the UAE 1000 Guineas and Oaks as trials ahead of the Guineas back in the UK, so all eyes will be on Really Special on Thursday. She is naturally a very short price having won the trial and with the extra 200m firmly in her favour, it is hard to see her getting beaten, particularly as she largely comes up against the same bunch of fillies. Interestingly, Charlie Appleby did say on Wednesday that he would take a view on running Sobetsu in the UAE Oaks depending on what happens on Thursday, the filly here in Dubai and taking her winter training well.
As too is Boynton, who, in similar vein, could run later in the Carnival depending on what happens with Godolphin’s runners in the 2000 Guineas on Saturday.

The love-in for Mizbah on social media is (hopefully) very much tongue in cheek after his record breaking success over 1900m last time, but he has been found a perfect opportunity to supplement those gains in the 2000m handicap that is race three on the card. The angle is simple, he has early pace and looks the sole speed in the race, to the extent that it could almost be immaterial that he was put up 9lb for last time. I guess that, in a nutshell, explains just how one dimensional dirt racing can be.

Emotionless is on a retrieval mission yet pitches up as favourite again, the longer trip at least expected to see him get in a rhythm this time, but he still comes with risks attached, which leaves the Korean raider, Triple Nine as the main danger. He was half a length behind Hunting Ground last time compared to Mizbah beating the same horse seven and a half lengths, so collaterally, he has a bit to find acknowledging the weight pull, but the Koreans are nothing if not game and expect to see him staying on, if hopefully a bit too late in the day.

I will happily bypass the sprint this week, which brings me onto the penultimate contest, a 7f handicap that sees Flash Fire head the weights.
Charlie Appleby did nominate him as his best chance of the weekend but he has not exactly been missed by the bookmakers and I instead prefer to give Tahanee another chance. She got no luck in running behind Fanciful Angel on her reappearance and then surprisingly tried to make all the running in the Cape Verdi, where she faded into fifth behind Very Special. The front-running tactics will hopefully be canned, particularly with Anaerobio, Salateen and possibly even First Selection as potential front-runners, and that should enable her to confirm the promise of that initial effort.

Blue is likely to be the colour in the finale, with the trusty red cap, or is it white cap, firmly on board Folkswood. He failed to run down Artigiano on his reappearance but travelled for the most part like a horse ahead of his mark with a 2lb rise not enough to compensate for that. Stall ten now compared to stall two then complicates matters to a degree but Colm O’Donoghue will have plenty of time to edge his mount over and he should be well served by the slightly shorter trip. Reverting to true Meydan turf racing style, expect them to potter around which puts Folkswood in the perfect position to go for home early in the straight and hopefully stay there.

Stephen Molyneux’s selections for Meydan on Thursday morning:
10:40am (ET) Meydan: Mizbah
12.25pm (ET) Meydan: Tahanee
1.00pm (ET) Meydan: Folkswood

Dubai Racing Carnival Analysis – Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017

Meydan Overview:

A special week for Godolphin last week and there is every chance this one develops the same way with 13 runners split between Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby. Such power has not necessarily been as evident over the last couple of years with a more selective approach taken, but Bin Suroor and Appleby will be looking to maintain their excellent strike rates for the season on Thursday, which currently stand at 33 per cent and 36 per cent respectively. That could have been higher, too, but for multiple entries in certain races.

The Cape Verdi is one of a couple of Group Two races on the card (there is also a Group One for the Arabians) and Very Special is back to defend her crown, this time in the hands of Jim Crowley. It will be his first ride for Godolphin in Dubai, and, let’s face it, it isn’t a bad association to pick up, and one that looks set to be maintained throughout the Carnival with Sheikh Hamdan having few fillies in training over here. She can be quite a free-going sort, but that did not stop her easily landing this and the Balanchine last year before running a highly creditable race when sixth in the Dubai Turf. She had just the one run in England but a return visit to Dubai would always have been on the cards and she could well dominate the division again.

It will not be as straightforward on this occasion as the likes of Realtra, Muffri’ha and Tahanee are not far behind her ratings-wise, making this as deep a Cape Verdi as we have seen. The latter is particularly interesting, her run behind Fanciful Angel as luckless as you are likely to see with a frustrated Mike de Kock afterwards saying that he had “given up trying to analyse how the stewards here in Dubai read races”.

To be fair to the stewards, a couple of jockeys from that race will serve suspensions on Thursday, but de Kock did raise the valid point of Meydan employing a cut away at the top of the straight to fan the runners out more. In total, five jockeys will sit on the sidelines on Thursday (not all turf related incidents) and the local stewards have been burning the midnight oil at recent meetings to resolve certain issues, so perhaps it is something that should be looked into.

Anyway, back to the Cape Verdi, and the run of Tahanee did only come in a handicap, but she was a Grade Three winner in South America and a bullish de Kock suggests she is better than her rating of 105. Expect her to give Very Special something to think about.

The Al Rashidiya is the other Group Two, a race that De Kock has won eight times including the last five renewals.

Light The Lights is his sole representative and the strength of his victory over Championship in Listed company last time was well advertised last week when that one comfortably landed a Group Two. Tactically, this only looks like being run one way – and that is at a crawl which is not going to help any of his challengers with Light The Lights likely to be in the perfect position throughout. Promising Run looks as likely as any to make the running and that makes her of some interest but she needs to pull out more to be a genuine Group Two filly.

Away from the messy Group races, and Desert God (hammered in the betting last time), Gold Trail (Appleby) and Prize Money (Bin Suroor) are likely to dominate the betting in the first thoroughbred race on the card due off at 10.05am (ET). Desert God certainly was not as bad as the result suggested last time, while the case for the other two is obvious but don’t discount Good Trip and he looks the each-way shout. He was a couple of places ahead of Desert God on his penultimate start and has since run well in finishing second to Elhaame, staying on well as if a step back up to this sort of trip would suit. Connections wisely bypassed the Al Rashidiya in favour of this and his jockey, Adrie De Vries, will be getting down to his minimum weight to ride.

Charlie Appleby has brought over Adam Kirby to replace the suspended William Buick and he rides Baccarat in the finale but I am not convinced he is on the first string as it’s the Mickael Barzalona-ridden Jungle Cat who appeals more. A three and three-quarter length winner on his reappearance here last season, he finds himself just 3lb higher despite hitting the frame in races such as the Al Quoz Sprint, Palace House and King’s Stand subsequently. He has been given a break since finishing down the field in the King George at Goodwood in July and a bold show is on the cards from stall 7 (the higher the better).

Stephen Molyneux’s Dubai World Cup Carnival week four tips:

10.05am (ET) Meydan – Good Trip

1.00pm (ET) Meydan – Jungle Cat