Let’s go through Saturday’s card at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, focusing on the last six races of the night (or rather the morning here on the East Coast) from the UAE Derby up through the World Cup.
Race 4, UAE Derby: Genten (#5) – Lucky Chappy (#1) – Wrote (#13)
Most of the North American attention in this spot will be focused on the U.S.-based Graham Motion trainee, Lucky Chappy (#1), and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner, Wrote (#13). I think they both have excellent chances to win and should sit nice trips in behind what I expect to be a fair pace. I, however, am interested in a longshot. Genten (#5) has raced exclusively in Japan, but sports an American pedigree. He is the son of Bernardini and Argentine champion mare Miss Terrible, who is best known for holding the record of most consecutive Group I wins by a female racehorse (that’s right, it’s not Rachel or Zenyatta). Miss Terrible won all her Group I races in Argentina, but did win three more graded stakes in the U.S. to end her career. She was equally adept on turf and dirt and so far Genten has shown that same ability, earning a win on both surfaces in Japan. While a cut below the best in his native country, he looks like a horse that is rounding into form and should love the stretchout in distance from a mile to 1 3/16 miles today. I’ll bet him at what should be a huge price:
$10 Win 5
Race 5, Al Quoz Sprint: Eagle Regiment (#11) – A Shin Virgo (#4) – Regally Ready (#3)
This race looks totally wide open and it is very difficult to assess the class of the horses in this race relative to each other. As far as I know, the Hong Kong sprinters are usually pretty effective on a global stage, so I’ll take the straightaway five furlong specialist from that country, Eagle Regiment (#11). He has only been tried twice at the Group I level, but one of those was a win over today’s rival Joy and Fun and the other was a loss at six furlongs, which seems just beyond his reach. Joy and Fun, while more effective at six and seven furlongs, is nearly on the same class level as Lucky Nine and Rocket Man, who both go later in the Golden Shaheen. I’ll also use another of the Japanese horses, A Shin Virgo (#4), who is at best Group II level in her native country, but is 2-for-2 at a straightaway five furlongs. I suppose the American Regally Ready (#3) also has a chance on his best form, but he was truly abysmal in his prep race over this same course and distance three weeks ago. The bet:
$5 Win 4
$5 Win 11
Race 6, Dubai Golden Shaheen: Lucky Nine (#12) – Giant Ryan (#3) – Rocket Man (#1)
I’m taking a stand against the likely favorites, The Factor and Rocket Man. I don’t deny that he is very talented, but he has showed time and again that he is vulnerable to early pressure and there is going to be plenty of it in this race. Rocket Man, Giant Ryan, Krypton Factor, Sepoy, and Inxile all prefer to be up on the lead, which is going to make The Factor’s job very difficult and should set things up for a closer. I believe that closer will be Lucky Nine (#12). Lucky Nine is in the best form of his career, has handled a synthetic track in the past, and has recently beaten Rocket Man in Hong Kong. He doesn’t need to be so far off the pace that he will be left with too much to do late either. After him, I will take a shot with the other American, Giant Ryan (#5). This is more of a guess, but Giant Ryan has shown the ability to sit off another horse and still run a top race. He also has nice breeding for turf, being by Freud out of a Dayjur mare, and may like this synthetic surface. There is no doubt that defending Golden Shaheen champion Rocket Man (#1) is an admirable horse, having won 19 of 25 career races while finishing out of the money only twice. The problem is that both of those out of the money finishes occurred since last fall and he was defeated by today’s opponent, Lucky Nine, in December. He may be losing a step at age 7 and the pace will not favor him. The bet:
$10 Win 12
$2 Exacta Box 3-12
Race 7, Dubai Duty Free: Ambitious Dragon (#4) – Cityscape (#11) – Dark Shadow (#7)
Ambitious Dragon (#4) is the best middle distance horse in the world that you’ve never heard of. He’s based in Hong Kong and has won 10 of 17 races lifetime and over $4 million. He is best at distances from a mile to a mile and a quarter and based on the Racing Post ratings he is the best, most consistent horse in this field. Cityscape (#11) may have the best chance of the European runners. He is more of a miler and finished an excellent third behind Canford Cliffs and Goldikova in last year’s Queen Anne Stakes at that distance. Last time, racing in Hong Kong, he finished just ahead of Ambitious Dragon’s main rival, Xtension, who is also in this field. Cityscape likes to make a charge from the back of the pack, so hopefully the added furlong won’t dull his late surge. Dark Shadow (#7) is Japan’s representative in here. In his lone try versus Group I company, he finished a close second in the fastest Autumn Tenno Sho in the history of that race. Distance between 9 and 10 furlongs seem to be what he prefers, so this trip should be right up his alley. The bet:
$2 Exacta Box 4-7-11
Race 8, Dubai Sheema Classic: St. Nicholas Abbey (#9) – Treasure Beach (#6) – Cirrus des Aigles (#8)
I’m not betting on this race because I can’t see beyond the favorites. St. Nicholas Abbey (#9) is one of the best 12 furlongs horses in the world and anything close to his Breeders’ Cup Turf win should get the job done in here. His stablemate, Treasure Beach (#6) is coming off two subpar efforts to end his season last year, but the form of his second in the Epsom Derby or win in the Irish Derby makes him a contender. Finally, Cirrus des Aigles (#8), although tops in terms of Racing Post ratings (he earned a 130 for his win over So You Think in the Champion Stakes), may be better at 10 furlongs. Still, he would be no surprise.
Race 9, DUBAI WORLD CUP: Royal Delta (#7) – So You Think (#4) – Eishin Flash (#2)
If the United States manages to win a race on World Cup night, I believe it will be this one. There is no doubt in my mind that Royal Delta (#7) would have won the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year if she had been entered in that race. When she is at her best, she is one of the best 10 furlong horses in the country. I’m not at all concerned about her subpar effort at Gulfstream a month ago since she has a habit of not performing well off layoffs. Additionally, Bill Mott is notorious for having his horses ready to fire their best shot on the big days and he has expressed nothing but confidence concerning Royal Delta’s chances. It’s also worth mentioning that despite all of her success on dirt, she is actually bred more for grass and should love the synthetic surface. Empire Makers can seemingly run on anything and her stakes winning dam raced almost exclusively on turf.
I will be taking a stand against the other American, Game On Dude, more because of the post position and likely pace scenario than the artificial surface. Smart Falcon and Transcend both like to show early speed, the former seeming to be completely one-dimensional and the latter having set the pace in last year’s World Cup. I’d love to see “The Dude” do well, but I just don’t see how it works out for him. Instead, I will be using another horse out of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, world traveler So You Think (#4), who should sit a perfect trip just in behind the leaders. I’ll also throw in Japanese Derby winner Eishin Flash (#2) to complete any exotic wagering. Eishin Flash may be better suited to 1 1/2 miles, but will get the right trip and is coming into this in excellent form having just finished second to Japanese wonder horse Orfevre to end his 2011 campaign. The bet:
$15 Win 7