As I handicapped these races, the two most important factors I considered were: 1) class, and 2) adaptability to today’s race conditions. Attempting to decipher form in terms of typical American handicapping angles such as pace and speed seemed like a fruitless endeavor since the tools we are accustomed to using to measure such variables are not available in most overseas races. I’m not a Meydan expert, but I am a casual follower of international racing, and I feel that I’ve highlighted some horses at fair prices that may be worth including in your wagers.
Race 2: The Godolphin Mile at one mile
I feel that the best turf horses in this race stack up quite well with the horses who ran well over the Tapeta surface in the Burj Nahaar. I’m going to take a shot with one of the longer prices of those turf specialists, Mull of Killough (#11). He has kept very good company in his grass races over the past year and has only faltered when stretched out beyond a mile and an eighth. He was better than ever last season at the age of seven and, if he can carry that form over into his seasonal debut here, I think he has a big chance at a price.
$10 Win 11
Race 3: The Dubai Gold Cup at two miles on the turf
Cavalryman, who won this race last year and looked good in his prep earlier this month, can certainly repeat, but this field is tougher than the one he met in either of those races and I believe he’ll be an underlay. I see an opportunity to capitalize on this situation with a couple of horses who may be just as good as the favorite.
Joshua Tree (#8) has excelled at Marathon distances in the past and was actually second in this race two years ago. Two miles is not a problem and he showed that he’s still in top form with yet another win in the Canadian International last fall. His prep in the Maktoum Challenge was actually a solid effort at a distance that is short of his best. Anything close to his morning line of 10-1 would be great value.
Simenon (#15) is probably the best runner in the race at distances beyond two miles, but he can also get this trip as is evidenced by his excellent fourth in the Melbourne Cup last year. He finished well back of Cavalryman in his prep for this in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy, but he may have needed that race and I won’t be surprised to see him turn the tables at a price.
$10 Win 8
$10 Win 15
Race 4: The UAE Derby at 1 3/16 miles for three year-olds
Giovanni Boldini is the horse to beat based on his second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and prior good form on a synthetic track. The distance is a minor question, but he appears to be one of the more likely winners on the card. The price, however, may be too low since he’s a fairly recognizable name for American racing fans. I’m going to take a small shot against him with his stablemate, Sir John Hawkins (#10). He did not race past July of his two year-old season and never got the chance to travel beyond seven furlongs. However, he is undoubtedly bred to get today’s distance and perhaps even more ground as his sire handled 10 furlongs and his dam, the excellent racemare Peeping Fawn, was a two-time Group 1 winner at 1 1/2 miles. The synthetic track is a question, but he’s already shown he has some ability and I think he could offer value.
$10 Win 10
Race 6: The Dubai Golden Shaheen at six furlongs
Rich Tapestry (#12) is not going to be a huge price, but I do believe he’s a very likely winner of this race. His connections have said that they’ve targeted this race because they believe he’s better on a synthetic track than turf and he proved them right last time in the Mahab Al Shimaal. That result never seemed to be in doubt as he broke on the lead, was confidently taken back midway through the race, and then came on again to run past Reynaldothewizard for the victory. Unlike in past years, the quality of this race is not much stronger than that Group 3 prep run earlier this month and I believe this horse will win right back.
$15 Win 12
Race 7: The Dubai Duty Free at 1 1/8 miles on the turf
I have some questions about a couple of the top contenders in this race. The Fugue is definitely good enough to win, but may want to run farther than nine furlongs. Dank impressed American fans in her two ventures to this continent last year, but I’m not sure how well those races stack up internationally and she could be a major underlay in this race.
If there is a horse for trip handicappers on the Meydan card, it’s probably Tokei Halo (#6). On the surface, his prep for this looks disappointing, but if you go back and watch the replay of the Nakayama Kinen, you find that he broke about three lengths behind the field and quickly rushed up past 14 runners to make the lead in the first quarter of a mile. Aside form a poor performance in the Tenno Sho Autumn, this frontrunner has been in great form and a repeat of his Hong Kong Cup, in which he beat Cirrus des Aigles, would make him very tough here.
$15 Win 6
Race 9: The Dubai World Cup at 1 1/4 miles
This is certainly not one of the strongest World Cups in recent memory. It’s a competitive field with an interesting mix of runners from all parts of the world, but it does not contain any true superstars. I’m mildly against the horses who raced in the Dubai Carnival series of Al Maktoum Challenge races since I think the European turf runners who have shipped in for this race are the stronger group. The World Cup typically features a slow pace early before they sprint for home and with plenty of closers in the line-up again this year, I’m going to take a shot with a horse who I know has some speed.
Mukhadram (#13) kept excellent company racing in England last summer as he nearly took the field wire-to-wire in the Prince of Wales (G1) at Royal Ascot and then made all of the running in the Coral Eclipse (G1) before checking in the final furlong. A change of running style in the Champion Stakes, which saw him get taken back to last early, did not work out and I expect him to revert to his preferred front-running tactics today. The fact that he stacked up well against the likes of Al Kazeem and Declaration of War, and also beat The Fugue on two occasions, last summer suggests that he could handle a field of this quality. The synthetic track is a question as it is with many others, but he’s sure to be a decent price and may be as good as any over today’s distance.