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Hawk’s Saturday Selections – Dubai World Cup Night

March 30, 2013

The Dubai World Cup is racing’s unofficial world championships, a chance for horses from all nations to compete for ridiculous prizemoney at the world’s most lavish and opulent racecourse.

Tonight’s card features a number of horses with Australian links – every race from the third onwards has at least one horse who has run in Australia at some point in their career.

So who will emerge on top of the world after tonight’s card?

Andrew Hawkins is in Dubai and has filed this preview of all nine races for Just Horse Racing:

Race 1 – GROUP 1 DUBAI KAHAYLA CLASSIC (2000m, Tapeta)

Purebred Arabian form is hardly my forte, so I’ve applied similar form principles to what I’d use with other form I didn’t know.

The Americans won this race last year with TM Fred Texas, who lines up again here. I think they can win again, but this time I’ll be tipping TM JUNIOR JOHNSON. He has been racing in weaker company in the United States but has been very consistent, winning five from six.

NIESHAN was very good winning the lead up to this race, the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge (2000m) three weeks ago. He won the same race last year before finishing fifth in this race, but I think he can run better this year.

Second in that race was VERSAC PY, who comes here with a good chance. He’s drawn well, but he did finish in front of Nieshan last year. Drawn well and can capitalise.

Next best is last year’s winner TM FRED TEXAS, who has been here and done it before. However, he has not been racing as well this preparation, so he’d need to improve to be in the finish.

Best of the rest is SERAPHIN DU PAON.


Race 2 – GROUP 2 GODOLPHIN MILE (1600m, Tapeta)

Of all the thoroughbred races, this race tends to attract the least attention in Australia. It is the poor cousin of the Dubai World Cup. However, this race is always a fantastic contest between the locals and the Americans.

SOFT FALLING RAIN has been a top three year old here in Dubai after a successful two year old career in South Africa. He has won all six of his starts to date, including a Grade 1 at Turffontein and the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas (1600m) here. It is surprising that they aren’t stepping him up to the UAE Derby, but they probably realise his stamina limits and are trying to give him every opportunity to win once more. I think he goes close.

ZAZOU is likely to fly under the radar. Owned by Chechnyan dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, he travelled the world in 2012. He ran fifth in last year’s Dubai World Cup, fourth in the Group 1 Singapore International Cup (2000m), third in a Group 1 with a ridiculously German name in Munich and second in a Group 2 in Turkey to Hunter’s Light. He resumed with an average fourth (upgraded to third on protest) at Chantilly over 1900m. Stepping back in trip may not suit him, but I respect the fact they are running in this race as opposed to the Dubai World Cup. Pays to watch him.

Godolphin obviously want to win the race named for them, and have won the last four editions of this race with Two Step Salsa, Calming Influence, Skysurfers and African Story. This year, I’m thinking MOONWALK IN PARIS is their best chance, despite the wide draw. Was dominant first up before a good third last start over this track and distance. If he can get across, he’s a chance.

BARBECUE EDDIE is a stalwart of racing in the United Arab Emirates, but incredibly he has not run on Dubai World Cup night since 2008, when he contested the Golden Shaheen at the old Nad Al Sheba. He was dreadful last start after racing very well prior to that. If he can bounce back to his best, expect a big performance from him here.

Next best looks to be PENITENT.


Race 3 – GROUP 3 DUBAI GOLD CUP (3200m, Turf)

This race, ever so controversial last year at its first running on Dubai World Cup night, will be looking to stamp itself as a worthy addition to the card tonight.

SADDLER’S ROCK looks the class in the race, with very similar formlines to Opinion Poll who won this race for Godolphin last year. Forget his form in the second half of last season – he’s a Goodwood Cup winner, a Doncaster Cup winner and an Ascot Gold Cup placegetter. Should be right in the mix.

Godolphin’s best hope looks to be TENENBAUM, who beat Brigantin in France last year before finishing midfield behind Arc placegetter Masterstroke and Geelong Cup winner Gatewood in a Group 2 at Deauville.

IMPERIAL MONARCH is the query, given he is stepping up to the trip for the first time. He should appreciate the trip but I want to see him do it first. I would love to see him in a Melbourne Cup.

And don’t discount CAVALRYMAN, who ran 12th in the Melbourne Cup off a muddling tempo last year. He was game behind Jakkalberry three weeks ago at his first run since his Australian sojourn, and he’ll be much improved for that performance.


Race 4 – GROUP 2 UAE DERBY (1900m, Tapeta)

This is always a difficult race to assess with so many different formlines coming together.

I do think the main lead up from three weeks ago, the Listed Al Bastakiya (1900m), will provide the winner. Therefore, it is a matter of selecting which horse to follow from that race. It’s hard to go past the winner of that race, SECRET NUMBER, who did it very easily at the finish. He’s now two from two, and looks to have plenty of scope for improvement.

If there’s one horse who can come from outside that form, it is Aidan O’Brien’s LINES OF BATTLE. He did win the race last year with DADDY LONG LEGS, and Lines of Battle looks a similar horse. He was beaten six lengths by the very smart Dawn Approach at Royal Ascot, and he looked to have no luck when he tackled the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He’s drawn to get a perfect run and he’s the main danger, for sure.

It’ll be interesting to see if Traralgon form can step up on the world stage through the exploits of ZAHEE. Formerly with Mick Price at Caulfield, Zahee won his maiden at Traralgon, also recording wins at Kilmore and Mornington. He was good in the Al Bastakiya last start, although Secret Number always looked to have his measure. Still provides interest.

Next best looks to be SNOWBOARDER, who also placed in the Al Bastakiya last start.


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

Australia won this race last year with Ortensia, and while we don’t have an Australian-trained runner this year, there are plenty of Australian links in the race. Eagle Regiment, Starspangledbanner and Mr Big are Australian-bred, Joy and Fun (Cullen) and Monsieur Joe (Choisir) are by Australian stallions, Jeremy Gask (Medicean Man) is an Aussie expat and our jockeys Zac Purton (Mr Big) and Tye Angland (Joy and Fun) are riding in the race. Not to mention Starspangledbanner is a Caulfield Guineas winner.

Many pundits here in Dubai have been making SHEA SHEA their best of the night, and if you saw his first up run, you’ll understand why. He was huge. He blitzed his rivals in course record time, coming away to win by two and a half lengths. He only needs to run up to that performance to be winning again.

I do have a soft spot for old JOY AND FUN though. His last two runs haven’t been his best, but they came after a gutsy fourth to Lord Kanaloa in last year’s Hong Kong Sprint. He ran third in this race last year to Ortensia after winning in 2010, and there has been talk this might be his last run so I’d like to see him go out in a blaze of glory. My sentimental favourite.

The main reason I’m including MR BIG in my numbers is that he is going to be in the place everyone wants to be – flying down the fresh ground on the outside fence. I know the Singaporeans aren’t confident – Singapore Turf Club journalist Craig Brennan said as much last night – but he’s one who can upset the big guns.

And of course, I’d love to see STARSPANGLEDBANNER win for some sort of an Australian victory. He took a long time to come to hand following his return from a failed stud career, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is in better shape here than he was at any time last year. He’ll still need the run, most likely, but he bears close watching.

Next best is EAGLE REGIMENT. I initially rated him higher but he has had a few problems this week so I’m a bit cautious.

16 – MR BIG

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

A race which has not proven fruitful at all for Australian horses – we have had eight runners over the years, for not one placing. Our best result was Belle du Jour, who finished fourth in 2003.

As opposed to Sepoy last year, MENTAL races for the United Arab Emirates here. Perhaps that is his ticket to success! However, the fact is he has won on the Tapeta. That is a big asset when compared with Sepoy, who I believe was a better horse. I’m still not sure the race will pan out to suit Mental, but I obviously want to see Australian form stack up here so I’m hoping he can come out on top.

FREDERICK ENGELS interests me. A juvenile winner at Royal Ascot in 2011, he was sent to Hong Kong where he has had three starts – a win in a handicap, and two seconds to Eagle Regiment and Lucky Nine at Group 1 level. Interestingly, John Moore reckons he’s struggled to get him right and thinks he’s now in a good place. If so, perhaps Hong Kong could be getting their first winner on Dubai World Cup night since Joy and Fun won the Al Quoz Sprint in 2010.

The Americans have been fawning over TRINNIBERG, a small galloper who just tries his heart out. He won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November, only months after being well beaten in the Kentucky Derby. He’s looked well at trackwork and if he’s as big a trier as they make him out to be, he’ll be in the finish.

My good mate Pat Cummings, the best independent Dubai form analyst around, has been singing the praises of PRIVATE ZONE all week. I don’t like to listen to others when it comes to form, but I have to include him in my numbers. He’s been incredibly consistent in the United States, despite not winning. The connections sounded bullish on Wednesday morning – one, former jockey Rene Douglas, even said they wanted to take on Black Caviar. I’d want to see him win here to think he could get within five lengths of her.

Next best is last year’s winner KRYPTON FACTOR, who needs to improve on what he has done this season to be in with a chance.


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

The first of the big races on the cards, and probably the one which holds the most interest to Australians.

It would be remiss of me not to tip OCEAN PARK. Having seen the horse this week, he looks splendid, just perfect. He lost 10kg on the flight over, but he’d put 5kg of it back on by Thursday so he won’t be too far below his normal racing weight. The Cox Plate form has continued to stand up in the months since the race and I am firmly convinced he goes better the counterclockwise direction, which he gets here. Everything has lined up perfectly, and I think he’s a great hope of giving New Zealand their first Dubai World Cup night success.

The danger is the American LITTLE MIKE, a winner of the Arlington Million and the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year. I reckon this trip is around his best journey, and he’ll get out in front and prove hard to run down. He gets the services of comeback jockey Gary Stevens, who only returned in January from a seven year hiatus. Forget his first run in Dubai on the Tapeta – he didn’t handle it, hence why he’s here and not contesting the Dubai World Cup. He’s a big danger.

I tipped IGUGU third yesterday, although I’ve now started to think it may be the wrong call. By all reports, she hasn’t settled into Dubai whatsoever and continues to struggle here. If Mike de Kock takes her to the United Kingdom, I think she’ll prove to be the horse we all know she is. However, I’m becoming less and less convinced by the minute that she’ll be in the finish.

One horse I reckon will be up there, though, is SAJJHAA, who has upset Igugu at her last two starts. She’s in a rich vein of form and it tends to hold true that mares in form hold their form. I’d have her third now, for sure.

Next best appears to be MUSHREQ, while I wouldn’t be surprised to see FRENCH FIFTEEN improve. Remember, he did run second in the English 2000 Guineas last year behind Camelot.


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

This is a race which will depend largely on tactics.

There will be a riot if Japan Cup winner GENTILDONNA doesn’t come out and win here, with the large press contingent in Dubai (they have more journalists and photographers here than every other country combined). Luckily for racegoers at Meydan, I think she should just win. She’s versatile, she should be able to position herself nicely up on speed or just off the pace. She has a good turn of foot when called upon and although this is her first run out of Japan, the form has stacked up worldwide. Exciting mare.

ST NICHOLAS ABBEY finished second to the very classy Cirrus des Aigles last year, when I was quite confident he could succeed. He looked the best of Aidan O’Brien’s contingent when they stepped out yesterday morning, and having been here before, he should handle the atmosphere like an old stager. I do think he may be a shadow of the horse he once was, but even if he only has 90% of the ability, he still figures strongly in calculations.

DUNADEN is a classy galloper but he needs a stiff tempo to have any chance of figuring in the finish. He’s unlikely to get that here. If they go as slow as some have anticipated, he’ll have no chance. I would love to see a Caulfield Cup winner come out and win this race, but he needs everything to go his way. You’ll know halfway through the race whether he has any chance at all.

Next best is AWAIT THE DAWN, who I thought was entitled to run better last time out but is incredibly talented on his day.


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

The world’s richest race has attracted an international field this year, with the Europeans supporting the race more than in the past.

In fact, the European gallopers between them have raced in 10 of the world’s biggest racing jurisdictions, so they add a new dimension to a race which has largely been dominated by the locals and the Americans.

Technically, Australia has its third runner ever in the Dubai World Cup this year after Danewin (10th, 1996) and Juggler (6th, 1997). This comes in the form of ANIMAL KINGDOM, with the majority share now controlled by John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud. Despite the fact he is trained by Maryland horseman Graham Motion and he continues to race in the colours of Team Valor, he is listed as an Australian for all intents and purposes. It is quite cruel, really.

Still, without the Australian connection, I’ve been warming to Animal Kingdom for days. A winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby, his career since has been restricted by injury. He was to be aimed at this race last year, but didn’t make the race. He produced a slashing run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, flying late to get second behind Wise Dan, before a last start second on turf.

For me, the Americans either need to have form on a Tapeta surface or to have good grass credentials, for the Tapeta is more like grass than dirt. All three Americans fit the criteria to some extent. I do think, though, Animal Kingdom is the classiest of the three and I expect his class to shine through.

The only concern for me is the pace of the race, with there looking to be very little speed. However, in races where there doesn’t look to be any pace, invariably something will set out to make this a true contest. Already, there has been talk that Planteur, Royal Delta, Treasure Beach and maybe even Red Cadeaux could be the bunny for the field to catch. Animal Kingdom, who has drawn wide, will need to go back and hope something can carve out some cracking sectionals.

If they do let the leaders have their own way in front, then PLANTEUR may be the one to capitalise. He ran third in this race last year, coming from last, and while I don’t think Listed form at Lingfield is the form you’d want to be bringing to this race, his experience on the track means he cannot be ruled out for mine. This year, he’ll be up on the pace, so expect him to be competitive at a good price.

Another one who might surprise a few at odds is TREASURE BEACH. An Irish Derby winner and Epsom Derby runner up in 2011, his form tapered off last season. Transferred from Aidan O’Brien to Mike de Kock, he produced a sneaky run first up when he found the line late. I tend to think he’ll settle a lot closer here from his good draw, and he has the stamina to fight on at the end. Expect a good showing.

Next best is Godolphin’s HUNTER’S LIGHT, who has many admirers after a good win in the Al Maktoum Challenge three weeks ago. With the scratching this afternoon of Monterosso, I’m expecting either AFRICAN STORY or CAPPONI press on to ensure a good pace for Hunter’s Light. His form is interlinked with a lot of other runners across the card, and he looks the logical selection. I fear, however, that this race is usually far from logical.

I rate CAPPONI as some sort of chance, although I think he isn’t the same horse we saw last year, while the lightly raced KASSIANO could be the blowout.

As always, it is a tough race.


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