[UPDATED with live post-race commentary]
If you plan to get up early on Saturday morning and wager on the Dubai World Cup races, you must first read Pat Cummings’ incredibly astute races analyses at DubaiRaceNight.com. Far and away the most knowledgeable man on the scene, his insight on all contenders is supplemented with keen on-site observations.
I plan on wagering online through Twinspires.com, and what I love is that when I make a “place” bet, my choice pays off whether it’s first, second or third. No “show” wagering, in other words, as that is covered under the “place” bet—hey, it’s like a two-for-one! And with Americans over-betting their horses, so often you can get a very nice place payout on excellent prospects.
The G2 Godolphin Mile (9:40 a.m. EDT)
It’s always a smart move to follow the horse Frankie Dettori rides whether for Godolphin or not, and here that would be Two Step Salsa. Still, I’ve always loved Gayego, and he drops 8 lbs off his G3 victory first up in Dubai, so I’ll take him on top. At guaranteed long odds, I’ll take a $2 place chances on Al Morhij (in form, with recent fast 8f wins) and Green Coast, who’s done well with Fernando Jara up this campaign.
Result: With a fast track, Two Step Salsa had plenty to handle this field, while his stablemate Gayego was clearly above the rest; longshot Don Renato ($28.80 place) repeated his third-place performance of last year by winning a photo. Does this bode well for My Indy in the World Cup?
The G2 UAE Derby (10:15 a.m. EDT)
The two key Dubai preps for this race resulted in the same outcome: wins for Desert Party, followed by Regal Ransom and Redding Colliery. Being reunited with Alan Garcia may motivate Regal Ransom, but Redding Colliery is unlikely to improve here. It is Desert Party’s race to lose—no win, no Kentucky Derby. However, it looks unlikely he’ll lose to any of these, especially if the track is muddy—remember that impressive G2 Sanford victory at Saratoga last July? That said, there are three here that intrigue me. Mick Kinane rides Naval Officer, a G3 winner in France over this 9f distance—on turf, yes, but with a strong dirt pedigree. Desert Party’s former jock Edgar Prado rides recent Saudi G1 winner Lelah Dorak whose pedigree is stamina-rich, and he’s won four of five lifetime starts against big fields. Argentine filly So Shiny won the UAE 1000 Guineas well in-hand, but lost focus in the UAE Oaks; Kinane abandoned her, but Fernando Jara jumps aboard which could be a brilliant move. At guaranteed long odds, she’s a definite place bet.
Result: Regal Ransom beats Desert Party! Yeah, Alan Garcia! I love this jockey! What does this mean now for Desert Party? Probably no Derby, but a new contender in Regal Ransom? The filly So Shiny challenged the winner on the lead throughout before fading to fourth; Soy Libriano got third so I did get some money as I threw last-minute money on him. Next: Golden Shadeen, with Indian Blessing on the straight track...I'm so anxious for her to do well. Come on girl!
The G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (10:55 a.m. EDT)
Wet track or dry track, I strongly believe Indian Blessing crushes this field. A possible threat: an off-track favors Hong Kong sprinter Lucky Quality who is 4 for 4 under such conditions, and he’ll be at long odds, unlike Diabolical who is guaranteed to be overbet (and out of the money). More promising is Big City Man who loses 7 lbs from his narrow loss to Gayego last out; he’s also won twice on off-tracks, including a sloppy win at Calder in the Criterium back in 2007.
Result: Big City Man beats Indian Blessing who, as Gary Stevens noted, appeared to get lonely when she went to the lead, not being able to see him on the far side. Still, what a magnificent race for Indian Blessing! As a 4-year-old, she can only get better now that she’s run against the boys. Diabolical got third. Lucky Quality disappointed (and blew my trifecta!).
The G1 Dubai Duty Free (11:55 a.m. EDT)
The rain-softened turf reaffirms more than ever my pick here—New Zealand-bred, Aussie-raced and trained Tuesday Joy. Forced to spell after bleeding in last October’s G1 Turnbull, this physically-powerful 6-year-old mare has posted two impressive wins since her return, and her connections are eyeing this year’s Arc. Guaranteed big price—and big payout. Very interesting that Frankie Dettori selected Lady Marian who won the G1 Prix de L’Opera last out over the talented Lush Lashes; she cuts back in distance and has performed well on soft going. Archipenko just missed last year, and should be in the top three again here—if the mares don’t sweep the trifecta with top-class Vodka. For sentimental reasons, I’ll toss a $2 place bet on the oldest horse in the field, 8-year-old Niconero. A damline descendent of Foolish Pleasure (ah, you knew I had to mention it), his most recent victory in the G1 Australian Cup over the very tough Theseo was spectacular. Also wouldn’t be surprised with Balius considering his recent form. However, don’t waste your money on Kip Deville—our best mile turf horse isn’t even third-string at this level.
Result: Wow! Shocker, with 14-1 Gladiatorus wins wire-to-wire with longshots 20-1 Previs and 40-1 Alexandros fleshing out a massive trifecta payout—$5,137.40. Interestingly, all three had won during the current Dubai carnival—talk about home-turf advantage! And the winner—a mere $8,000 2006 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearlings yearling purchase (Hip #381). The Aussies did well, as Niconero got fourth, followed by Tuesday Joy in ninth. Man, a $1 superfecta paid $373,416.41! That would have been life-changing...sigh.
The G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (12:40 p.m. EDT)
In an eerily similar scenario, Doctor Dino again comes in off a victory in the G1 Hong Kong Vase—but last year he finished third in the Sheema Classic, upset by Michael De Kock’s now-retired Sun Classique. Can De Kock do it again with his filly Front House and her regular jockey Kevin Shea aboard? I’m thinking that’s very likely, especially with the soft going. Lightly-raced Deem intrigues me too. A first-crop daughter of Dalakhani out of a Sadler’s Wells mare Hijaz (the same cross as last year’s Eclipse champion turf male Conduit), this promising gray filly is bred to run all day; Mick Kinane jumps aboard.
Result: Eastern Anthem with hometown jockey Ahmed Ajtebi—an apprentice, to boot—up came from last to nose out the Moons—Spanish Moon and Purple Moon—for a very popular victory. Front House led much of the way, but was no match in the stretch for the place-getters. Youmzain finished next back in fourth. Given the day they are enjoying, I heavily leaning towards including Happy Boy in my World Cup wagers, and My Indy as well. I'm wavering on Casino Drive...
The G1 Dubai World Cup (1:30 p.m. EDT)
Easily one of the weakest World Cup fields in recent years. Likely post-time favorite Asiatic Boy just doesn’t thrill me, and the American contingent is, sadly, the best we can offer in what used to be “our” surface. I’m strongly taking a stand against Albertus Maximus and the rest of his compatriots Arson Squad, Well Armed and Anak Nakal. I firmly believe 4-year-old Casino Drive’s day has arrived. It won't make up for missing almost-assured victory in last year's G1 Belmont, but it will be a worthy achievement for the son of Better Than Honour. Given his current form, you can’t ignore My Indy—and he’s won easily on off-tracks before. Pay attention to the performances of Green Coast and Don Renato in the Godolphin Mile, as he easily beat them first up in the G3 Maktoum Challenge (Round 1) in January; if they run well, his form should be confirmed. Pat takes a flyer here on longshot Joe Louis—why not go for it? Ditto for G1 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup winner Muller who has won 10 of 13 on off-tracks; his form could be supported by good performance by Deem in Sheema Classic.
Result: 9-1 Well Armed kicked that field’s ass—being on the lead appeared to be the place to be today. Congratulations to Aaron Gryder! 60-1 longshot Gloria de Campeao was well back for second, and the longest shot in the field (at least 99-1) Paris Perfect was third. The $1 trifecta paid over $23k, and the $1 super? With 80-1 Muller fourth, it paid just over $415k. Very disappointed with My Indy and Asiatic Boy. As for Casino Drive, that’s it, I freakin’ give up on him. Never again will I tout him, so call me on it if I do.